In a brief response to Michael Tracey’s piece about a Romney rally in Denver, Tom Piatak links to a video of a “vociferous Obama supporter” — the now famous clip of an anonymous black lady in Cleveland going on in a very loud voice about “Obamaphones.” I took note: Tom is a Cleveland-based attorney, a contributor to TAC, and a longtime friend and political associate of Pat Buchanan. From his comment, one can’t discern whether by linking he is trying, quite reasonably, to say “Look, Obama has some pretty sketchy supporters as well” or in more GOP partisan vein (as Drudge and Rush Limbaugh surely intended in their hyping of the video): “This is the really the essence of the Obama campaign — black people looking aggressively for handouts from the federal government.”
In any case, the video and its circulation raises important political questions. When I was a neoconservative (much of my adult life until, roughly, the mid 1990s), I saw the threat to a good society coming mostly from below: a violent and dependent “underclass” and the liberal or (internationally) communist elites who tried to mobilize the poor to overwhelm or overthrow a decent, free, bourgeois capitalist order. Crime and the inept liberal response to it were obviously the bane of anyone trying to raise a family in New York City during the 80s; and it was equally obvious that totalitarian communism posed an existential threat to freedom in the West as we knew it. The demise of the Soviet Union cracked the second pillar, but for most conservatives, Saddam Hussein and the swarthies who engaged in terrorism could be substituted in without really missing a beat.
At some point, this view ceased to make sense. As it was for many others, the catalyst for reconsidering and revising my views was Pat Buchanan, and it was clear from his second run at the presidency that this enormously popular former Nixonite and Reaganite was running against those at the top more than those at the bottom. His campaign was roughly contemporaneous with Christopher Lasch’s trenchant essay on the “revolt of the elites” and their secession from loyalty to America. Michael Lind was introducing the concept of the American “overclass.” The late Sam Francis was developing his concept of “Middle American Radicals“– people threatened with cultural and political disenfranchisement from both above and below. Francis overly racialized his argument, and died before having occasion to revise and recast it in tune with the new century.
The foreign policy component of the “revolt of the elites” didn’t really become obvious until the second Bush administration. But Buchanan certainly knew of Russell Kirk’s famous remarks about the neoconservatives, and had himself, probably too polemically, warned of the neoconservative ascendance at the time of the first Gulf War. Now, after the trillion dollars squandered in the neoconservative project in Iraq, and the strong possibility of an even more ruinous war in Iran, the core Buchananite argument of elite malfeasance is more pertinent than ever. Frankly, ten thousand or even ten million black ladies trying to get free cell phones can’t do half the damage to America as three dozen neoconservative operatives, all highly educated, impeccably credentialed, and tax-paying, trying to maneuver America into endless wars in the Middle East.