Why the Outer Party hates Trump & will waste this opportunity for reform

Summary: The reaction of our upper classes to the rise of Trump reveals much about 21st century America — a society divided by class, with blinkered elites, and an opportunity to unify and make reforms (which we’ll almost certainly squander). 2016 will be a big year for America, a bad one if we do not try to understand what is happening.

Trump as Hitler

We can only guess at the reaction to Trump by the bourgeois (who own America) and the Inner Party (their senior executives, having less power but are social similar). My guess: they’re probably unhappy that Trump is defeating their apparatchiks and co-opting their political machines. However, Trump is one of them — and a deal-maker. In the unlikely event Trump wins, I suspect they expect to ally with him.

More interesting is the reaction of those in the Outer Party, America’s professionals and managers. They are spitting with rage, so vituperative that discussions about Trump quickly veer from analytical to irrational. Trump has aroused them to an extent I’ve seldom seen — and with good reason.

Our elites are distant to the America people, images on TV and stories in the tabloids. But the Outer Party administers America’s bureaucratic regime, which has been losing legitimacy for decades (e.g., see Gallup’s Confidence in Institutions poll). The rise of Trump shows that this has brought forth a populist revolt (i.e., an attempt to change political authority). It’s a rebellion against them, the faces of the US political regime.

They respond with their most powerful tool: delegimization. People and movements have been destroyed as they use their institutions — the news media, academia, think tanks, etc. — to label reformers and rebels as “Communists”, “racists”, “sexists”, “deniers”, “he’s like Hitler” (applied to both Bush Jr. and Obama), etc. Plus they fire barrages of mockery and funny pictures.

But the regime’s loss of legitimacy renders these ineffective. Much of America no longer considers the upper classes to be our moral arbiters. Worse, to many Americans the upper classes’ hatred of Trump identifies him as their friend. “By their enemies you shall know them”.

The “chattering classes”, especially journalists and academics, are especially hostile to Trump (senior journalists and tenured university professors are of the upper class to the minimum wage – no benefit – no security workers who are so much of America). These are among the least popular of major American institutions. Gallup shows that only 24% of Americans have confidence in newspapers and 21% in TV news. Gallup does not ask about the public’s confidence in professors and universities, but they we have a clue — populist politicians often use them as targets of applause-lines…

“When I get to Washington, I am going to throw the briefcases of the pointy headed intellectuals into the Potomac. … pointy-headed professors who can’t park their bicycles straight.”
— George Wallace, lines he used in many speeches during the late 1960s.


They mock because they don’t want to understand

“I’d bet that many of those all in for Donald Trump now are children of parents that were all in for Jim & Tammy Faye or Jimmy Swaggart.” “It’s like battered spouse syndrome or something” {response to poll showing Trump’s Latino support}. “Trump acts like a petulant 14 year old.” “He’s conning people into believing he has the character and temperament to lead the nation.” “That’s not a platform. It’s a collection of superficial quips and bluster” {that’s false; see for yourself} .

— Twitter comments about Trump make by some brilliant professionals, similar to the mockery given Snowden by many geopolitical experts. both Left and Right.

The public’s distrust of many elements of the Outer Party is mirrored by their contempt for the “lower” classes, which shines through in many comments about the Trump campaign. It’s another example of the class conflict that increasingly dominates America.

Trump’s candidacy is the most recent outbreak of populism, a political movement with deep roots in American history. It’s crude, like most mass movements. It’s nativist (as was the second large populist movement in America, which halted immigration in steps from 1882 to the New Deal, allowing creation of a large middle class). It’s racist, infected with that the legacy from the Founding. But it has political energy that, when allied with progressivism, ended the Gilded Age and produced the post-WWII society that we think of as America (having forgotten much of what came before).

Trump’s critics in the chattering classes seldom examine the origins of Trump’s appeal. You need not agree with Trump to see that he has raised legitimate issues. For example, see the numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign. Also see Erik Loomis (Asst Prof History, U RI) declare his support for immigration while discussing corporations importing workers to replace Americans and forcing them to train their replacements in order to receive their severance benefits — an example of how immigration depresses wages.

As for Trump being stupid (a common charge), he was the first to say that Ted Cruz might be constitutionally ineligible. That shows intelligence (or a good staff, equally valuable for a leader).  See this analysis by Paul Campos (professor of law, U CO-Boulder) — he acknowledges Trump was correct while mocking him), and a more detailed analysis by Mark Field.


The forces of populism have emerged again, warts and all. In 2008 Obama tapped them (thematically) with his Hope and Change campaign, but became conventional once in office.

Now the torch passes to an unconventional politician with no obvious qualifications for the office — an outsider to our political system. Despite the mockery given it, the Trump campaign is a serious political movement — more so than Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. There are organization, leadership, and goals. The crowds do not dress up as unicorns or 18th century patriots. Sneers, mockery, and funny pictures will will neither derail his campaign nor put populism back in the bottle.

Populism can help or hurt us, largely depending on how we understand its roots and respond. Populism is an opportunity not to be squandered, since we have so few of them in these dark days. Let’s not leave it to Trump — and his probably scarier and more successful successors.

Overlap between TP and OWS

Other posts about Trump and the new populism

See all posts about Trump and the New Populism, especially these…

  1. In August I wrote The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
  2. Background: Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  3. Trump’s hope: a recession might put him in the White House.
  4. The four keys to a possible Trump victory.
  5. Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary.
  6. Next: Max Weber explains how charismatic leaders replace bureaucratic ones.

For More Information

(1)  And they’re still puzzled: “Donald Trump’s Appeal? G.O.P. Is Puzzled, but His Fans Aren’t” by Jeremy W. Peters, NYT, 17 July 2015. For an unintentionally funny look at our political scientists and guru’s inability to understand this resurgence of populism, see “How Trump confounds, confuses, and intrigues political scientists” by Nick Gass at Politico — “The party was supposed to decide. What went wrong?”

(2)  If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

(3)  This is a global phenomenon, as shown by this graphic by Michale Hartnett (Strategist, BofA research)…

Global populism by Michael Hartnett of BoA research

11 thoughts on “Why the Outer Party hates Trump & will waste this opportunity for reform”

  1. As an outsider, I am disturbed by the importance ascribed to the modern Presidential candidate. It is as if the electorate has abandoned representational government in favor of a Caesarian elected dictator and loud, but not critical Senate. Obama pushes regulatory rule publicly as a necessary result of both Houses being incapable of running the country. And is not censured by Congress, the Senate, the media, political philosophers or the general public.

    Trump and Clinton both proceed from the position that only a strong, determined President can let the Nation survive, not just thrive. That is the belief of every King or Leader-for-life who dismisses popular elections. Indeed, listening to any of the candidates makes you think the electorate would be best served with just a President and cohort of bureaucrats. Clinton’s email travails suggest even the bureaucrats aren’t necessary for good American government.

    The revolution to remove a King seems, these days, to not have been about ridding the people of an unresponsive King, but just of a non-American-born King. Where is the drive to run the Republic by the wise actions of the people’s legal representatives?

    Trump et al are symptoms of something very strange for the modern American social contracts that elected officials are supposed to manage. Whatever it is, from the outside, it is not promising for a First World power.

  2. Good comparisons to Tea and Occupy. Fascinatingly, Populism is an Opp. And much of what is happening is hardly recognized for the populism it is.
    Deeply troubled country and populace, just scratch the surface and the wounds are too prevalent and too obvious to be unseen.
    What a year this will be, it seems.


      1. Yes, of course FM, smiling. But meant to express my dismay at a lack of comments today on this good Post.
        And the general malaise we see being accepted and ignored.

  3. “The degeneration of politics into spectacle has… made it more difficult than ever to organize a political opposition. When the images of power overshadow the reality, those without power find themselves fighting phantoms. Particularly in a society where power likes to present itself in the guise of benevolence — where government seldom resorts to the naked use of force — it is hard to identify the oppressor, let alone to personify him, or to sustain a burning sense of grievance in the masses.

    “In the sixties, the New Left attempted to overcome this seeming insubstantiality of the establishment by resorting to politics of confrontation… The attempt to dramatize official repression, however, imprisoned the left in a politics of theater, of dramatic gestures, of style without substance — a mirror-image of the politics of unreality which it should have been the purpose of the left to unmask.”

    — Christopher Lasch in The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (1991).

  4. What I find so terrifying about Trump is that he is in a way the final level of symbolic politics-virtually the spectacle itself- but the potentially catastrophic forces that his symbolic gestures are unleashing will not be satiated with symbolism.

    He is conjuring up a tiger he will neither be able to ride or put down.

    1. Akira,

      I would frame this differently. Trump’s rise results from emergent forces that are blocked by our political leaders from expression within the usual channels. They have overflowed with Trump as an almost passive vessel.

      Should Trump actively and intelligently harness these, then he would become a potentially major political player. For more about this see the “The four keys to a possible Trump victory.”

  5. I think Trump is activating forces much deeper and far more irrational than populist reformist politics. He is tapping into deep caste/class hatreds between the managers and the managed that are more explosive than anyone realizes, precisely because they are usually camouflaged and suppressed.

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