Dan McLaughlin expresses a perspective of cultural ‘wokeness’ and its counter reaction in The New Republicanism in National Review.
Republicanism in America was represented as an alternative to monarchy, but the role of monarchy in its relation to aristocracy varied. In British history the role of the monarch transitioned from one of an absolute ruler to one subject to the restraints of a constitution, determined by the Parliament. A representative republic inherently included an elite that would rule. The American republic assumed a virtuous elite that would subdue their personal interest, but it also assumed a virtuousness of the voters that would select leaders for more than the self interest of individual voters.
James Madison serving in the Virginia House of Delegates saw that a dependence on virtue for the success of the republic was wishful thinking and that a divided government was necessary to avoid any concentration of political power. Government was to be divided vertically through federalism and horizontally through checks and balances augmented by carefully and deliberately staggered terms.
Madison redefined a republic from a form suitable only to a small geography and a homogeneous population to a large and extended republic that would function through multiple factions offsetting each other. When there were only two religious groups there would be constant hostility, but when there were several they tended to live in peace. Whether the same could be said of economic interests or political interests remained to be seen. The formation of a two party system allowed for coalitions of factions to achieve common ends. Reducing a diversity of special interests to two coalitions undermined Madison’s concept of the extended republic.
As the English form of rule evolved the role of the monarch was seen in some views to protect the larger population from the aristocracy.
At our founding the republic was not just an alternative to a monarchy, it was a means of controlling a political aristocracy. As the economy grew urban and industrial and as the railroads connected the oceans, removing geographical limits to wealth and commerce, we developed a new economic aristocracy that was addressed by the Progressive movement. The Progressive movement sought to bring the same limits to concentrations of economic power that the Constitution brought to concentrations of political power. This created a friction that has defined our political discourse because the political power to address economic concentrations required removing limits on central political power hard wired in the written constitution of the founding.
The third aristocracy identified by McLaughlin is a cultural aristocracy embedded in media, entertainment, higher education, and increasingly in corporations and public schools. To the extent that this aristocracy projects values and rules that are in conflict with a large portion of the population, there is a reaction similar to that of the previous political and economic aristocracies.
Political control of school curricula and the media should be avoided whether it is from performative politics or an unelected cultural aristocracy. To a large extent the former has been a reaction to the latter.
The reaction to the new cultural aristocracy is similar to the progressive reaction to the economic aristocracy and the two overlap greatly, but just as the political and economic originally overlapped and pulled apart as the economy developed, the same is happening with the political and the cultural. Where they once overlapped the cultural is pulling apart from the political, and we seek political power to hold the cultural aristocracy accountable.