What is happening in American politics?
We’re in the midst of a rebellion. The bottom and middle are pushing against the top. It’s a throwing off of old claims and it’s been going on for a while, but we’re seeing it more sharply after New Hampshire. This is notpolitics as usual, which by its nature is full of surprise. There’s something deep, suggestive, even epochal about what’s happening now.
I have thought for some time that there’s a kind of soft French Revolution going on in America, with the angry and blocked beginning to push hard against an oblivious elite. It is not only political. Yes, it is about the Democratic National Committee, that house of hacks, and about a Republican establishment owned by the donor class. But establishment journalism, which for eight months has been simultaneously at Donald Trump’s feet (“Of course you can call us on your cell from the bathtub for your Sunday show interview!”) and at his throat (“Trump supporters, many of whom are nativists and nationalists…”) is being rebelled against too. Their old standing as guides and gatekeepers? Gone, and not only because of multiplying platforms. Gloria Steinem thought she owned feminism, thought she was feminism. She doesn’t and isn’t. The Clintons thought they owned the party — they don’t. Hedge-funders thought they owned the GOP. Too bad they forgot to buy the base!
All this goes hand in hand with the general decline of America’s faith in its institutions. We feel less respect for almost all of them — the church, the professions, the presidency, the Supreme Court. The only formal national institution that continues to score high in terms of public respect (72% in the most recent Gallup poll) is the military.