A message to Mickey Kaus

Yesterday I clicked on an Instapundit link in this one-sentence post: “Mickey Kaus notes a case of eerie prescience.” Clicking on the link, I was transported to a link-filled post stating: “Eerie Prescience, Esquire Division: A lot of what is written about the new smarts-and-skills based elite, and how it is separating off from society–by, among others, Robert Reich, me, David Brooks and now Charles Murray–was anticipated in a ballsy, now-forgotten 1978 Esquire article that turned into this book….”

“This book” turned out to be The New Elite, by my friend David Lebedoff. We’ve written about David several times on this site; here is a collection of posts in which he appears.

Published in 1983, The New Elite was David’s third book. He practices law in Minneapolis full time, but he has published three more books since then. He is the author, most recently, of The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War.

The New Elite is probably David’s favorite of his books, going directly into a theme that he approaches indirectly in his other books. Indeed, he rewrote and updated The New Elite in 2004’s The Uncivil War: How a New Elite Is Destroying Our Democracy.

I sent David Mickey Kaus’s post yesterday. David has tried to reach Kaus with this message, which he has given me permission to post here:

I’m very grateful that you cited The New Elite (Esquire version, 1978) as the original statement of the new class structure that has since transformed (if not destroyed) American politics. You may be interested that I updated my subsequent book version of The New Elite in another book, The Uncivil War (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), which gets into the elections and other political events that had played out since 1978, and in every case as predicted.

0n August 27, 2000, I published a big piece in the op-ed section of the Sunday New York Times titled “The Class War Gore Could Lose.” At the time, Gore was very far ahead of Bush in the polls, and the subsequent letters to the Times all ridiculed my prediction that Bush would probably win, and as a result of the new class war. When this actually occurred, there was no mention anywhere of this early prediction, or, more significantly, of the fact that the result was not so much a matter of butterfly ballots as of a class divide unknown in previous history, and becoming ever more determinant of our political results.

When The New Elite was first published, it was scarcely reviewed at all. But it was given a very long and extraordinary generous review by Jeffrey Hart, senior editor of National Review. He understood the originality of my thesis, and (I blush even to type this) actually called me the “new Tocqueville.”

Basically, until now and you, my thesis has been ignored. I received praise and attention from some conservative publications, and no mention at all from the mainstream press (other than Esquire, whose editor, Richard Reeves, had taken quite a chance publishing my piece.) The fact is that my thesis was politically incorrect. No major publisher would touch it—in fact, one of this country’s most prestigious publishers immediately signed it just after the Esquire article emerged…and then only a week later suddenly canceled. I learned later that it had been thought politically unacceptable.

I still don’t understand what’s so “conservative” about believing in majority rule. I can’t see how our major pundits still largely fail to see the nature of our (no longer so) new class division. I do know that it is the largest social transformation of our time. If America ceases to be the world leader in terms of prosperity and freedom, the cause will be traceable to this new divide. Rather, to the shutting down of all links between the wisdom of the people and the actions of their government.

The problem is quite curable if people only recognize the nature of the problem. I think your mention of my ideas may be helpful there, and I thank you most wholeheartedly.

With best regards,

David Lebedoff

In a P.S. David added that Random House had published his joint biography of Orwell and Waugh a few years ago to widely favorable reviews. “My New Elite thesis permeates its pages, but in an acceptable manner.”

Two notes. David is also the author of two classic books on Minnesota politics, The Twenty-First Ballot: A Political Party Struggle in Minnesota and Ward Number 6. He asks me to add that he’s always been a moderate Democrat, but these views have been “totally ignored by my fellow Democrats because they were politically incorrect.”

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