In 2016, countless commentators argued that since Trump was very rich, he could not possibly represent the poor.
This is nonsense. Had such commentators known their history better, they would soon have come up with examples of the rich and the high-born going against their own class to support the poor.
Western history is replete with well-off and well-connected reformers, often from the aristocracy and the patriciate, who took on the “establishment” to push through legal codes or greater democracy in favour of the less well-off.
Draco, Solon, Ephialtes, the Gracchus brothers and Julius Caesar are just some examples from antiquity which spring to mind.
In modern times, the British aristocracy, following the Glorious Revolution in 1688, have managed very successfully to cede power peacefully and avoid losing their heads – in contrast their continental European colleagues during the French and Russian revolutions and various other upheavals.
In the nineteenth century, the Russian Decembrists were army officers opposed to the accession of Tsar Nicholas I after his brother refused the succession.
Friedrich Engels, like Donald Trump, the son of a businessman, funded Karl Marx’s scribblings, while the three best-known Russian anarchists, Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, Count Lev Tolstoy and Mikhail Bakunin were all from noble landowning families.
In earlier times, reformers from insurgent elites risked their lives. Ephialtes, the Gracchus brothers and Julius Caesar were all assassinated.
In our current climate, insurgent elites are merely subjected to ad hominem attacks and accused of “populism” – which, however, is not only a rational response to political, economic and social change, but also highly democratic. Populism is merely elite code for those who disagree with their policies.
What is remarkable about Trump is that he obviously has an instinctive feel for the “working class” – a feel absent among many of the elite, far too many of whom prefer scholasticism to empirical knowledge and actually talking to people to find out what they think.
As JP Morgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon reported hearing in February 2016,
[Davos] is where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class feels.