In 1944 Dwight Eisenhower was one of the most powerful men in the world. In June he was about to send hundreds of thousands of men into a battle, it’s outcome and the lives of those men very much in doubt. It was an assault on Fortress Europe where stood the most evil empire of modern times. The plan to bring that down was largely Eisenhower’s; from conception, to planning to execution, the largest air, sea and land military exercise in the history of mankind. With the highest stakes.
Just hours from the invasion’s launch, General Eisenhower ordered his driver to take him to an airfield where some of the early assault paratroops were being staged. When they saw who it was, the troops mobbed him. Within the next 24 hours some of those units would suffer 80% casualties.
This has what always separated America from the rest of the world, the handshake between the top and bottom of the ranks.
A good man, the Allied Commander of all the militaries in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower, believed he should at least look into the eyes of the men he was sending into harm’s way…since he was, after all, still just a Kansas farm boy who went to West Point instead of the state agricultural college.
A Man in the Trades
If America had a society ranked by class, Donald Trump would have been referred to as a “man in the trades” by the upper class. A notch below.
His wealth, no matter how huge, would have been seen as gaudy and de classe by the simple gauge of the upper classes that he still worked for it. The standard in England, to be a member of the gentry one’s house could not have actually worked for a living for three generations. Stock dividends, royalties, income from rents, bank interest, of course, would not apply.
Of course in America where great wealth can be created in short order, there has been an unofficial American gentle class for many years, and it would be fun to some day describe it in greater detail since it is more an attitude of the mind and less one of landed wealth as the English see it. For instance, certain kinds of corporate CEO’s are considered among the American gentle class today, under the rather Bedouin notion that sitting around a boardroom table making decisions is somehow a noble pursuit, ab initio. I need to remind myself to write a rule book about this sometime, for the rules as to why Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, probably would not be a member of this noble class (as if he cared) but a third generation granddaughter of a 1930s Broadway producer with one great hit is, justifies some sport.
But Donald Trump is clearly not part of that mix, while most of his detractors, especially in the print business, think they are.
But what separates Donald Trump, even from the scions at the New York Times, is that he is also old school, while they only used to be. So Trump also probably doesn’t care. He graduated and went into business before the law school wave hit American colleges in the 1970s, and the MBA craze swept the American corporate world in the 1980s, when corporate organization began to diminish the value of front line labor, and humanity itself, a theme, since I’m older than Trump, preceding even that law school craze, by a year or so, I like to go on about, but will only mention in context with Donald Trump, that he missed it too. And good for him because he did.
In the ’80s I worked in a Fortune 500 company with over 40,000 employees involved in manufacturing in a dozen factories and a brand new corporate HQ that housed approximately 500. The mid-30s MBA’s stationed there were literally peeing in their pants they were so anxious for the Old Guard who had built the company to retire so they could consolidate power in that new HQ and run the company from there…no noise, no hubbub, no rolled up sleeves, and no, well, workers. They used the term “manufacturer” as an epithet to describe that old generation who preferred living and working nearer to the production part of the business. I recall the retired CEO, and other executive officers visiting the main factory, built in 1950, still walking the floor, stopping to speak with older employees who knew them from the old days. It was always “Mrs Forbes”, and “Mr Walford”, an hour or so always well spent, old handshakes renewed every few months or so.
But one new MBA-vice-president opined that he could “train monkeys to run a factory” and while he never survived the next two years to find out, I suppose, in theory, he was right, for within a year or so after the Old Guard retired and I left, those factories had all been closed and work moved south to Mexico, where the human touch was, well, less human…not that anyone lost any sleep over it….but much more profitable.
I learned then that the human touch, the handshake, was generational having little to do with wealth.
So it seems with Donald Trump. Mr Trump has thousands of employees, and a wall of managers in his various properties that stand between himself and the people who actually work the floors; you know, the kitchen help in the dining room, the housekeeping service on the floors, the fellows in the pro shop. I know that Donald Trump knows many of them by name, having been with him for years. And none of them know him as “Donald”, but always “Mr Trump”, which, in two-thirds of the world is the highest honorific that a people can pay to a man. In Latin America “Senor” means both “mister” and “lord” where the ability to be one’s own boss, to build something, grow it, then pass onto his children, to be a “mister” is the highest accomplishment imaginable.
(As a sidebar, Interestingly, since the structure of most Latin American political economies ae built along the same sort of class lines as the English class system, no matter how much money we pour into those economies, there is almost no trickle down that enable the emergence of a small business class where the title of “mister” can be earned. Either our modern corporate system who seeds this is blind to this, or approves of it. I can say, but about the only place a young Latin man can get into private business without being squezzed from the top …is crime. This we do know.)
The American gentry class is in no way related to the old American barons of the late 19th and early 20th century. Ours is loaded with ne’er-do-well new money, much of it newer than Donald Trump’s family in America, Donald being only third in the line. Again, it’s that he still works for it that diminishes him.
And that he speaks to the kitchen help, a product of a time Dwight Eisenhower would recognize more easily than Barack and Michelle Obama…and certainly the “my eggs are under-cooked” breakfast-plate throwing Hillary of White House Christmas’ pasts.
This new gentry class is also heavy laden with writers, worse than artists, I’d argue, who want to break into the business of beard-stroking wisdom long before they have beards grey enough to have earned it. The latest iteration of conservatism that turned against Trump immediately, almost in teat fit fashion, what I once assumed to be only suitable for lefties, has put that lust for class rank on full display, for the turnout of what I call C-student voters (and what you may likely call “white people”) has portrayed in stark reality what and who the Constitution was written for in the first place…those people…almost all of them, who looked around from 2012 to 2016 to find that there was no one to represent them. Except Donald Trump.
And their 30-40 something conservative protectors were no where to be seen.
I don’t split hairs with modern conservative about what they consider to be the most critical aspects of conservative thinking (I was a devotee of “National Review” in the 1970s) except to note that most of its practitioners totally lost sight of conservatism’s founding plank, its Prime Directive…the right of the individual to pursue life, liberty and happiness without the approval of the state. An oversight Willaim Buckley never lost sight of.
Whether Donald Trump totally sees this aspect of his election, or whether he can make major inroads into correcting the situation, “remains to be saw” (Festus Haggen, “Gunsmoke.”)
But I think it is instructive for people to know from whence Trump came, and what he is. He is the world’s richest small businessman and he knows the handshake.