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The Clash of Cultures and the Gray Champion

November 12, 2014 0 Comments

The July-August 2010 issue of the American Spectator had an article that caught caught fire among conservatives, especially Rush Limbaugh.  In this issue, there’s an article titled  “America’s Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution” by Angelo Codevilla.  In that article, Codevilla talked about two groups of people.  One is the “Ruling Class,” those people who have graduated from Ivy League schools, who know all the right people, who come from the right families, and hang out with all the right people.  The ruling class includes both Democrats and Republicans, and they maintain their position in society not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of knowing the right people.  The bailouts allowed the Ruling Class to keep its position, as those in authority told the rest of us to simply “trust the leadership of the country.”

The other group Codevilla called the “Country Class.”  This group includes the poor, the middle class, and even the wealthy among us who earned what they have in life, but never went to the “right” schools or joined the “right” clubs.  He argued that it is from the wealth of the Country Class that the Ruling Class has “shared the wealth” of the nation to give to those the ruling class deemed worthy.

Given the recent 2014 election results, I think it would be instructive to review this lesson and consider the rise of the Gray Champions within the Tea Party movement.

Rush Limbaugh Comments on The Ruling Class vs. Country Class Struggle

Much of Rush Limbaugh’s July 19, 2010 program was devoted to discussing this article.  Focusing on what Codevilla had to say about how the nation gets itself back on track to follow the Constitution, Limbaugh combined his own commentary with the words of Codevilla’s essay.  I want to draw your attention to the discussion Limbaugh had about the actions that would need to be taken in order to accomplish this goal. Noting that the Country Class has no choice but to find a home in the Republican Party, no matter its failings, Limbaugh said (Limbaugh’s words are in black, the quotes from Codevilla are in red:

So the intimidating tactics of disrespecting and silencing your opponents has worked, and this is what we must do, is Mr. Codevilla’s point.  “For the country class seriously to contend for self-governance, the political party that represents it will have to discredit not just such patent frauds as ethanol mandates, the pretense that taxes can control ‘climate change,’ and the outrage of banning God from public life. More important, such a serious party would have to attack the ruling class’s fundamental claims to its superior intellect and morality in ways that dispirit the target and hearten one’s own. The Democrats having set the rules of modern politics, opponents who want electoral success are obliged to follow them.”  And this we have said over and over again. 

 There is going to be an apparatus in place, thanks to these people, to use the power of government against them when we get it back.  The question is will the people that represent us have the guts to do so?  “How the country class and ruling class might clash on each item of their contrasting agendas is beyond my scope. Suffice it to say that the ruling class’s greatest difficulty — aside from being outnumbered — will be to argue, against the grain of reality, that the revolution it continues to press upon America is sustainable. For its part, the country class’s greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it. America has been imposed on enough.”

 So it must be a self-starting thing.  It can’t be the result of phone calls.  It can’t be the result of faxes and all this to Washington.  It has to start on its own, and guess what the Tea Party is?  It’s exactly that.  But it can’t be the result of members of Congress calling people, “Hey, come to Washington, we need to have a strong force here to oppose this or that, 20,000 bodies.”  No, no, no.  It’s gotta happen on its own.  It can’t happen by being imposed upon.  I understand what he means by that. 

 The Tea Parties and the Coming of the Gray Champion

In the 1990s, I was the State Director of the Indiana Christian Coalition. With the emergence of the Tea Party, I have reflected that there is a great deal of similarity between the two movements that launched both organizations. A key difference, I think, is that the American people were not ready to listen to the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. Today, they are ready to listen to the Tea Party. One reason, I think, relates to the story of the Gray Champion from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, Twice Told Tales.

I first became aware of this short story in a book titled Generations: The History of America’s Future. Published in 1991 by William Strauss and Neil Howe, they share a synopsis of the tale of The Gray Champion.  Writing in 1991, it was impossible for the authors to identify the precise issue which would confront the “Gray Champion.”  However, Strauss and Howe do make the following statement:

 One rather safe prediction experts often make about elderly Boomers is that they will collide with underfunded federal pension and health-care systems, starting in the mid-2010s. … Boomers will force a dramatic turn in the politics of Social Security.  In the 2010s, they will lay the terms of an entirely new intergenerational “deal,” snapping the chain of ever-rising benefits that G.I.s insisted would never end.  Boom leaders will thoroughly recast – and probably rename – Social Security and Medicare. … Affluent Boomers will receive little economic recompense from a lifetime of payroll taxes paid to support others.  Yet in a turnabout from the G.I. entitlement ethic, Boomers will derive self-esteem from knowing they are not receiving rewards from the community.

 The authors of Generations, the Future for America’s History did not envision just one Gray Champion, but rather a generation that produces many such leaders.  They conclude their conversation about the prospect of such future Gray Champions this way:

 Let us hope that the old Boomers will look within themselves and find something richer than apocalypse.  If they see (and assert) themselves as beacons of civilization, younger Americans may well look up to them as G.I.s did to the great Missionary leaders:  as elders wise beyond the comprehension of youth.  If the Gray Champions among them can seize this historic opportunity, they can guide a unified national community through the gates of history to a better world beyond.

The Gray Champion is not one individual.  He is a generation of leaders, called from the grassroots, who stand up within their communities to draw a line in the sand.  These Gray Champions are coming, just at the precise moment in time when the “Country Class” is looking for a way to rise up and put the country back on the right track.  At its heart, that’s what I think the Tea Party movement is all about.

Let us pray that this movement of Gray Champions will succeed.

About the Author:

David Lantz is a self-published author, adjunct college professor and leadership consultant. Visit my online courses at and like my facebook page at and

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