Nov 6, 2022·edited Nov 6, 2022

I've considered voting Republican for the first time in my life, out of a desire to send a signal to the Democrats, the left, and the PMC class about how abhorrent I find their attitudes and ideas of the past ~10 years. But I know in my gut – that seat of common sense – that they wouldn't understand the message.

I believe that the new elite worldview offers martyrdom as one of its features; these people get something out of clutching their pearls and screeching about how much the populace is against them, how racist we are, how sexist, how selfish and transphobic we are. As a voter, I feel in a double bind here: I can't in good conscience vote blue because I don't want to support this worldview, but the PMC have contrived it in such a way that voting against them *also* reinforces their worldview. And there's no hope from the Republicans – they don't have ideas either. (Their platform is mostly to repeal, ban, or outlaw things. I don't see them actually building anything.) I feel like there's nothing I can do.

I guarantee you that the PMC/NYTimes/cable news messaging calling Americans a racist white supremacist society will increase in rate and stridency in the wake of the midterms.

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Nov 6, 2022Liked by Leighton Woodhouse

Incisive analysis.

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I don't think we need to postulate a conspiracy to explain why the PMC elites act the way they do. I know the common conservative explanation for the Great Awokening is "cultural Marxism", but I'm not convinced by this; to me that sounds like right-wingers calling any left-wing ideology they don't like "Marxism" just like left-wingers call any right-wing ideology they don't like "fascism". Rather, and this might be part of what Leighton is getting at, the ideology the elites are pushing would build a world that would be good for the elites, if not for the rest of the people (who are much more numerous).

I'm reminded of the ideological fight over education, which is of some interest to me given that I teach mathematics to future high school mathematics teachers. In schools of education, prospective teachers are often taught some form of "progressive education", which propounds a "learner-centered environment" in which rather than have the teacher give information to the learners, as is traditional, the teacher must make it possible for the learners to construct their own knowledge and build their own meaning. This is known as constructivism, and the aphorism that is often used is that the teacher should be "not a sage on the stage, but a guide on the side".

Now, personally I see a definite difference between progressive education and woke education, unlike for example author and Substacker Greg Ashman (fillingthepail.substack.com) who seems to consider them two sides of the same coin. The idea that learners have to build their meaning by themselves and that the teacher's duty is to facilitate this has been with us for decades, while the idea that mathematics is racist and we should teach children how it has been used in history to oppress intersectional identity groups #ShutDownSTEM is much more recent. But there is a similarity, in the sense that the children of the elite will learn as much in progressive classrooms (and maybe even in woke classrooms) as they would do in classrooms using explicit instruction and maybe even traditional instruction. Progressive education seems to me to be an ideology for people who didn't like what they were forced to do in school, and know they would have learned as much and even more by themselves, i.e. definitely people who are part of the elite. And indeed, the main argument for explicit instruction (which is favoured by opponents of progressive education such as Ashman) is that it leads to better learning outcomes (as measured by objective measures of learning), especially among more marginalized populations.

The same seems to me to be true of other parts of the ideology of the elite. Before the summer of 2020, I was very much opposed to the police, though probably more out of left-libertarian than progressive impulses: I just don't like the idea of there being a caste of people who have power over me, can legally force me to do things for them and punish me if I'm not enthusiastically compliant, who view themselves as being a caste separate and above the rest of the population and who are willing to do anything, even break the law, to achieve the results that they want (for example, plant evidence against a suspect that they "know" is guilty when there is no such evidence). Since then, and because of the way woke ideology has been imported wholesale to Canada and Quebec as the successor ideology of the elites despite our differences from the US which make it incongruous, I've become more favourable to the police. But the fact remains that the places where elites live probably don't need any police, or at least any visible police. It is poorer neighbourhoods that require important police presence to ensure safety. To me, that is the real reason why elites support the ideology that they do: it works well enough for them, and like all elites in history they are non-cognizant of the conditions of non-elites. It's very much a "Let them eat cake" moment. The only difference is that this elite claims to speak for marginalized identity groups, but we know that it is largely an affectation for competition among its social group.

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Interesting piece however, my take is that the "administrative state" has stolen our rights of independent citizenship. So much in government is done by decree of non elected officials which any rational observer would construe as action not sanctioned by our Constitution. Our only bastion left with any offsetting power is our 6-3 Supreme Court which the elite wish to either co opt or paralyze. You would have to be intentionally blind to not see the coercive power of administrative organizations such as the EPA, Homeland Security, FBI, IRS, CDC, the Federal Reserve and so on ad infinitum. Rulings from these organizations cannot be challenged by the average citizen and their powers are unlimited. This is the cabal that has seized power in this country and the only elected official who ever began to challenge them was a crazy narcissist named Trump and he was drummed out of power by the "permanent state" when he even mentioned curtailing their power.

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Interesting. Are you familiar with Rob Henderson’s writings on “luxury beliefs”? My thought is that this is what has allowed these fringe ideologies to earn wider acceptance as some of the true believers have captured important institutions and academia.

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Brilliant, as usual. It would actually be interesting to trace this transformation as reflected in Supreme Court jurisprudence. You could say that legal-rationalism began to be supplanted by PMC expert rule with the "Living Constitution" that appeared in the last half-century or so. But with probably five maybe six legal-rationalist, i.e. "conservative", votes on the Court today, the next stage will be a more decisive by the PMC from legal-relationism, thus dethroning the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of truth, morality, etc. This will likely be thrown into bold relief with the annoucement of their decision on affirmative action next spring.

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For a hardcore group, it is about power and money (eg city politicians, progressive non-profit groups) or power and notoriety/prestige (academia), and their self-interests are clear.

For the vast majority of people notionally supporting such destructive policies, however, it seems mostly to be about tribal identity and virtue signaling. The downsides of the policies to the PMC personally are minimal relative to the upside of being seen holding the right views.

One would think that, as what were conventional/mainstream views and status quo power systems become less and less influential/prevalent, that it would become harder and harder for the PMC to blame the old “system” for all sorts of modern day villainy. Would be like selecting Zoroastrians as scapegoats for societal decline. Who would believe it?

But then we have the 1619 project and CRT alleging the US (even today) is an irredeemably and structurally racist country focused mostly on subjugation, and the media, academia and the PMC lap it up. Strange that a system so powerfully corrupt and capable of subjugation lets all of its critics prosper and dominate institutions.

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“The radical fringe of the PMC has been fixated on tearing down the world around us, and not particularly concerned about what to replace it with.”

It is always easier to tear down than to build. Foucault was very focused on deconstructing everything, but never really offered a framework for the reconstruction. His intellectual heirs carry on that same flawed legacy.

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Nov 7, 2022·edited Nov 7, 2022

"It’s easy to dismiss PMC radicalism as cosplaying, and maybe it is."

Cosplaying and LARPing requires the performer to understand what they are doing is play acting. I think the people you write about truly believe they are the "resister/dismantler/disrupter" they read about it middle-high school social studies. Maybe it isn't too difficult to slide from "going to City council meetings to argue against bus stops that prevent people laying down" to "protesting every/anything against 'The System'"

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Brilliant: Tour de force! What a practical simple framing of the situation; clear thinking is always a pleasure.

I don’t think this is a fad and I don’t think a red wave midterm election will so much as dent this religious fever. The entire enterprise of higher education is indoctrinating people into this mindset and has been doing so for 50 years. The left has complete control over the means of cultural production. They own the discourse, PMC strivers will be dancing to this tune enthusiastically for another 50 years. We are at the beginning, their “abbey of misrule” - Paul Kingsnorth substack.

The “authoritarian utopianism of the liberal imperium” - professor Deneen, Post Liberal Order substack - is first going to turn the west into Venezuela and then incite war.

Your kids are fully indocnated, go speak to them.

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I see what you describe as religious/existentialist, what might be called "secular fundamentalim".

And its heart is "white guilt". The effect of wokeness is to generate white guilt and the need to seek redemption. This is what land acknowledgments, etc etc are all about.

In fact, I would say that the reason MAGA nation and Trump are so hated is because they don't evince any shame in being white. And white shame is the great PMC passe partout.

I'd go further and say that the terms "white supremacy" has migrated to mean white people not ashamed of being white or whiteness, etc.

Societies may stop believing in God, but the existential hunger for redemption/forgiveness for transgressions does not go away.

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This is so good. Your first paragraph alone is an incisive analysis of the 'mysterious' decay befalling West Coast cities, and ties in nicely with the observation that East Coast cities, historically controlled by construction trade unions, have very different outcomes than West Coast cities, historically controlled by public service employee unions. Your closing analysis that we are seeing a power grab by the social services/professional classes against the limiting factors of transparent law-based citizen democracy is original and fascinating. This explains the bizarre spectacle of San Francisco's 'progressive corruption' wherein 'leftists' are controlling city departments through kickback schemes that are as devious and illegal as anything seen in old Chicago. I'd argue ,though, there's a third actor in the struggle, and that's the decaying powers of the fossil fuel industry, represented by the Trumpist/Putinist wing of the right, who are on the verge of losing their economic power. It is 'regular people' who are caught in the literal middle of this titanic struggle of oligarchs and their offspring, which nominally takes the framing 'Left versus Right." Truly, the most radical position a citizen can take now is to hew to the democratic center and consider each issue with rational self-interest. Vote thoughtfully, never tribally.

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The PMC in San Francisco overwhelmingly elects leaders who are pro-business. Hence the rise of San Francisco as an extension of Silicon Valley and the home of over 40 “unicorn” companies worth over $1B as well as the highest concentration of billionaires in the US.

There is certainly a non-profit homeless complex which drains a couple of billion a year from city coffers with no discernible effect, though it is hard to imagine what the city would look like without their efforts. And many neighborhoods elect “Progressives” as their representative on the Board of Supervisors, but they are mostly just united in their agreement to not build any new houses, which helps the class interest of current homeowners by keeping land values inflated. They build plenty of new office space though.

Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, State Representatives Ting and Haney are good liberals not socialists. And House Speaker Pelosi and Senator Feinstein are only socialists in the most fevered MAGA fantasies. Both are consummate DC insiders, wheeling and dealing for their favored capitalist industries.

As to whether it has led to decline of the city, it’s certainly a matter of perspective. As a long time resident and father of two kids in public schools, San Francisco has been in a long upward arc, interrupted by Covid and it’s impacts. Crime has gone down, schools have improved, social services, including libraries, municipal transit, and after school programs are all better than ever. But since the municipal budget is $14B/yr I would like to see more for my tax dollars.

A few neighborhoods are filthier and more abysmal than ever, though not particularly dangerous. Homelessness is as bad as ever, though probably not getting any worse. Drug addicts are dying in droves. But 90% of the city is as nice as ever, better in many ways as more economic activity leaves downtown and gravitates out to the neighborhoods. There are more good restaurants and live music, art and theatre than in many decades.

San Franciscans are rightful frustrated with their government and recalled the school board and DA for not doing their jobs during the pandemic. But at 12% of the registered voting population, Republicans have no political power and I cannot imagine them having any in my lifetime. It is possible that a ex-police spokesperson who is running on a law and order platform will win this November. But his opponent, a transgender activist and social worker is probably more likely to win in my estimation. Both, of course, are Democrats.

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The ideological parallels between the PMC’s mentality and the salon class in France pre-revolution are rather scary.

I’m glad we are charting out the new social coordinate system here- it’s no longer about the means of production, it’s the means of social discourse.

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I don't think it's nihilism. I think it's budding semi-totalitarianism. The seeming bent on destroying everything hides the real intent: ensure that the only institution, the only morality at all, is whatever the elite say it is, and those ideas will change often. Woe betide any who fail to keep up. The liberal left generally won the culture war and took control of most elite institutions. They seek the next level of power like water rushing downhill.

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For decades now we have flippantly rejected the PC shenanigans of the left, assuming they were safely corralled on a college campus somewhere and never thinking that they could actually overturn the ship of state. Well, they’ve been as busy as termites on the wooden mast, hull and riggings on our capital ship, and unless we wake up they will reduce everything to splinters...and then the real crisis will begin. I’m voting all Republican this go around. The left has put down their Foucault and picked up their two-by-fours - and unless they are stopped we are sunk.

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