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Why We’re Ungovernable, Part 13: The Unprotected Push Back

Peggy Noonan, former Reagan administration speech writer and current Wall Street Journal pundit has, like most of her peers, been wondering what’s gotten into the unwashed masses lately that makes them such unpredictable voters. And she’s come up with a useful conclusion: The rise of Donald Trump (and similar iconoclasts in other countries) is due to the gradual division of society into the protected — that is, people who make the rules and therefore benefit from them — and the unprotected, who don’t make the rules and end up getting screwed. The latter have finally figured this out and have stopped supporting the former. Here’s her latest OpEd piece, in its entirety:

Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected: Why political professionals are struggling to make sense of the world they created.

We’re in a funny moment. Those who do politics for a living, some of them quite brilliant, are struggling to comprehend the central fact of the Republican primary race, while regular people have already absorbed what has happened and is happening. Journalists and politicos have been sharing schemes for how Marco parlays a victory out of winning nowhere, or Ted roars back, or Kasich has to finish second in Ohio. But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.

I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?

In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.

But actually that’s been true for a while, and is how we got in the position we’re in.

Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.

But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and Western Europe is immigration. It is the issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.

It is of course the issue that made Donald Trump.

Britain will probably leave the European Union over it. In truth immigration is one front in that battle, but it is the most salient because of the European refugee crisis and the failure of the protected class to address it realistically and in a way that offers safety to the unprotected.

If you are an unprotected American—one with limited resources and negligible access to power—you have absorbed some lessons from the past 20 years’ experience of illegal immigration. You know the Democrats won’t protect you and the Republicans won’t help you. Both parties refused to control the border. The Republicans were afraid of being called illiberal, racist, of losing a demographic for a generation. The Democrats wanted to keep the issue alive to use it as a wedge against the Republicans and to establish themselves as owners of the Hispanic vote.

Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.

It was good for the protected. But the unprotected watched and saw. They realized the protected were not looking out for them, and they inferred that they were not looking out for the country, either.

The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance.

Mr. Trump came from that.

Similarly in Europe, citizens on the ground in member nations came to see the EU apparatus as a racket—an elite that operated in splendid isolation, looking after its own while looking down on the people.

In Germany the incident that tipped public opinion against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy happened on New Year’s Eve in the public square of Cologne. Packs of men said to be recent migrants groped and molested groups of young women. It was called a clash of cultures, and it was that, but it was also wholly predictable if any policy maker had cared to think about it. And it was not the protected who were the victims—not a daughter of EU officials or members of the Bundestag. It was middle- and working-class girls—the unprotected, who didn’t even immediately protest what had happened to them. They must have understood that in the general scheme of things they’re nobodies.

What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better.

You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement—charter schools, choice, etc.—because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.

This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.

And a country really can’t continue this way.

In wise governments the top is attentive to the realities of the lives of normal people, and careful about their anxieties. That’s more or less how America used to be. There didn’t seem to be so much distance between the top and the bottom.

Now is seems the attitude of the top half is: You’re on your own. Get with the program, little racist.

Social philosophers are always saying the underclass must re-moralize. Maybe it is the overclass that must re-moralize.

I don’t know if the protected see how serious this moment is, or their role in it.

Noonan nails the political/social zeitgeist but for some reason misses the financial side of the phase change: Governments and other protected classes have borrowed unmanageable amounts of money and are now maintaining their power by squeezing workers and savers. Corporations lower their costs by shipping jobs overseas while governments cut their debt service by reducing (or eliminating) interest rates on the bank accounts and bond funds that once allowed savers to build capital and retirees to eat.

In this sense, QE, ZIRP and NIRP are a declaration of war on the unprotected, and as the victims figure this out they’re lining up behind anyone who promises to 1) raise the minimum wage, limit immigration, and prevent corporations from moving jobs overseas; 2) break up big banks and jail Wall Street criminals; 3) hand out free stuff, paid for by confiscating the ill-gotten gains of the 1%.

In the US, this produces a political campaign with Donald Trump giving voice to the darkest impulses of the electorate and both major Democratic candidates running to the left of Barack Obama.

In Europe, fringe parties of both the right and left are taking over, leading almost inevitably to a dissolution of the eurozone and a radical scale-back of the European Union. For starters.

This is starting to look like the French Revolution, with bankers, CEOs and their favored politicians in the role of Marie Antoinette.

75 thoughts on "Why We’re Ungovernable, Part 13: The Unprotected Push Back"

  1. Presenting the realities of the current state of affairs provide an insight (to ‘the people’ longing for the ideals & values of the constitutional republic) on an exhilarating ride through the treacherous winds on troubled waters.

  2. Of course it looks like a revolution. When the greed of the rulers is so great that the ruled literally cannot put food on their tables they will gather and egg each other on like male chimpanzees. Then they will kill the rulers and choose new ones. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    The only difference this time is that the planet has about 30 or 40 years worth of resources left. After that it’s game over for everybody.

  3. This article only makes sense if you don’t look at the facts. Trump is the ultimate insider. He has benefited from our corrupt system all his life. He has bribed (contributed to) about every major politician to get his projects done. Why has he given to Schumer, Reid, Clinton, and many more? He could not have succeeded without buying his power from the politicians. It is hard to believe voters are not aware or paying attention to this and the media is not bringing it forward (yet). Once all the dirt on Trump comes out, he will look sleazier and more corrupt than any of our pols. Welcome Prez Hillary.

    1. He has admitted to all of this. He said everything he did was legal. Trump also said that it shouldn’t be legal. I think he sees the future as more corruption with us ending up like Mexico. I don’t know how to describe Mexico It just doesn’t function like a country should. To much corruption?

      1. I buy cheap Chinese goods. But I nonetheless want to see those jobs return to America. I want to see those goods cost more and the additional cost go to put my people back to work.

  4. Calling those who support Trump Unprotected Americans is just a polite way of saying they are losers because they are losing the game and their standard of living. Blaming illegal immigrants is also an easy escape goat for the broader problems we face. Yes, it is an obvious problem but may be not as important as many others. On a grand scale, the decline of standard of living for lots of people is inevitable and can be traced back to the proliferation of global trades (blame capitalism), which enhance the global competition. Losers are those who directly compete against the global workforce, be they farmers or industrial workers. That in turn suppresses the overall pay of the nation but not everybody. Just look at how much high tech workers in Silicon Valley get paid. They are not affected as much if any.

    Certainly politicians take care of – protect – themselves first and those who put them on the stage. Reciprocating the favor to those “donors”, politicians prey on the easy target, those who are ignorant [from their points of view] and most vulnerable. By the way, this happened to both parties, but to a larger extent just Republicans. In some ways the Democrat protects those who are ignorant and most vulnerable not because they are more generous – or kind hearted – but they need their votes. Democracy may be the best political system until a better one was found, but it is certainly in the favor of who have wealth and power (two in one), or may I say those who are smart to figure it out ahead of others and are willing to take advantage of others.

    I see much higher maximum tax brackets raised to the level of those before Ronald Reagan, if the movement of unprotected Americans really succeeds. As a result of the 1981 and 1986 bills, the top income tax rate was slashed from 70% to 28% [http://money.cnn.com/2010/09/08/news/economy/reagan_years_taxes/] and really changed the mentality of the wealthy and emboldened them to the extreme.

    1. What would you do if the government imported 1000 workers who did your job. Your value would decrease and your salary would plummet. Hence outrage by blue collar workers. This is not new to me. I worked construction all of my life. The Mexicans did concrete flatwork in the 70’s ( I live in Denver) as the years went on they moved into other trades. I was in flooring. The job does take some skill so I made money basically on these guys on the job training. Know trained tech people are coming from other countries to work here. That is an indictment of our lower education system. I never made a lot of money. My kids went to college without much debt. Both have better jobs and make more money than me. They didn’t have to leave the neighborhood they love. I left Pgh, Pa in 1976. The steel mills were closed by 79.
      Doesn’t anybody really care about the next generation. As far as employment goes my recommendation is to learn to grow Cannabis sativa. The states will eventually legalize. Although it is called weed and grows like one it does take a skill to grow. The profits are criminal but legal. It has brought a lot of cash and capitol to this area.
      The growers here competed with the Mexicans and we won. So Americans donot go to Wall Mart for Pot. That’s why folks go to Starbucks for flavor.
      Got off the subject it must be time for a joint. Legal is so comfortable after all the years.

  5. ZIRP, NIRP and QE are indications that Central Banks are in the market. On top of that, they may even be buying stocks as QE is buying of bonds. If CBs are in the market, at the next market downturn, CBs will not be in the position to come to the rescue. The next recession will be devastating and collapse may happen. All assets are already very elevated due to massive money printing and assets values are based on the value of money. NIRP means money has no value and depositors would appear stupid to keep money in the bank, which includes sophisticated investors who are cleverly playing the markets. When these investors discover that they could move their money to an asset for safe keeping, the collapse will eventuate very quickly. After the collapse, if peace could still be maintained and CBs allow the free market to allocate the resources, then recovery will be dramatic. Banks should never be allowed too much freedom ever and Glass/Steagall Act should be immediately reinstated and cannot be repealed ever. QE should be banned forever as this will only increase inequality.

    1. Please I had special words in my profession but you are losing me. NIRP , QE How do the central banks allocate resources if money is worthless?

      1. From the point of view of the holder of money. He must be rather stupid to be holding something that will lose value and at a certain point in time, the rush out of NIRP money will make it worthless. I do not mean it will be worthless immediately. NIRP is stupid either way. QE is stealing money to give it to the people getting the money. This again will make people lose confidence in money.

        1. Invest in guns and ammo. Kill the lawyers and economists. Create your own money and back it up with the guns.
          But that’s revolution isn’t it. I would prefer the peaceful alternative.

  6. Perhaps Trump will fix nothing. Or if he is intelligent, he will convene several Grace Commissions that will examine every cabinet position and eliminate many and the
    programs, often redundant. He will trash Obama Executive Orders. He is empty State and make their chair holders ambassadors and consulate office. This will Id the deadwood, as also in Intellilegence, CIA, etc.
    The shock of change will baffle D.C. And this is the first day

  7. We all learned as children, when the other kid keeps changing the rules to suit themselves, the only option is to THROW THE TABLE OVER. It is TIME.
    Have all the “smart” people forgotten that Ron Paul was cheated out of the nomination and TPTB put that LOSER P.O.S. Romney in? THEY LOST. wrote in Ron Paul …..this time I WILL write in Donald Trump ……..
    The table is about to go over.-

  8. It’s not just the financial side being missed, either. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Bundy Ranch, and the Malheur Refuge protest all stem from the same issue. People see the protected class and feel oppressed by it. Different groups are just more affected by different parts of the above-the-laws. Inner city people see the local cops more. Western ranchers see federal land management officers. Unemployed youths see the disparity with bailed out Wall Street millionaires. Our media tends to separate these into discrete disturbances with no relation to each other — perhaps in an attempt to keep them from teaming up with each other. The tide of anger seems to be rising across the land, and it isn’t just on the Republican side.

  9. All I know is we have a criminal, a communist and Trump running. I don’t know how Trump will work out, I suspect he will be funny. You can only put so much plaster on a rotten house before you have to burn it down and start over.

  10. Trump appeals to the “darkest forces of the electorate.” Maybe so. We have witnessed the dismantling of U.S. industry, the destruction of our culture, the low-wage service economy, the scarcity of breadwinner jobs–all while those we elect go to D.C. and become millionaires. The servants of the people have become the masters along with their multinational cronies.

  11. Nice article, but look what Reagan did during his rule. How many corporations were gobbled up with leveraged buyouts it was a thieves dream buy them out and then use them to finance your own debt. The real reason government doesn’t work anymore is because of the REPUBLYCON PARTY. Did you ever hear a Democrat say that we do not support this republican president and we will obstruct him and his party to make sure he is only here for one term. Say what you will but at least the Democrats worked with Reagan to move the country forward you can’t get anywhere or do anything when all you get is NO to everything. The Republican party has morphed into an uncontrollable mob that no one can reason with except of course Mr. Trump he speaks their language of blind hate and us versus them mentality. Remember REPUBLYCON’S you have been pushing trickle down economics for years and now people are tired of being trickled on so why are you surprised.

    1. Yeah right, like the DUMBOCRATS have it all together. Obimbo (take your pick, Barry or the HagBeast) say they are taking Wall Street down. Yeah right, and I’m Napoleon. Wall Street owns them all. Donald Trump is that pesky itch in the Establishment’s foot that can’t be scratched away. The People are mad as hell and they are not going to take it any more. Whether the Donald fixes it or not, the general consensus of his supporters s that he can’t possibly F it up any worse than the status quos have F’d things up.

    2. You must remember that only one party rules Washington. I call it the Demireps. This is the political class who think they are Gods. In reality they are second class whores to there masters (?).

    3. Sorry, son. I just can’t buy into that chump “Dem versus Pub” game any more. A plague on both their houses. Both bring war. Both bring poverty. Both bring plutocracy. To hell with both.

    4. You were on drugs 3 yrs ago when you wrote this and most likely still are. “Democrats worked with Reagan” is like saying Burr didn’t like Hamilton…ancient fucking history!

  12. Ms. Noonan, former speech-writer for Ronald Reagan, is quite late to the party.

    She endorsed Obama — one of the people who loved the crease in his trousers — and now she’s concerned that the hoi polloi are sharpening their pitchforks and lighting torches?

    Yeah, decent article, but any sympathy I had for Ms. Noonan and her ilk are long buried under a pile of illegal alien trash.

    Trump 2016

  13. American’s personal net worth, retirement, and standard of living will be obliterated in the next five years, regardless of who becomes president. Trump will look tame compared to the politicians that will thrive in that environment.

    1. Unfortunately, the middle-class is going to be decimated, regardless of who is elected. Trump is Sophie’s choice… and that’s on the folks currently sitting in D.C.

  14. An Excellent column!! I read somewhere that the American electorate was getting really pissed off and simply wants to smash the career politicos, oligarchs, crony capitalist, the whole lot of them, in the mouth. Trump offers the fist and proudly proclaims he is “angry”.

    If you think about it the political system is really and truly at a very interesting and historic cross road. The unprotected masses have voted. They want Trump. If the GOP does everything they can think of and actually succeed in keeping Trump off the ballet, will all those who have been supporting Trump quietly vote for the alternate GOP candidate? Not bloody likely. Hillary wins. If the GOP embraces the revolution they’ve been handed and fully and enthusiastically support Trump, JC Superstar couldn’t beat Trump to the White House.

    Hillary will give us 4 years of committee meetings, studies, gridlock, more debt, more wars, more bank bailouts–all assuming she isn’t impeached. This will simply make the unprotected more angry. Trump as president gives us–what? Nobody knows. Really, he might be pulling an Obama and saying whatever he has to say to get elected, and then do as he jolly well wants to once elected. Yeah, it’s a gamble but I haven’t forgotten “Change We Can Believe In.”

    Buckle up kids, it’s gonna be a wild ride! I look forward to it!!!

  15. “Let them eat NIRP” [Negative interest Rate Policy]…..with apologies to Marie Antoinnette ! See my earlier post re Authoritarianism- High scorers are overly represented by the “unprotected”.

  16. Wait till the unprotected get their money taken away,
    Larry Summers will have hell to pay.
    They won’t care what the protected say,
    For that will be the Judgement Day…

  17. The Republican party and the news media keep thinking if they dredge up enough stuff on Trump, it will stop his parade. It won’t, because most of us voting for him already know he is a lying buffoon with lots of baggage….and don’t care.

    A vote for Trump is a middle finger to Washington, DC and THAT is the message. He is the ‘none of the above’ choice that might actually go up there and burn the place to the ground.

    1. Trump will never burn down the government. He loves government! He even used the government to steal the house of an old woman in Atlantic City so that he could expand the limousine parking lot at his casino. Who parks there? Trump’s banker buddies and other rich people from New York having a fun time on the weekend. If you want to give the middle finger to Washington, boycott elections, otherwise you endorse the corrupt system.

      1. Mark, exactly right. Most, if not all, Trump supporters think he will fix everything, but the government is un-fixable. It is broken beyond repair.

        I agree with you; participation, by means of voting, is endorsing a corrupt idea – the idea that some have the right to rule others, and steal their stuff, by the mechanism of majority vote.

        This pernicious idea must be eradicated once and for all if we are ever to regain our Liberty.

      2. I do not support Trump and I do not think he will fix a thing! However, I do believe he is the voters giving the middle finger to Washington. I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore. I really want to kick the table over and start all over again. I doubt that will happen. However, I do believe a little revolution is good every once in awhile

        1. Agreed…..Trump won’t fix the un-fixable. What he can do is shake up the entrenched politicians. We need a good dose of anarchy.

      3. I tend to agree with you, and haven’t voted in presidential elections since they put the arm on Ross Perot to get out in 1992….it was clear to me the system was rigged. But a lot of us are coming out of the woodwork now (look at the numbers voting so far)…..not because we think Trump will change ANYTHING…but because maybe he will burn the place down…..or the entrenched politicians will kick over the lantern on the way out. Who cares….this is the best ‘none of the above’ choice we’ve had in years.

      4. I don’t want to “fix” the system or “give it the middle finger”. I want to destroy it.
        Trump and Bernie, merely by running, are destroying it.

        1. Trump likes to make deals rather than destroying the system. Bernie will destroy the system and replace it with something worse. Voting wouldn’t be allowed if it made any difference.

      5. Why is Trump running if has mastered this system. Seems like a lot of aggravation. Your argument lacks simple logic. Now I believe that Bill Clinton wants to be the richest man in the world and will do anything to further this end. That’s motivation …. I have always voted so I can itch with a clear conscience.

        1. It’s not enough for Trump to be able to use the government to steal a woman’s property so that he can expand the parking lot for the limos of his rich customers; he can steal much more if elected President. Like Hillary Clinton, he is a dishonest New Yorker who wants to rob citizens on a grand scale, and one of them is likely to succeed.

          1. I don’t care what Trump has or has not done. He is not of the political elite therefore he gets my vote. The country needs to be shook up.

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