THE COLUMN: In Search of Common Ground

Michael Walsh22 Apr, 2024 8 Min Read
Now is the time for all good men...

Hard as this may seem to believe, back before the election of Barack Hussein Obama -- just seven years after 9/11, remember -- there was at least one thing sane people on both the Left and the Right agreed upon: freedom of speech and the primacy of the First Amendment. Conservatives were dedicated to the constitution in all its aspects, while liberals at least pretended to enjoy the blessings of free expression, even if they often employed the 1A as a shield with which to protect themselves and their dissention from the consequences of their intentions. Honest men on both sides could not only have reasoned discussions with one another, but actually be friends.

Obama's elections, in ways which still remain to be understood, changed all that. The notion that not everybody saw the Lightbringer as a divinized politician descended, deus ex machina, from the flies and wings of the American stage to redeem the U.S.A. from its original sin of "racism" threw them into a fit. By their lights, the election should have been unanimous, by acclamation; how dare their former darling maverick, John McCain, have the effrontery to oppose him? Even the fact that McCain, a born tomato can whose last public act was to betray his Senate comrades and his country over Obamacare, threw the election by "suspending" his campaign near the end didn't appease them. As for those who actually voted against the Punahou Kid, off to purdah and perdition with them. And thus the Cold Civil War (as I dubbed it at the time) was well and truly underway.

Severely conservative Mitt.

Is there still a way for honest patriots on both sides to come together? Yes, there are some, even though the Democrat-Media Complex has erased almost all traces of their existence, owing to its complete control of the public Narrative. One such is my old friend Les Leopold, whose new book, Wall Street's War on Workers, obliquely addresses this very subject while excoriating the contemporary left for its abandonment of the American worker:

To claim that massive job dislocation is the price we must pay for a modern economy is to ignore the political price we also are paying. A volcano of disappointment among working-class people has erupted throughout our country as political elites of all stripes ignore the devastation that job loss has left behind. One result is apparent: Working people—especially rural white working people in the border states as well as in the North and Midwest—are walking away from the Democratic Party, their historic champion. And if nothing is done to provide more stable employment, they may walk away from democracy as well.

That Wall Street as it now functions is a force for social evil is something conservatives need to acknowledge, and abandon their reflexive, knee-jerk fealty to what they perceive as the ghosts of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. As Eric Hoffer famously observed: "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket." Neither mercantilism nor stock companies were ever a cause, but they did become a big business, and now have become the tail that wags the dogs of society.

Socialism, which arose as a by-product of 19th-century romanticism and capitalism, has failed to provide the solution, having long since become a racket, and a monstrous one at that. It was not entirely a diabolical Marxist plot, hatched from an immense rage and an even greater jealousy, but also a humanistic reaction to the misery of the British and continental working classes and the indigent poor, who lived in conditions that forever give the lie to "white privilege."

In such novels as Dickens' Bleak Housegreat writers of the era unflinchingly portrayed a world in which the Dedlocks and Mr. Tulkinghorns could avert their gazes from the fates of minor characters such as poor Jo, living in the hell of Tom-All-Alone's, or Mr. Gridley, "the man from Shropshire," driven to distraction and death by a prolonged lawsuit in Chancery. And Dickens, the most successful author of his day, was no communist. In France, Stendhal (Le rouge et le noir) and Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) also limned the social issues, with emotionally wrenching power.

Lady Dedlock discovers how the other half lives.

In our time, the "creative destruction" of the Street has been married to globalism in the interests of political power and limitless profit. The result has been the erasure of national boundaries (a leftist goal for more than a century; their fight song is the Internationale) and of national pride. Old-fashioned American liberals were the strongest advocates of unions, and union members showered them with their votes. But now the working classes tend to vote Republican. Why?

The unleashing of Wall Street, and the reasoning to justify it, became so prevalent for so long that few can remember a time when job destruction was not routine. But before financial deregulation, corporate leaders considered mass layoffs a sign of their own failure—an indication that they had misread markets, failed to anticipate competitive needs, and didn’t invest enough in research, development, and worker training to build thriving, long-lasting enterprises. To be sure, during recessions they might be forced to cut jobs, but not during periods of general economic expansion.

Today, in good times and bad, jobs are cut. What formerly was considered failure is now considered smart management, the coin of the realm in every MBA program. It has become axiomatic that cutting jobs is what smart managers must have the guts to do. As Wall Street has routinized the financial strip-mining of productive enterprises, more than 30 million of us have experienced mass layoffs.

Leopold's book focuses on the currently disparaged white working class, now getting their turn in the leftist barrel as the apotheosis of yahoo racism. He blames the Street for its callous manipulation of "human resources," ignoring their high status as human beings, and bemoans the destruction of postwar working-class prosperity. A good example of the latter was Detroit, where workers without college degrees -- the vast majority of workers at the time -- could earn high wages and live comfortably in what was the most beautiful city in the country: destroyed not by Wall Street but by the race riots of the 1960s and subsequent intractable failure. Rather, Leopold places the blame for what he sees as the Reagan era's adoption of "economic efficiency," which involved union-busting, as a national mantra. But some of the blame must be ascribed to the unions themselves, which under leaders like Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther became their own racket.

Home of the Frankfurt School.

One might point out here that the mania of "college for everybody" was just beginning to take hold, and gathered steam throughout the Obama administration, in league with a greedy and ever-expanding academe. Because college graduates tended to earn more than those with simply a high-school diploma, the cart was then put before the horse and the conclusion was reached that the college degree was itself the cause of the higher earning power, rather than just the symptom. Ah, but correlation is not causation, as a wise man knows, and the abolition of metrics of entry and of achievement has not improved recent graduates' chances of success.

One major change we can agree upon, however, is the precipitous decline of the American manufacturing base after 1980. Here is his take:

After WWII, the emergent United States led a global anti-communist struggle built upon the premise that capitalism improved the lives of working people far better than communist economies ever could. Corporations felt cultural and political pressure to engage in an unwritten social compact with government and organized labor to (1) fight global communism, (2) deliver a higher standard of living to working people, and (3) extend civil rights to minorities. American leaders understood that it wouldn’t look good to the rest of the world if US capitalism destroyed its trade unions and attacked the livelihoods of working people.

Yes, there were significant labor struggles during this period, many more than today. However, even the many strikes conveyed a Cold War message—that labor under capitalism was free to wage these fights. (Nevertheless, stopping the spread of unions through the 1947 Taft–Hartley Act and undermining shop-floor power always were and remain corporate goals.)

That changed radically when Ronald Reagan declared open season on unions. By this point, global communism was no longer a serious competitor to capitalism (although that’s not how his administration acted). In short order, the unwritten compact that had entwined organized labor within the corporate order collapsed. As the restraints on corporations loosened, mass layoffs became an increasingly common and highly profitable corporate tool.

Leopold is frank about his personal stake in this issue. As a proud Oberlin graduate, he was outraged when in 2020 the ultra-liberal institution sacked its employees as ruthlessly as the Reagan bogeyman of their dreams might have done. "It’s changed my political outlook, it really has. At least the Republicans tell you they’re gonna screw you. The Democrats just do it in the dark of the night. That’s the way I look at it now," he quotes a former Oberlin worker. Leopold's outrage is palpable and righteous, even as in my view he mischaracterizes the conservative position regarding other leftist shibboleths, including abortion (my advice to the GOP: take the win on Dobbs and shut up), birth control (nobody on our side cares) and the alphabet-soup grievance committee devoted to exotic sexual proclivities, who already have exactly the same legal rights as the rest of us; it's our approval they crave, and that they will never get.

Bugger off, racist.

From the right, the assassination of American manufacturing makes no historical sense, especially in a dangerous world. Wall Street and Big Tech's essential statelessness is a clear and present political and military danger; it was, after all, industry that won the Civil War for the North, manpower that tipped the scales in World War I, and a combination of both that achieved victory against National Socialist Germany and the Empire of Japan. A country shorn of its manufacturing capacity because the suits and the stockbrokers outsourced it an avowed enemy, China, is a defenseless country. Not a single conservative of my wide acquaintance begrudges higher wages to the highly skilled people who make things; it's the laptop class of journalists and bureaucrats which loathes them.

If you want to see how Wall Street, not labor unions, cratered a top-tier American manufacturing company, one need look no further than Boeing. Thus, I think Leopold's call for a new "progressive populism," while still fledging, is not without merit. The left's increasingly deracinated belief in newly invented social causes pour epater les bourgeoisie has driven off normal Americans, most certainly including the white working class, the heart of traditional American society. As long as the media and academe -- including Oberlin! -- are firmly in leftist hands, however, it's unlikely. As my regular readers knows, there is no limiting impulse to far-leftism; they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit. Novelty, not tradition, is what's important to them. Destruction is the result.

Congenital dissatisfaction fuels their rage and drives them to ever more extreme positions; as Leopold's book demonstrates, they've managed to demonize their own base and driven the Workers of the World to the "far right." It's insane and utterly self-defeating, for which we are eternally grateful, otherwise we would have no chance against their relentless activism.

Perhaps, later, in the rubble, we can find common ground and begin anew. Not with the New Soviet Man but the rebirth of Western Man, a believer in freedom, a capitalist with a conscience, and a man whose philosophy is not beggar-thy-neighbor, who doesn't see the world as a zero-sum game, and who only asks to live and let live. But it begins with free speech, or it never begins at all.

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints, and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace and its sequel, The Fiery Angel. Last Stands, a study of military history from the Greeks to the present, was published by St. Martin's Press in December 2019. He is also the editor of Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, published on Oct. 18, 2022, and of the forthcoming Against the Corporate Media. Follow him on Twitter: @theAmanuensis


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4 comments on “THE COLUMN: In Search of Common Ground”

  1. More like just in time deliveries (think about spare parts for manufacturing) along with the Clinton/Newtron tax reforms which paid companies to shutdown but be called mothballed for a period of 5 years while receiving payola to do so. TAXED to own but deductions for leasing. This is why so much industrial demolition was nationwide from 2005 to 2008

  2. I regularly read The Liberal Patriot which is a product of Ruy Texiera who is a major Democrat stalwart. It is a weird experience. It has some decent analysis at least when Texiera himself is doing the writing but it seems like their motto is Make the Democrat Party Great Again. His prescription for the Democrats is lose the weirdos and pivot to the working class, have an affluence agenda and rediscover patriotism. In other words, embrace Trump's agenda. He, of course, loathes Trump. I assume that he doesn't understand whose agenda he is pushing and views Trump with a combination of his(justified) disdain for the GOPe and all the stuff the media makes up. Or he frets that Trump is stealing the Democrat base and leaving the Democrats to invent new genders and contemplate their pronouns.

  3. One reason why manufacturing base has crumbled is the lack of qualified managers who don't understand deduction and critical thinking. It has turned otherwise productive companies into doom loops that hide their failures through job cuts.
    These newly minted and highly credentialed managers have been taught to view other workers as "overhead" to be reduced. Then they turn to outsourcing to satisfy their educated quest to increase profits by paying people less. They don't realize that you eventually destroy the company once there's nobody left to do the work. They then take their generous severance package to move on to the next C-suite position.

  4. “…and the alphabet-soup grievance committee devoted to exotic sexual proclivities, who already have exactly the same legal rights as the rest of us; it's our approval they crave, and that they will never get.”
    Nailed it.

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