The Faux Concerns of the Right

This is rich. Paul Krugman:

“If you live in the Midwest, where else do you want to live besides Chicago? You don’t want to live in Cincinnati or Cleveland or, you know, these armpits of America.” So declared Stephen Moore, the man Donald Trump wants to install on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, during a 2014 event held at a think tank called, yes, the Heartland Institute.

The crowd laughed.

I have written before about the phenomenon of well-known conservates — usually people from monied families who have Ivy League degrees and plum jobs in media and politics — who snear at liberals for being elites. See, for example,”Elitism for Elites” (April 2008), “Elitism for Dummies” (June 2008), and “Those Sneaky Elitists” (February 2012). If such people aren’t elites themselves, I’m Princess Charlotte.

Every now and then, though, the mask slips, as it did in the Heartland Institude. Krugman says such anecdotes illustrate something he’s noticed for awhile — “The thinly veiled contempt conservative elites feel for the middle-American voters they depend on.”

This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. Even liberals themselves often buy into these claims, berate themselves for having been condescending and pledge to do better.

But what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.

That said, I’ve also argued in the past that coastal urban liberals tend to reduce people in flyover country into cartoon stereotypes — see “Dear Sister and Brother Progressives” (November 2016). But it’s also the case, as Krugman explains, that only Democrats are proposing anything that would actually improve the quality of life of small town and rural folks. Republicans do just the opposite. See Krugman for details.

The Democrats have been complicit in this, however. For bleeping decades they failed to put forward comprehensive policy ideas and programs to challenge the Republican deregulate-cut taxes-trickle down nonsense. Instead, they’d offer cautious little tweaks. And what economic proposals they did have were never heard about in most of the country. I’ve been griping about this for years, too.

12 thoughts on “The Faux Concerns of the Right

  1. So far nobody is critiquing the terms, "elitist" vs "populist". Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are clearly both populists. See Bernie's source of small donor campaign funds or Trump's flat-line popularity and grass-roots loyalty regardless of the facts.

    Trump is rich and boasts an ivy-league degree (just don't ask about the grades he got.) The Trump brand is built on his perceived wealth. So education and money don't make you an "elitist". SO what are you being called when they call you an elitist? The term is tossed out with such venom it must mean something!

    IMO, an "elitist" is a leader that people don't identify with as being part of their tribe. The accusation is almost always a demand from the speaker to the audience to reject the person who just got the label, "elitist". The identification (or lack of) is central to how we accept leaders. Let me give an example regarding identification by an audience with a leader – I think it's central.

    Years ago I saw Evil Knievel make an exhibition jump – spectacular but not record-breaking. There were a couple of thousand people in attendance. Warming up for the jump, Knievel worked the crowd, teasing them and establishing an emotional link with the crowd. When he made the jump, several thousand people made the jump with him – emotionally. He was of their "tribe".

    Obama was great at working a crowd and building that two-way link. Policy isn't enough. Trump, even without the ability to construct a complete sentence gets that crowd feedback. *sigh* Forty percent of the population needs to evolve. But it's there. They say Warren is getting better there, but it's key – policy isn't enough.

    I'd dearly like Warren (and a few other candidates) to be loaded for bear in a town hall or debate setting, waiting for the term "elitist." I'd like them to define it as an accusation that she/he is not of their tribe. Then pivot to say if the audience is from the East, South, West, Midwest or even Alaska or Hawaii – she's of their tribe and will represent all Americans. But if you are a racist or a hatemonger who has defined the tribe as being against Jews or Mexicans or gays or blacks, then she's not of their tribe and if the label "elitist" makes them more comfortable she'll accept the award of not being a leader who builds a campaign by dividing the country.

    Low-information voters are a factor. They decide based on their gut, like Trump does. This is the weakness of democracy, but it's there. The primary and the general elections will not be determined by the quality of policy proposals, but the warm-fuzzy that goes along with proposals. "Elitist" is the label that declares you don't have that likability and the candidate who turns that word around and refutes it by accepting it – redefined into a virtue – will sway voters where it counts. Feelings.

  2. Let's face facts, Americans are a bigoted and stupid/ignorant people, who sneer at intellect, and have the memories of Mayflies.

    We have the 2020 General Election to prove that we ain't as bigoted and stupid/ignorant as we seem.

    I have more to say, but I'll spare you from more word-turds.

    Nuff said…

    For now.


  3. The Republican meaning of “elite” is a “liberal”, aka a person who hates America and wants to take money from honest, hard-working folk to give to layabouts who live on shrimp and malt liquor purchased with food stamps. And you’re right about the Democrats’ response, Maha. But you wouldn’t want Republicans to also call them “class warriors” or “socialists” or any other Frank Luntz focus-grouped words, would you? It totally discombobulates them.

  4. In defense of the Midwest, Iowa was one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage, and the historical activist Eugene V. Debs was from Indiana. There are plenty of other examples of “fly-over country” not living up to its undeserved reputation. The Midwest is like everywhere else: Generally, the big cities are liberal and the rural areas are conservative.

    What might be different about the Midwest at this point is that it’s been hit harder by de-industrialization. Large areas are ground zero for the opioid epidemic and shortened life expectancy, especially for white men, simply because it’s harder to make a good living.

    People there haven’t forgotten Bill Clinton’s role in NAFTA and outsourcing. That, along with an assist from Russian intelligence, made Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan winnable for Trump and put him over the top. If Democrats have any sense at all, Trump’s win was the end of “third way”, “radical center” leadership.

  5. The contempt is deserved, especially from the very conservatives who have so completely hoodwinked them by appealing with such amazing success to the worst in them.

    Their racism, their selfishness, their endless resentments, their admiration for bullying, cruelty, and outright crime.

    Their hero is a vicious thug.

    A basket of deplorables even dumber than the stable moron in the White House.

    • No, gay people are in the set of "elites" but hardly all of it. Only a small but identifiable part of it. 

    • Elites doesn't stand for any identifiable quality other than whoever you label as an elite thinks they are better than you, It goes in the pool of words where your biases, insecurities and paranoia assign the meaning. Sorta like the "they" in the.. they're sending their rapists.

  6. Paint faster, use a bigger wider brush.  Hell, just spray it on, that is faster yet.  Look down at it from 40,000 feet and you won't even notice the over-spray or the paint on the trim and the windows.  You, for sure, will not notice how you cannot honestly say very much in general about middle-America.  Like the unicorn it may exist in fictional form only this middle-America. That both liberals and conservatives both hike a leg on those that live here is no surprise to us who do.  Hell, the Republicans use us like lab rats for experimental trickle down economics tests, and bury the negative results.  We know our status as viewed by costal elites, at least those of us who travel a bit or read a bit.  Some of us measure status by elbow room, however, and see no status in cueing up, waiting in traffic, living like sardines in a can.  Not all of us are like that though, and would trade it all for a place with a major league ball team and think they hit the lottery.  You just can't say much if any general truth about middle-America except that there is no true generalizable middle-America. 

    I have a problem with Moore calling Chicago the Midwest ,by the way, for several reasons, and I totally agree with Krugman in essentially calling Moore an idiot on Economics.  Of course Larry Kudlow is my personal favorite idiot on economics.  Not only does he claim to be right in politics, right on the economy, and right on America, he tops my idiot economist list and constantly gets right on my nerves.  Krugman is correct on both of them, and their supply sided colleagues, they never learn because they never look at the data.  Evidence does have a liberal bias.

  7. Someone said that the reason we don't hate rich people is that everyone in America is a future millionaire. . . .   Oops.  I wuz rong.  It was Steinbeck, and this is the quote: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." .

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