I have eschewed writing about politics ever since 2012, when I realized how pointless and illusory it all was, particularly with the so-called “political class” so solidly entrenched, so insulated (and insular), and so ably supported by the pylons and undergirdings of media and the academy. Career politicians and the most connected of people seemed to be working toward what Peggy Noonan had called ‘way back in 2005 their “Separate Peace”: “America is in trouble,” wrote Noonan, back then, “and our elites are merely resigned.”
Sensing that to be the exact case, I saw no reason to pay attention to politics.
By the 2016 elections, I’d considered my abandonment of political threads to be the better part of wisdom, particularly as I could find no candidate for whom I could in good conscience vote. Vote for Hillary, an agent for further entrenchment? No, thank you. Vote for Trump, apparently an agent of chaos? Maybe if I were younger, but I’m no longer fit for chaos.
But whether people like hearing this or not (I confess a measure of surprise, myself) it seems something very good is coming about thanks to the Trump campaign and his presidency.
Call it The Rise of the Muggles. In the New York Times, Ross Douthat has an excellent analysis of how J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books helped raise a generation all too eager to maintain the status quo — that is, a society being led by exceptional and magical people who are all connected by blood and exclusive schooling, and who have no need for muggles (the non-magical ordinary folk) to either intrude or co-operate as they determine the course of the world.
And what I saw today was something that did my own muggle heart good — an iron worker who said to one of the magical-entrenched, “You can come work the iron, and I’ll go to D.C.”.
This fellow, Randy Bryce**, a blue collar muggle with no political or blood pedigree, and no connections to the magical exclusive training grounds, is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan for his seat in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. What is interesting about this in not his political affiliation, or where he stands on issues — it’s bigger than that, bigger than any of the ideologies which have so thoroughly driven the nation into unhinged idolatries.
It’s the fact that he is daring to make this challenge at all.
This deserves paying-attention to; attention must be paid, and if more blue-collar, unmagical muggles follow suit — and I devoutly hope they do so, in both parties — it will mark a turning point in American politics. It will be a big, ka-booming cannon ball launched into the heart of our Hogwarts satellite in Washington, forcing the denizens therein to either detach from their most sacred, cash-flushed cows and start listening to their full constituencies or find themselves, if not ousted, then much less comfortable in their uncompromising positions.
All through 2016, I kept hearing that Donald Trump was going to bring about a “revolution,” and I couldn’t see it; I don’t think anyone could guess — outside lurid or pie-in-the-sky imaginings — what sort of “revolution” his presidency would entail.
THIS is the revolution. This may be the day my brilliant-but-very-muggle father always waited for, when the professional political class is politely told to make room or get out of the way.
I’m not sure whether the people who voted for Trump would agree, and I am certain that the people who most vehemently despise Trump will despise this thought as well, but an iron-worker challenging the Speaker of the House for his seat could not have happened — would never have happened — in a world where Hillary Clinton was president, and the status quo was maintained.
It is said that “only Nixon could go to China” because in the 1970’s the motives of a Democrat would have been suspect. Just as it took Richard Nixon to open up opportunities between the US and China, it (arguably) took a Trump-commoner presidency to open up opportunities between the Muggles and legislative governance at the federal level. Donald Trump’s appeal to the working class was precisely the catalyst needed to embolden ordinary folks to dare run for office, and challenge the entrenched elite.
I could be wrong about that last bit, of course. Had Democrats reached out to the working class voters in 2016, their motives might have been suspect — it might have come off like mere pandering and political expediency — but it might have been taken in good faith, too, and believed, and then the Trump-outreach theory falls apart.
We’ll never know, though, because the Democrats didn’t take that path.
Still, this is an important moment in American politics, one to note and monitor: “Make room or get out of the way,” is not a message that Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi (or Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump) can afford to ignore.
**This is not an endorsement of Randy Bryce. It’s an endorsement of the notion of people like him, and like you and me, having a place and a voice, in our governance.