"I don’t know if the protected see how serious this moment is, or their role in it."
2/25/16, "Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected," Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal column, via LetterstotheEditor.yuku.com
"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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 the 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.
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
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.
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."