The innovation of Donald Trump has been to acknowledge the sorting function played by fastidious [that is, PC] speech and build a new class war around it. He successfully portrays the sensitivity and inclusiveness that make up the self-image of those who prevail in the global economy as pretentious cant when he insists on the primacy of interests over gestures. However wittingly, Trump has achieved a quasi-Marxist consciousness-raising of the proletariat, exposing culture war as a front for class war. Both parties have long engaged in this feint. For the Republicans, the winning formula for several decades has been to offer culture war as red meat to the electorate, then turn around and serve the donor class. This is simple cynicism. For the Democrats, the driving force is, rather, moral vanity—a tendency to let the easy pleasures of righteousness stand in for the kind of public-spiritedness that would make real demands on us. Right and left need each other to keep the standard culture wars going, but Trump is short-circuiting the whole arrangement. No wonder both sides are in a panic.
Disdain for lying politicians is nothing new:
With his usual crudeness, the playwright Aristophanes suggests that the authority of a democratic politician’s voice—the sheer volume of hot air he can expel—must be understood by analogy with a fart, and is simply a function of how stretched-out the hole that emits it is. (One has to take a lot of abuse, i.e., engage in a lot of flattery, to succeed in democratic politics.)
Twas ever thus.