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Does Hope Lie in the Proles?


Thomas Hart Benton, Coal, 1930

5,003 words

Author’s Note:

This talk was given at the Fourth Meeting of the Northwest Forum on Saturday, June 24th. I want to thank everyone who organized and attended this event.  

Does hope lie in the proles, as Winston Smith asserts in Nineteen Eighty-Four? There is now ample reason to think so, and in this talk I will support this claim by appeal to an unlikely source. I should say up front that my use of the term “proles” is not at all derogatory — though in the world of Winston Smith, of Oceania, the term is used that way. Orwell writes, “The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage. . . . But simultaneously, true to the Principles of doublethink, the Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection, like animals, by the application of a few simple rules.” But let’s appropriate, own, and rehabilitate this word. “Prole” simply means proletarian, or working class.

If it is true that the proles are awakening, this is good news. And yet I will also argue that it poses a big challenge to the Alt Right, the New Right or whatever we are calling ourselves these days. It is a challenge, moreover, for which we may be woefully unprepared, and that has the potential to render us irrelevant.

On June 8th, the New York Times published an op-ed entitled “The Democratic Party is in Worse Shape than You Thought [2].” It was released with little fanfare, and doesn’t seem to have attracted a great deal of commentary online. However, it would be no exaggeration to say that this little essay is nothing short of a bombshell, and I am sure that it was widely read by important Democratic players. The author is Thomas Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia and a weekly contributor to The Times online Opinion Pages. Edsall has considerable gravitas as a liberal journalist. Now 75, he covered politics for The Washington Post for twenty-five years, from 1981 to 2006, and is the author of five books.

Edsall’s editorial is one of the first attempts to quietly begin looking seriously and honestly at the real reasons voters repudiated the Democratic Party in 2016. Let’s take stock. Two thirds of the nation’s governors are now Republicans, and two thirds of state legislatures are controlled by Republicans. In twenty-five states, both the legislature and governorships are in Republican hands (whereas there are now only four states in which Democrats control both). Republicans also now control both houses of Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. In short, what happened in 2016 was an unprecedented rejection of the Democratic Party as such, and of the philosophy of liberalism — though Republicans had been steadily making gains throughout the Obama years.

For months now, we have been witnessing the pathetic and sometimes very amusing spectacle of the liberals flailing around trying to find someone or something to blame for their defeat (sexism, racism, the Russians, Comey, bovine flatulence, Bat Boy, Spring-heeled Jack, the list goes on and on). They will try anything, it seems, to avoid self-criticism. To avoid coming to terms with the fact that Hillary was a terrible candidate, who ran a terrible campaign, kept falling down and coughing and taking bathroom breaks and needing infusions of monkey glands, and who gave Americans no real reason to vote for her.

Edsall’s editorial is, at last, a sober attempt on the part of an intellectually honest liberal to come to terms with this reversal of fortune. I am going to take you through the major points that he makes, and the remarkable statistics he uses to back them up. Then I will offer some reflections on what White Nationalists can learn from this, and where we have to go from here.

A major claim made by Edsall is that Trump won because very significant numbers of working-class voters from traditionally Democratic areas abandoned the party. Edsall quotes estimates of the number of so-called “Obama-to-Trump” voters ranging from 6.7 to 9.2 million, the bulk of these voters being white. Counties that went “Obama-to-Trump” were heavily concentrated in the Rustbelt and Midwest.

Obviously, Democratic strategists will focus on trying to win these people back. But for Edsall the prospects of this are grim. He states, “winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.” To put things in starker terms than Edsall permits himself, the Democratic Party has now moved so far to the Left, and so far from reality, that large numbers of traditionally Democratic voters have abandoned it.

Of the voters who went Obama to Trump, one of the most interesting things about them is their perceptions of the Democratic Party. These voters were polled and asked who they thought was most favored by the economic policies of (a) Trump, (b) Congressional Democrats, and (c) Congressional Republicans. 44% said that they thought Trump’s policies would favor “all classes equally.” Keep squarely in mind, please, that these are “Obama-to-Trump” voters. 33% said they thought Trump’s policies would favor the middle class, and just 21% thought they would favor the wealthy.

These voters, furthermore, made a clear and sharp distinction between Trump and the Republican Party. Trump is, of course, anything but an establishment Republican, and those who defected from the Democrats and voted for him clearly saw this. While a majority of these voters (again, 44%) said that Trump’s economic policies would benefit all classes equally, a majority of these same voters (40%) said that the policies of Congressional Republicans would benefit the wealthy. Just 31% said they would benefit all classes equally. But, surprisingly, their perceptions of Congressional Democrats were even worse: 42% said that Congressional Democrats were out to benefit the wealthy. Just 16% said that their policies would benefit all classes equally.

Again, bear in mind that these voters are Democrats who voted for Trump. The numbers show that in the eyes of these voters — many of whom are the decent, hardworking backbone of the nation — the Democrats are now the party of the rich. This is a stunning reversal. Edsall could actually have stopped here and it would have been enough to make good on his title “The Democratic Party is in Worse Shape than You Thought.” But there is more — a lot more.

Edsall quotes Geoff Garin, a partner in the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group which, together with the Global Strategy Group, conducted these surveys. Garin says:

The biggest common denominator among Obama-Trump voters is a view that the political system is corrupt and doesn’t work for people like them. Obama-Trump voters were more likely to think more Democrats look out for the wealthy than look out for poor people. After economics, the other main drivers for Trump were very specifically about immigration and race, and feelings about both things were powerful and raw.

Edsall quotes Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who takes the Democrats to task for being astonishingly disconnected from the plight of ordinary, working-class Americans. The Democrats began losing their working-class base under Obama who, as Greenberg puts it, insisted on “heralding economic progress and the bailout of the irresponsible elites, while ordinary people’s incomes crashed and they continued to struggle financially.” And he attributes Hillary’s loss to her virtual abandonment of the working class — not just the white working class, incidentally, but nevertheless the white working class in particular.

Greenberg also alludes to what I would characterize as the gross spectacle of the Democrats championing the globalism and immigration that has robbed American workers of jobs, while cynically expecting those same workers to line up and vote for them anyway. (Though he puts it rather more tactfully than I.) And then he drops a bomb:

The Democrats have moved from seeking to manage and champion the nation’s growing immigrant diversity to seeming to champion immigrant rights over American citizens’. Instinctively and not surprisingly, the Democrats embraced the liberal values of America’s dynamic and best-educated metropolitan areas, seeming not to respect the values or economic stress of older voters in small-town and rural America. Finally, the Democrats also missed the economic stress and social problems in the cities themselves and in working-class suburbs. [My italics.]

It’s important to keep in mind the rather extraordinary context here: that this a Democratic pollster being quoted by a Democratic journalist in a frank and honest message to the Democratic Party. Ordinary Americans, including those with a history of voting for Democrats, now see that Party as espousing the lofty idealism of educated, urban elites who are able to insulate themselves from the real costs of immigration, racial diversity, and globalism. Working-class Americans are too familiar with those costs at first hand to buy into such idealism, and they are tired of being force-fed empty, politically correct slogans and good intentions, while hungering for jobs, real communities, good schools, and law and order.

Edsall quotes three other analysts at the pro-Democratic Center for American Progress, who write in a co-authored paper:

Democrats allowed themselves to become the party of the status quo — a status quo perceived to be elitist, exclusionary, and disconnected from the entire range of working-class concerns, but particularly from those voters in white working-class areas. [In the 2016 campaign] rightly or wrongly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign exemplified a professional-class status quo that failed to rally enough working-class voters of color and failed to blunt the drift of white working-class voters to Republicans.

Now, in the months since Trump’s victory we have seen some Democrats putting forth the idea that economic populism would be the best way to lure back wayward Democratic voters and take the wind out of Trump’s sails. This actually appears, at first glance, to be a refreshingly sensible response, at least coming from Democrats.

But Edsall throws cold water on this. He points out that Democrats are naïve if they think that pushing a Sanders-style progressive economic populism would be an effective strategy. This is because progressives like Sanders, and many others on the Left, think that economic populism entails the redistribution of wealth.

Edsall states, in language unusually frank for a liberal:

Democrats cannot simply argue in favor of redistributive government on economic matters because defecting whites are deeply hostile to a government they see as coercive on matters of race. For decades, the perception that an intrusive federal government promotes policies favoring African-Americans and other minorities at the expense of whites has driven anti-government animosity.

In short, the white working-class voters who went with Trump, including the significant Obama-to-Trump subset, will not support an economic populism peddled by Democrats because they think — correctly — that in the hands of people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren it will largely become a mechanism for rewarding blacks and Hispanics at the expense of whites.

Edsall cites a report released in May by the Public Religion Research Institute which includes the following illuminating statistic: 52% of white working-class Americans “believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” In addition, four in ten white working-class Americans agree with the statement “efforts to increase diversity almost always come at the expense of whites.”

Now, one could be forgiven for thinking at this point that with Mr. Edsall we have finally found an honest and tough-minded liberal. But he ends his article by characterizing these white voters as exhibiting “a broad animus toward difference, the unknown and the other.” Ah, yes, The Other! Needless to say, there can’t be any good reasons why whites have any animus towards The Other, can there? Mr. Edsall proposes no solutions to the current predicament of the Democratic Party. One can be sure, however, that he and other liberals will never consider whether voters are right in their perception of Democrats as advancing policies that harm whites, or right in their fears about immigration and globalism.

Given that liberalism is essentially a religion — or, as some have cogently argued, a mental disorder — we may be sure that while liberals are willing to play an awful lot of unscrupulous tricks, they will never re-think their ideology.

Indeed, it is unlikely that liberals will do anything other than double-down on the current message, even when dealing directly with the white working-class voters they’d love to woo back. This is because they exhibit another trait to which Mr. Edsall and the colleagues he quotes never once refer: an implacable disdain and contempt for the white working class. Hatred, indeed, would not be too strong a word. And surely this is something that the white working class have picked up on.

But liberals will never overcome this problem, because they think that they are completely justified in believing that only ignorance and stupidity explain why white working-class voters have not eagerly embraced joblessness, dispossession by immigrants, Black Lives Matter, and being made the scapegoat for all the world’s problems. Thus, we can be reasonably certain that liberals will see the problem of white working-class defection as an educational issue: if they intend to reach out at all to these voters, it will be with more pious lectures, more propaganda.

It is extremely amusing that many in the Establishment, Left and Right, are convinced that working-class Americans are ignorant and stupid simply because they’ve not been to college. In other words, simply because they have not been through four years of mind-crippling PC indoctrination. Article after article in the mainstream press calls our attention to the “crisis of critical thinking” at our universities. College students, including graduating seniors, have been found unable to follow simple arguments, and to identify and critique their presuppositions.

No one seems willing to point out the obvious: that this is largely the result of being force-fed ideologies that require them not to think critically, because such critical thinking would lead to disapprobation and ostracism. Or at least a level of cognitive dissonance that most people are unable to endure.

Those force-fed ideologies are fundamentally at odds with basic facts of reality that dance before our minds and eyes all day long. Simply walking a few blocks down an American city street with an open mind is sufficient to provide one with enough evidence to completely demolish the liberal world view. Thus, our “educated” citizens learn to close their minds and their eyes to reality, and to parrot the approved platitudes. This is essentially why Johnny can’t think. Or why he can only doublethink.

In short, if you are looking for citizens of our republic who actually have some ties to reality, some commonsense, and who are (at least in the privacy of their own minds) willing to call a spade a spade, you must look to the great mass of the “uneducated.” You must look to the proles. Winston Smith is right: the hope lies in the proles. That the hope lies in them, furthermore, is not a matter of pure hope or speculation, as it was for Winston Smith. We now have tangible evidence of their awakening, some of which is has been helpfully assembled by Mr. Edsall in his editorial.

The hope lies in the proles because of their connection to reality, their inability to insulate themselves, as the college-educated affluent elites are able to, from the destructive effects of liberal ideology. The hope lies in them because, as I have already argued, the liberals are very unlikely to fundamentally change their message so as to court the proles.

And now I will shock you, I hope, by saying that the hope lies in the proles because they are not us, they are not the Alt Right. Indeed, they are better than us.

If all that I have presented so far is correct, the natural response on the part of our compatriots will be to conclude that we must somehow find new and better ways to bring our message to the proles, most of whom are not yet initiated into the mysteries of the Alt Right. They will conclude, perhaps correctly (notice I have only said “perhaps”) that this is a great mass waiting for a leader, or leaders.

So suppose we seek to present ourselves to the proles and try to coopt them? When the proles turn their worldly and realistic gaze upon us and look us up and down, what will they see?

I remember years ago when I was twelve or thirteen my parents and I took a road trip south to visit relatives. At the time, I was enrolled in an expensive prep school modelled on the British system: we wore ties and had a headmaster. My parents weren’t rich, but we had enough. However, my friends in that school were certainly rich, most of them. I was studying Homer in my English class and winning awards for writing sonnets. I thought I was quite the sophisticate. I had a tendency to pontificate and enjoyed voicing my withering contempt for everything around me with little bon mots I imagined were terribly clever.

For a couple of days we visited my mother’s aunt and uncle in North Carolina. They were some of the only people in my family who were anything close to working-class: my mother’s aunt had married a farmer from rural North Carolina who had never been to college. Farmers, of course, own land and conduct business. So he was a peasant, not a prole. But he was still a real-salt-of-the-earth type. In any case, my father and I were standing out in a plowed field talking with my Great Uncle. In response to a question from him, I, feeling bored out of mind and quite superior, said something snotty but, I imagined, so sophisticated that he could not possibly comprehend it. I don’t remember what it was.

But the look I got from him communicated two things instantly: that he was a lot more perceptive than I thought he was, and that he saw right through me and saw exactly what I was. In just a twinkling of an eye, I saw — through his gaze — my own vanity and pretentiousness and privilege and falsehood. I wanted to vanish into the soil. Here, I suddenly felt was a real person, whereas I was a total phony.

Before the gaze of such simple, hard-working souls so many of us in the Alt Right ghetto will stand similarly exposed and reduced. To a large degree, they’re going to see people with characters and backgrounds cut from the same cloth as the liberals who despise them. And with heads wedged very firmly up their posteriors.

They will see that some of the most visible members of our movement, our self-described “leaders” are, in some cases, entitled, college-educated children of affluence. Vain, grandiose, egomaniacal, and attention-hungry.

They will see that some in the Alt Right have not yet emerged, or only recently emerged, from living in their parent’s basement.

They will see that many exist as members of our movement only in a virtual sense, as internet trolls who hit and run. Vying with each other to prove who is the most “edgy” and “hardcore,” while usually backing up this posturing with absolutely nothing tangible and real.

They will encounter “purity spirallers” who seem less concerned with the real plight of their race than with ferreting out who in the movement might be “gay” — or with speculating that everyone in the movement is gay, except them.

They will see many childless, unmarried men who have turned necessity into virtue by “going their own way.” Or worse, cultivating the cynical, misogynistic “game” of the pickup artist.

They will see that others have the luxury of responding to the plight of the white working class, and the perils that face our civilization, by casting runes, or brewing mead.

And within that group they will encounter large numbers of folks defending dead, despised dictators that, rightly or wrongly, hundreds of thousands of mostly working-class Americans sacrificed their lives in order to depose. Those Americans being their grandfathers and great grandfathers.

They will see high-flown intellectual discussions, usually presupposing the equivalent of a doctoral degree, of authors they have never heard of, and have no time or energy to read after getting home at night from eight solid hours of labor.

Perhaps worst of all they are going to see chaos and disunity: character assassination, betrayal, rumor-mongering, doxing, trolling, back-biting, gaslighting, etc. They will see, in short, that the movement we offer them is, arguably, no movement at all. In a real sense, it does not exist.

In sum, the proles will see us as a lot of disaffected, spoiled, bratty, out-of-touch sacks of venom, who have created a little ghetto for ourselves replete with forums in which we may vent and posture without tangible results, and any real consequences. They will see that most of us have nothing in common with them, cannot understand their daily woes, and are entirely irrelevant to their lives.

And they are also perceptive enough to pick up on the dirty little secret of the Alt Right: namely, that many of us do not really love our race. That in fact we walk around most of the time consumed by hate for other white people, and that many of us have about as much contempt for the working class as your average liberal.

The Alt Right has become nothing more than yet another “lifestyle choice” in the vast cornucopia of modern American lifestyles that coexist within the Great Beast, posing no fundamental threat to it. Despite our pretensions to the contrary, our dysfunction, disunity, and surfeit of bad character make us about as big a threat to the system as Wiccans. Who is the “leader” of the Wiccans? Or, who are the leaders? I don’t know, and I don’t care, and I don’t know anyone who knows because Wiccans don’t matter. I’m sure the Wiccan movement has been replete with struggles for power and internecine wars over doctrine and purity, but only Wiccans care about this. To the rest of the world they are simply irrelevant oddballs.

So, forget any thoughts about riding the wave of the prole awakening and leading or guiding these folks. We are simply not worthy. Not now, anyway.

Can we become worthy? Here we can certainly be open to the possibility of becoming worthy to lead or guide, but let’s try to avoid falling into the trap of feeling superior to the proles. As a good corrective for our already swollen egos, let’s start by thinking in terms of becoming worthy of joining with them, in common cause. Now how do we do that?

The other day a friend said something to me that was quite insightful. He said that a true movement might emerge if the internet were to be wiped away tomorrow. Now, this is not only unlikely but, most will say, undesirable since the internet can be (can be) such a useful tool. But consider it: if the internet ceased to exist the real movement would emerge from the great ocean of trolls and virtual friends. Why?

Because the real movement would consist in the people enterprising enough and committed enough to find some other ways to meet and keep in touch. The trolls and virtual friends would disappear overnight, because they were never really committed in the first place, or were “committed” for all the wrong reasons.

There would be fewer but better White Nationalists.

Now, there are two important implications to be drawn out of this thought experiment: (1) The only really committed White Nationalists are those willing and able to form actual communities, as opposed to virtual communities; and (2) it follows from this that ultimately the movement is nothing without actual community, because actual communities are formed by, and attract, the most committed people, and a real movement is a movement of truly committed people. QED.

I submit that the most effective way to form ties with our awakening proles, and to facilitate their greater awakening is to come together with them in real communities.

In order to do this, we in what we already optimistically call “the movement” must overcome our own class snobbery and our tendency to only want to engage with others like ourselves. On more occasions than I can possibly remember my movement friends (virtual and otherwise) have asked, despairingly, “When are people going to wake up?” Well, now they are. But it’s not the sort of people who were always asking this question. Almost everyone I know in the movement has led a life of relative privilege and is college-educated, some with advanced degrees.

But in the country as a whole, the vast majority of affluent, college-educated people are sound asleep — indeed, many of them are monsters of entitlement, selfishness, and hedonism. It is the proles who are waking up — the people I’ve never even really learned to talk to. Honestly, I am just about as alienated from the proles as a limousine liberal. I too have never set foot in a factory (just like Karl Marx!).

The only manual labor I have ever done was whiting out errors on my college term papers, back in the old days when we were still using typewriters. My only prole friend — a high school dropout who actually has done manual labor — is really more of a prole wannabe: both his parents have master’s degrees, he’s a successful businessman, and in truth he is an intellectual with a long list of publications.

Many on the Alt Right profess to admire aspects of National Socialism, but very few really “get” what was arguably the central feature of that movement, and why it was so powerful at unifying the German people: true, deeply felt love of one’s own. A love that transcended class divisions, whether based on birth or wealth or education. Let us, in fact, borrow some pages from our enemies: love really is the answer; it’s just love of one’s own.

And let us also celebrate diversity. The rich diversity of white people: the doctors and plumbers and stock brokers and waiters and professors and farmers and nurses and bricklayers and soldiers and programmers and Walmart greeters and actors and dentists and, yes, even lawyers.

And, to a great extent, we must also be tolerant of our people’s peculiarities, so long as they are committed to our cause. For example, it is priggish and dumb to want to run off someone genuinely committed to our cause because now and then in the evening they want to smoke a joint. Or because, through some cruel caprice of Mother Nature, they do something in private with other consenting adults that you wouldn’t do.

The only true movement is going to consist in loosely-connected, real communities that provide a safe space for white men and women and their families. For white people of all classes. These communities will provide opportunities for socializing and for protection. They will provide positive environments in which to raise children, safe spaces in which forbidden ideas can be expressed, and, at times, they will engage in advocacy and agitation.

Doing the hard work of building communities requires good character: dedication, dependability, honesty, genuineness, honor, and selflessness. Ultimately people will only follow and trust and respect those who exemplify these qualities.

Aristotle teaches us in his Rhetoric that a necessary precondition of a man giving an effective speech — in other words, of persuading people — is that others must be convinced that he is of good character. Such men, and women, will draw others into a community. And so, the very first thing we must do to create a real movement, is to strive to become better men and women.

We must disavow vanity, malice, gossip, trolling, and, above all, the suffocating pretensions of the ego. This real movement, if it is to emerge, is not a means to anyone’s ego-gratification. It demands that each of us place the good of the race above his own ego.

There was a saying in Hitler’s Germany: “Du bist nichts, dein Volk ist alles” (you are nothing, your people is everything). How many do you know in our movement today who are truly living that saying? We must live it — we must live up to it — if we are to truly serve the cause we claim to be championing.

The goodwill and harmoniousness of communities built by and for individuals with such commitment will draw in others — persuading them that what that community stands for is positive and good. This point is absolutely crucial. The vast majority of people judge ideas not based on the arguments that are presented for them, but on the basis of the character of the people who espouse those ideas. In other words, they look at the “effect” those ideas have in a person’s life. This is especially true of those who have little formal education, and little time to peruse the intricacies of philosophical argument.

In short, the key to building ties with the great number of awakening proles and the key to further radicalizing them is becoming something better than we are now — and coming together with them in real communities. Communities that, needless to say, are high-functioning, welcoming, and convivial, and that have mechanisms for weeding out individuals who are bad news. This is not just the key, of course, to building ties with proles, but with others as well. And my larger point, again, is that the only real movement is going to be based in such communities. As for the trolls, let them go their own way. And if men want to vie over who gets to crown himself King of the Trolls, that is fine. It keeps them busy and keeps them out of our way.

Ultimately, the only real “leaders” in this movement are the people who have the dedication, seriousness, and selflessness to build real communities. Such communities are the future of our movement, and the future of our race.