A terrible feature of our age, writes Peggy Noonan, is that America is governed by what she refers to as protected people, our elites who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens. “The Democrats won’t protect you and the Republicans won’t help you,” which is a leading reason—this lack of protection—we are witnessing the rise of Donald Trump.
The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.
They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.
The unprotected no longer think they owe the protected anything. There is no particular loyalty and certainly no old allegiance, and out of this rises Donald Trump.
Dick and I just returned from a Key West to New Orleans road trip, and it was hard to ignore the cultural differences along our 2,500 mile trek: KW (very mixed), Islamorada (mixed), Naples (protected), Sarasota (protected), Apalachicola (mixed), Santa Rosa Beach (excessively protected/zero diversity), N’awlins (unprotected/diversity on steroids). We kept asking each other, who among the presidential candidates in either party is representing the people we encountered along the way?
One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and western Europe is immigration. It is THE issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.
And that—immigration—is the issue that made Donald Trump, writes Peggy Noonan. Wise governments are attentive to “the realities of the lives of normal people” and care about their anxieties. That’s the way America used to be. Read more from Peggy Noonan here.
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