Managing Dissent

After the 2016 presidential election, I had some free time on my hands and decided to watch the election night coverage of all the mainstream American networks, cable news channels plus the BBC, ITV and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). The coverage began with all anchors and guests of every outlet mentioned uniformly expecting a decisive Hillary Clinton victory while wondering whether Donald Trump would accept his defeat.  Progressive and establishment Republican pundits were certain that vindication was at hand. Trump would be dismissed as an anomaly and would soon be forgotten. As the evening wore on, joyous anticipation was replaced by nervous laughter and eventually despair. It turns out that history was not on their side.

As a Trump supporter, there were many moments to savor.  The reluctance to call states that Trump had clearly won. Brian William’s deep sigh and Van Jones lashing out. Martha Raddatz’s voice breaking as she held back tears. The meltdown of the Young Turks is a YouTube classic. One moment in particular stood out to me, not because it was amusing or satisfying, but because it brought many things that I had observed into focus. 

Late into the PBS coverage, Stuart Stevens – Republican political strategic and Romney campaign manager – remarked,  “Donald Trump went out and said a lot of things that we as a society have decided should be unacceptable. He called for a religious test to enter the United States. He called Mexicans coming into the United States rapists. This is something, I think, it’s not a positive sign.” In other words, we cannot talk about the negative aspect of Muslim immigration as evidenced by the attacks on 9/11, Boston and Chattanooga or the fact that - despite patting ourselves on the back for integrating immigrants better than France – the sons  of Muslim immigrants were responsible for the Fort Hood and Orlando attacks. We are not allowed to talk about the crimes or the depressing effect on working class wages associate with illegal immigration. The only conversation permitted about both legal and illegal immigration – actually we are not even allowed to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration – is to extol the virtues of diversity and celebrate the browning of America.

I fully understand and appreciate that there are those who genuinely find Trump’s crass language and vulgar behavior repulsive - and perhaps Stuart Stevens is among them. However, many who claim to be offended by Trump are not shining examples of decorum themselves and have been known to drop a few f-bombs. I strongly suspect that the effort to force Trump to conform to established norms has less to do with civility or protecting democracy and has everything to do with the ruling class maintaining power and avoiding accountability. As long as the conversation is restricted to the positive aspects of open border policies, the ruling class will never have to answer for the lower wages, MS-13 violence and terrorist attacks. They will never be held accountable for what they have done to the country.  

The more revealing part of Stewart's comment was  “we as a society decided’". When did we as a society decide? Was a vote held and I missed it? When and how was the decision made? Does anyone know? There was no vote. The ruling class and their proxies in the media decided for all of us what information the public was allowed to have and set the parameters of the national conversation. As long as the media outlets could be counted on one hand and newspapers around the country served as transcribers for news services such as Reuters or elite newspapers like the New York Times, the conversation could be restricted. Dissent could be managed or channeled in such a way that would not threaten the status quo. A perfect example of the latter is the Tea Party which was an organic protest that arose in response to various government bailout programs to address the 2008 financial crisis. Within a few years, the Tea Party was transformed from a protest movement against the status quo to another run-of-the-mill Republican group advocating lower taxes and less regulation. The same is being attempted on the MAGA movement – tax cuts and de-regulation were implemented at record speed but still no wall and little progress on reducing immigration.

Looking back on election night I wonder how much of the despondency was due to the mainstream media realizing they had lost their place as the gatekeepers. They could no longer control the national conversation.  Discussing the negative aspect of multiculturalism, mass immigration and questioning globalism is no longer taboo. Social media has created what Alberto Bagnai defined as “too much democracy” and ever since election night the ruling class has been trying to turn back the clock, to be gatekeepers again and the claim the victory that eluded them nearly two years ago.