In which we are told we miss the WASPs

Good god. Ross Douthat wrote a thing, and it’s so jaw-dropping I should just let it speak for itself. I won’t, but I should.

He starts by pretending that the “nostalgia” for George Bush the elder requires subtle explanation when in fact it’s just settled conventional routine: we have to pretend the newly deceased president was a gem, hidden or obvious. They did it with Nixon ffs so obviously they were going to do it with Shrub 1. But the fiction gives Douthat a pretext for quoting this bilge:

Franklin Foer described “the subtext” of Bush nostalgia as a “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”

Which people, kemosabe? That’s a tiny minority of rich white males there, and I strongly doubt the rest of us wish they still had a lock on all the levers of power.

But never mind, because Douthat was just clearing his throat for the real meat of his Big Idea:

I think you can usefully combine these takes, and describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

In other words, we long for the return of the talentless godbothering white male.

He goes on to make the not-new point that meritocracy is not egalitarianism, but he doesn’t make it well or very coherently.

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