David Brooks’ column “The Coming War on Business” is a reflection on how the great Sam Francis was ahead of his time:
The only time I saw Sam Francis face-to-face — in the Washington Times cafeteria sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s — I thought he was a crank, but it’s clear now that he was at that moment becoming one of the most prescient writers of the past 50 years…
In a series of essays for conservative magazines like Chronicles, Francis hammered home three key insights. The first was that globalization was screwing Middle America. The Cold War had just ended, capitalism seemed triumphant and the Clinton years seemed to be an era of broad prosperity. But Francis stressed that the service economy was ruining small farms and taking jobs from the working class.
His second insight was that the Republican and conservative establishment did not understand what was happening. He railed against the pro-business “Economic Men” who thought G.D.P. growth could solve the nation’s problems, and the Washington Republicans, who he thought were infected with the values of the educated elites…
His third insight was that politics was no longer about left versus right. Instead, a series of smaller conflicts — religious versus secular, nationalist versus globalist, white versus nonwhite — were all merging into a larger polarity, ruling class versus Middle America…
Middle American voters, he wrote, were stuck without a party, appalled by pro-corporate Republican economic policies on the one hand and liberal cultural radicalism on the other. They swung to whichever party seemed most likely to resist the ruling class, but neither party really provided a solution. “A nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives. The sooner it comes the better.”
Despite complimenting Francis on his prescience, Brooks throws this in:
Francis was a racist. His friends and allies counseled him not to express his racist views openly, but people like that always go there, sooner or later.
Proving yet again that he rips off ideas of the Alt Right’s best, Brooks’ pontifications and predictions in the final paragraphs made me smile:
When you look at today’s world through the prism of Francis’ work, a few things seem clear: Trump is not a one-time phenomenon; the populist tide has been rising for years. His base sticks with him through scandal because it’s not just about him; it’s a movement defined against the so-called ruling class. Congressional Republicans get all tangled on health care and other issues because they don’t understand their voters. Finally, Trump may not be the culmination, but merely a way station toward an even purer populism.
Trump is nominally pro-business. The next populism will probably take his ethnic nationalism and add an anti-corporate, anti-tech layer. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple stand for everything Francis hated — economically, culturally, demographically and nationalistically.
As the tech behemoths intrude more deeply into daily life and our very minds, they will become a defining issue in American politics. It wouldn’t surprise me if a new demagogue emerged, one that is even more pure Francis.
Rod Dreher predictably creams over Brooks’ piece (for a moment of pure meta-cucktopia) and forwards this interesting anecdote of Francis:
… a fascinating, irascible, repugnant man … who was, for better and for worse, ahead of his time.
Sam Francis was a racist, or, as he would have put it, a racialist: he believed in white nationalism, and that public stance earned him a lot of criticism even among his paleocon friends. He was also astonishingly radical. I used to work at The Washington Times when Francis was there. On the day the Murrah Building was bombed in Oklahoma City, I stood with a scrum in the newsroom, watching the first reports coming to us live over CNN. Francis, standing next to me, muttered to no one in particular, “Good. The revolution has begun.”
Like I said, a repugnant man. But then, so is the contemporary French novelist Michel Houellebecq, yet I am convinced he is one of the true prophets of our age.
Again, Dreher simultaneously celebrates and also despises such figures, a most strange trait he exhibits time and time again.
Meanwhile, in a separate post, Dreher suggests we focus on the joyous melody that Nero was playing on his fiddle.