Politics & Policy

The Boss-Americans Tell You What’s What

Right-leaning business owners and salaried professionals have enormous advantages within the center-right coalition over right-leaning wage-earners. The least of those advantages is money. Their abiding political weakness is an ill-concealed contempt for the interests and priorities of wage-earners. They think that they are the bosses of America and regret that they cannot fire American citizens they see as disobedient, ungrateful, and incompetent.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago:

The conventional Republicans come at meritocracy from the other end. It’s not that they consider themselves fit to rule, but that they consider Americanness to be something that is awarded according to meritocratic criteria. They call this civic nationalism.

You hear it when they talk about how America is based on agreement about the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, or how anyone who comes here to work hard should be welcomed. The criteria for being American are meritocratic ones: having the right principles and meeting certain standards of productivity. By this logic, the heart of America is found anywhere in the world where someone gets home from a double shift and, before going to bed, has a good cry over the Gettysburg Address. That’s the real America. Appalachia and Detroit, not so much.

The problem with this civic nationalism is that it isn’t . . . civic. It leaves out large numbers of our countrymen who have the wrong political ideas (or no particular political ideas) or are mired in social or economic  disaster— even as it notionally expands citizenship to anyone who wants to get here and repeat the proper formulae. These meritocratic nationalists talk about American Exceptionalism, but they don’t know what to do with unexceptional Americans.

A part of me wondered if I was being a little harsh. Nope. And this is Bret Stephens today:

Because I’m the child of immigrants and grew up abroad, I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers — the people who strain hardest to become a part of it because they realize that it’s precious; and who do the most to remake it so that our ideas, and our appeal, may stay fresh.

That used to be a cliché, but in the Age of Trump it needs to be explained all over again. We’re a country of immigrants — by and for them, too. Americans who don’t get it should get out.

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