In my posts on Patrick Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed, I identified his sophistical rhetorical strategy of begging the question: throughout his writing, he makes assertions as if they were obviously true (often by quoting or paraphrasing from some authors who agree with him) without offering any proof and without explaining or replying to the best objections to his position. In Regime Change, he employs the same sophistical technique.
For example, the second chapter is entitled "The Power Elite." The idea of the Power Elite--that there is one, and only one, ruling class that is socially uniform and unified in purpose that rules over the United States, and perhaps even over the whole world--is a crucial claim of his argument. He does not tell his readers that this term the Power Elite was invented by C. Wright Mills in his book The Power Elite (1956). Nor does he tell his readers that there were many powerful criticisms of this book. Moreover, Deneen does not reply to these criticisms or offer any empirical evidence that Mills was correct in his account of the Power Elite. Deneen simply asserts the truth of this idea as if it were so obvious that he need not make any effort to substantiate it.
According to Mills, the members of three kinds of American elites--business, political, and military--cooperate to make all of the crucial decisions for the nation. Their ability to act in common as the Power Elite depends on their social uniformity: they have the same socioeconomic, educational, and professional backgrounds that set them apart from the rest of the nation.
But some of the sociologists who study elites disagreed with Mills. For example, Suzanne Keller (in Beyond the Ruling Class) argued for "elite pluralism"--"a diversified, heterogeneous set of elites instead of the monolith that had been assumed heretofore" (xiii). She pointed out that Mills' own data did not support his claim about the social uniformity of American elites because his biographical data showed striking dissimilarities in their backgrounds, education, careers, and religious beliefs (108-109).
Does Deneen have the evidence proving that Mills was right about the Power Elite and Keller was wrong? We don't know because he says nothing about this debate.
Deneen does say that the Power Elite is socially uniform because they all belong to what James Burnham called "the Managerial Elite" (27-39). And one "defining feature of this new elite is its near-complete dissociation of the new class from the lower and working classes" (36).
One manifestation of this complete separation of the Power Elite from the lower and working classes is the division of the American electorate--particularly in the election of 2020--"between a dominantly credentialed professional class, on the one hand, and an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic working class, on the other" (156-157). On the one side, those supporting Joe Biden "were dominated by members of the credentialed professional class." On the other side, those supporting Donald Trump were "largely noncollege credentialed, hourly or self-employed, private-sector rank-and-file union members, and generally working class." What we see here is "the few against the many, or oligarchy vs. demos. In such a condition, the foreseeable future is one in which the mass and the elite remain locked in a prolonged adversarial contest" (158). Biden is on the side of the few who belong to the elite, while Trump is on the side of the many who constitute the mass.
But is that true? If Biden is on the side of the few and not the many, why did he win the popular vote? And why did Trump lose the popular vote both in 2016 and 2020? Does Dineen identify the "few" as actually the majority of the voters, and the "many" as actually a minority? Does the majority of the American electorate belong to, or at least support, the Power Elite? Dineen doesn't explain this.
Moreover, if the "largely noncollege credentialed" were on the side of Trump, then one would have expected that most if not all of those voters without college degrees would have voted for Trump rather than Biden. That did not happen. Why?
It is true that some of the analysts of the 2020 election thought they saw a "diploma divide," with the Biden voters being more likely to have a college diploma. But that's not exactly true. In 2020, only 35% of the registered voters had a college degree, while 65% did not. So, obviously, any candidate or party that would appeal only to the college educated would lose.
Of the voters with a college degree, 42% voted for Trump, 55% voted for Biden. Of the voters with no college degree, 49% went to Trump, and 49% to Biden. If Dineen is right that the "largely noncollege credentialed" were for Trump, why did half of them vote against Trump? Dineen doesn't explain this. Nor does he explain how the party alignment can be understood as "the few against the many," when the majority of the voters are on the side of the "few."
What we see here is the fundamental incoherence in Trump's populist rhetoric, which I have noted previously. The populists assert a stark opposition between the Elites and the People. But then a large portion, perhaps even a majority, of the People belong to or support the Elites.