FOREIGN POLICY AND THE AMERICAN ELITE: PART II
“American foreign policy in an age of proximity by Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye
“Foreign Policy And The American Elite: Part I” by Zenpundit
In Part I. and on previous occasions I have suggested that there is a disconnect between America’s bipartisan elite and other Americans and that this disconnect is currently being acutely felt on the issue of immigration reform where members of Congress of both parties hold views approximately inverse to those of their constitutents. Put to a referendum, it would be all but certain that the American people would vote for very tough penalties on illegal immigrants and those who employ them. In contrast, the average U.S. Senator is aghast at the thought of any bill that might have real teeth because that would stem the flow of cheap, illegal, labor somewhat and aggravate Mexican nationalist and LaRaza ethnic activis back home.
Now, as I have said, immigration is generally positive, particularly in the long run but the current immigration policy is not, neither economically or in terms of national security. Nor are the costs of immigration, legal and illegal, equitably shared. Tellingly though, the status quo, which is generally unfavorable to America, does benefit our bipartisan elite while imposing real costs on average Americans in the form of depressed wages, higher taxes, higher crime rates and strains on educational, health and welfare systems. When the elite consistently puts its own interests ahead of national interests in so obvious a way, their stewardship of the state loses legitimacy. Part of the reason for this disconnect is that our bipartisan elite has changed significantly in the last forty or so years.
For those old enough to remember, there was once something in this country called ” The Eastern Establishment”, the one hated by Richard Nixon and denounced by the anti-war demonstrators of the New Left. The term has mostly fallen out of use for a number of reasons but it really did exist at one time. It dominated Wall Street, our universities, the legal profession, the media and the most important departments of the Federal government including State, Treasury and Defense as well as the CIA. The Establishment ran the United States for almost a century until it foundered the ship of state on the rocks of Vietnam.
The Eastern Establishment came about as a fusion after the Civil War as the old money elite like the Roosevelts, Livingstons and Lodges sought to co-opt and “civilize” the children of the noveau-riche robber barons like the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Stanfords and so on. Sociologically, the Establishment was wealthy, white, well-educated and irrevocably Protestant, preferably Episcopalian though the Presbyterians put in a good showing. Despite the moniker ” Eastern”, Southerners of a genteel ancestry and paternal influence were counted among their numbers as were, more rarely, a few Westerners with sizable interests in banking or railroads.
It was a decidedly exclusionary group. Aside from elitist and fairly deep-seated prejudices against Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, Italians and Women, Irish Catholics rated no higher as readers familiar with the saga of the Kennedy family are no doubt aware. Nor did fellow WASPs who came from humble origins and went to the wrong schools, like Richard Nixon or LBJ, fare much better in their eyes. Members of the Establishment were largely investment bankers and lawyers with Anglophile tastes and an Atlanticist worldview who carried both a sense of entitlement as well as that of noblesse oblige.
Despite a profoundly narrow outlook, the Establishment produced a truly remarkable number of first class statesmen – Charles Francis Adams, John Hay, Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, George Kennan, Paul Nitze, Dean Acheson, Charles Bohlen, Averrell Harriman, Dean Rusk, McGeorge Bundy, John J. McCloy, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. – outside of the conquering founders of great empires, there are few examples in history that are comparable to their collective achievment of steering an outlier republic through grave dangers to world hegemony.
The men of the Eastern Establishment were successful not merely because of their often considerable education and social cohesiveness but from their general acceptance of the long view in preference to the short and a serious attention to the underlying economic fundamentals governing world affairs. That they were ” Present at the Creation” was no idle boast – they had a hand in the creating and understood how the institutions that they proposed were going to work in the real world. They married American national interest to the global greater good in a way that most foreign leaders could find attractive or at least, tolerable.
The Establishment is dead and gone. It has been replaced by a new American elite whose values have shifted as a result of the Eastern Establishment’s grand failure in Vietnam but that will be discussed in Part III.