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Culture Books

Conservative class politics

F.H. Buckley (Handout)

Books

Conservative class politics

Understanding Trumpism 

F.H. Buckley’s The Republican Workers Party (Encounter, 2018) is the best explanation of Trumpism that I’ve seen. President Trump himself used that “Workers Party” term at the 2017 CPAC conference to describe what he wanted the GOP to be, and Buckley (who has written speeches for Trump) doesn’t shy away from its Marxist sound—except that he calls himself a “right-wing Marxist” and says, “I see public policy questions through an economic prism.”

Here’s Buckley’s explanation: “I am a Marxist to the extent that I see America divided into different classes and think this is a revolutionary time. … It is like 1917, except that now it’s the Left that is counterrevolutionary, wanting to keep things as they are, unjust, unequal. … It wasn’t free-market capitalism that made us immobile. Instead, it was all the barriers to advancement that liberals created, through statutes and regulations that place a stumbling block in the path of those who seek to rise.”

Buckley is right to say that consumption doesn’t make for happiness: We want to be “man the creator, man the producer. Homo faber.” We know the difference between “the purposeful and the purposeless life,” and we know “there’s nothing more truly revolutionary than a capitalist system that opens its doors to industry and talent, that erases unearned privileges.”

Buckley sees the immigration battle as a subset of class struggle: “The wealthy are better off when their goods and services are produced more cheaply by immigrants, but these gains come at a cost to poorer Americans who lose their jobs or whose wages are pushed down by competition with immigrant labor.” He cites one study that contends a 10 percent increase in immigration depressed the earnings of native-born Americans by 4 percent between 1960 and 2010. He says a 10 percent increase in immigration led to a 6 percent reduction in the black employment rate.

Buckley also points out that “liberals cheered the degradation of our popular culture, and then professed to be surprised when it spilled over into our politics. … The NeverTrumpers … assume that they’re entitled to something better than a President Trump. But wherever did they get that idea?”

One reason for our cultural degradation: Schools and media train young people in nihilistic values. That could change if Trump comes through on the pledge he made at the 2017 Values Voter Summit: to “break the government monopoly and make schools compete to provide the best services for our children. The money will follow the student to the public, private, or religious school that is best for them and their family.”


BOOKMARKS

Are we heading back to a religious world like that of the Roman Empire in the second century? Michael Kruger’s Christianity at the Crossroads (IVP, 2018) describes the Christian presence in that era sociologically, politically, intellectually, and economically. Brian Stanley’s Christianity in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2018) is a useful scholarly overview. Under Caesar’s Sword: How Christians Respond to Persecution, edited by Daniel Philpott and Timothy Samuel Shah (Cambridge University Press, 2018), overviews what’s currently happening to many Christians around the world.

Alan Noble’s Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age (IVP, 2018) notes that the sower in Jesus’ parable found some good soil not by chance, but because he or others had cultivated it—and we need to do the same. Noble offers ways to thank God for beauty and explains why novels that make us uncomfortable may draw us more to God than saccharine art sometimes described as “Christian.” He criticizes “high-production church services that feel more like a concert and TED talk than a sacred event.”

Pastors grown weary of interacting with difficult church members and secular antagonists should read 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry, edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson (Baker, 2018). John Bew’s Realpolitik (Oxford, 2016) is a useful survey of how European and American diplomats concluded that faithfulness is irrelevant, since countries have no permanent allies, only interests. —M.O.