Look Out Below
Two new books chart the failures of elite rule
Twilight of the Elites:
America After Meritocracy
by Christopher Hayes
$26.00 List Price
I opened Twilight of the Elites with some skepticism—not so much out of any quarrel I had with its argument as from worries that stemmed from the conditions of its production. It’s certainly true, as Nation correspondent Chris Hayes argues here, that growing numbers of Americans who’ve worked hard and played by the rules, as Bill Clinton put it, are deciding that the rules have been rigged—by Clinton as well as others—and that something’s wrong with the game itself. But we’re rarely driven to develop such thoughts further, in large part because our income, support networks, cultural tastes, and even self-esteem are so bound up with the juggernaut of casino-finance capitalism that even rumors of its failure generate bull markets in prophecies of doom more often than they spark protests.
These days, there’s nearly as much profit to be made in betting on democracy’s devastation as in turning real estate into unreal estate. Lenin allegedly said that capitalists will sell you even the rope to hang them with, but will they market determined efforts to get us out of this? Can “Down with capitalism!” become “Up with Chris Hayes!,” the title of the MSNBC show hosted by the author of Twilight of the Elites?
When I first read Hayes’s claim that winning power now requires not courage, discipline, the force of a better argument, or a working love of democracy, but only three baleful preconditions—money, platforms for attracting paying audiences, and assiduous networking that certifies one as part of the elite—I wondered if this was an indictment of others or a blueprint for the