America has become an Old World countrycomment about the US election from the UK.
The saddest development is the one that is most counter-intuitive. Mr Obama – who famously ran in 2008 as the post-racial candidate – has polarised the nation racially in a way that it has not been for half a century, reversing what had been the progressive trend toward real social integration and colour blindness in American political life. Ninety-three per cent of black voters – 93 per cent – voted for Obama in this election, as did 71 per cent of Latino voters and 73 per cent of Asian ones. But if non-white ethnic groups are choosing to segregate themselves electorally – quite often with little regard for their actual economic or social interests – white voters are not. Only 59 per cent of them supported Romney: a majority but not an overwhelming one. Some of this was down to the class war issue: blue collar voters were encouraged to see Romney as a rapacious capitalist who would destroy people’s livelihoods if the balance sheet dictated it.
But that was an unfortunate consequence of this particular candidate’s credentials. There is a more historically significant, and possibly more permanent, development too. The United States has now acquired an electorally powerful liberal bourgeoisie who are convinced, as their European counterparts have been for several generations, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that public spending is inherently virtuous, that poverty can be cured by penalising wealth creation, and that government intervention can engineer social “fairness”. But just when some of Europe’s political class has begun to appreciate the dangers of this philosophy – that taken to its logical conclusion, it leads to economic stagnation and social division – America seems to have decided that it is the quintessence of enlightened sophistication.
But something has changed. The Protestant ethic that ruled my childhood has been downgraded. When I was at university in America in the Sixties, I had friends whose parents were rich. But there was never any question that the children would have to earn their own living. After graduation, and even during the summer holidays, they were expected to find jobs. Eventually they might be absorbed into the family business but even then, they would probably start at the bottom and work their way up. I have been truly shocked to discover that America now has a “trustafarian” generation: trust fund babies who live on what we euphemistically call “private incomes”.
Rich parents no longer demand that their children make their own way. So there is a whole tranche of adults in the United States now who will never work for a living: an idea that would once have been virtually unthinkable. One of the most damaging facts that came to light about John Kennedy when he was running for president was that his father had given him a million dollars so that he could devote all his time to running for political office: an indulgence that was regarded as almost sinful.
With unearned wealth comes guilt and from that comes paternalism: the idea that you are obliged to elect a government that will take responsibility for all those people who are worse off than you – and not just by providing them with opportunities to better themselves in the traditional American way. American voters still want jobs – the mantra of Romney’s campaign still held for half the population – but they are less convinced that work is the only route to salvation. Which is a pity because it remains far and away the best and most permanent route out of poverty. The United States always had its share of poor people but, until recently, when welfare dependency created a permanent underclass, they were not the same people from one decade to another. The whole point was to move up and out of hardship, as wave after wave of newcomers did.And what the author doesn't say: When there's class warfare, guess who becomes the victim.... Yes, the Jews.
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