Democrats: Party of Elites (and Elitists)
Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate in recent history to lose popularity after a defeat, and she seems determined to keep it that way. Speaking in India over the weekend, she blamed Donald Trump’s election on voters who “didn’t like black people getting rights . . . don’t like women, you know, getting jobs . . . don’t wanna, you know, see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are.” She also claimed that “married white women” supported Mr. Trump in response to “pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son—whoever—believes you should.”Not merely “significant” but stunning. But not new either. In the 60s, when leftist students and activists were marching against the Vietnam War — indeed, rooting for a communist victory — construction workers were marching in support of the war, and were demeaned as “hardhats” by the left.
More interesting than this “basket of deplorables” redux, though, was Mrs. Clinton’s commentary on the role of economic concerns in the 2016 contest. “There’s all that red in the middle, where Trump won,” she said. “But what the map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product.” To scattered applause, she continued: “So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.”
This is an unexpected twist in the debate over Mr. Trump’s rise. Analysts on the center and right have tended to emphasize the economic factors that made Mr. Trump’s victory possible, noting that voters in regions with stagnating incomes and diminishing job opportunities are likelier to be drawn to populism. Many on the left, meanwhile, have argued that economic concerns are simply an excuse for bigotry. “Economic anxiety” is even a running joke on progressive Twitter — a sarcastic response to reports of racism among Republicans.
But now Mrs. Clinton herself has endorsed the “economic anxiety” thesis, albeit in a backhanded way. She sees her electoral disappointment in economically downscale regions not as a political failure but a source of validation—and, apparently, an indication of those voters’ failings. Similarly, last September she told Vox that the Electoral College is “an anachronism” in part because “I won in counties that produce two-thirds of the economic output in the United States.” Should those voters have more of a say?
Since Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party has usually been identified as the party of the “common man,” and its adversaries as defenders of wealth and economic privilege. Jackson earned that reputation for his party by reducing property qualifications for the franchise for white men. But the Democrats’ most recent standard-bearer sounds an awful lot like the 19th-century conservatives who thought political representation should be tied to wealth. This is a significant moment in America’s partisan realignment.
And the conflict over social issues like abortion has long been one that pitted affluent liberals against working class conservatives such as the famous “Reagan Democrats.” Thomas Frank’s 2005 book What’s the Matter with Kansas? lamented how working class voters didn’t vote “their own interests,” but voted Republican because of social issues.
Hillary’s snobbish elitism is not new. But it’s not been so blatantly expressed by a presidential candidate until Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” speech. And now she has doubled down.
Political CorrectnessWhatever their actual beliefs (and Obama probably pretty much thought the same way) no candidate has so blatantly and overtly embraced political correctness. The essence of political correctness is the view that there is no legitimate disagreement with the standard leftist agenda. Oppose Black Lives Matter and you are a racist. Oppose gay marriage and you are a homophobe. Oppose abortion and you are a sexist. No debate or discussion allowed.
The Reality of Social Class and PoliticsThe reality, of course, is that Trump voters were not at all the poor white trash that the elitist Democrats make them out to be, as the 2016 Exit Polls show. While Trump did particularly well with whites with no college degree, he carried a plurality of whites with a college degree.
Clinton did carry those with postgraduate degrees (by a 58% to 37% margin), but there is no reason to believe that people with postgraduate degrees are any more “enlightened” than other groups. All graduate education is vocational, and simply socializes students into a particular occupation — typically one whose interests are served by liberal policies.
As for income, if the richest people are the most productive (a notion that the left traditionally abhorred), then the most productive people split evenly between Trump and Clinton.
Hillary is using something called the “ecological fallacy” — confusing the aggregate characteristics of a unit with the characteristics of the individuals in it. So while affluent areas are indeed the quite liberal, it doesn’t follow that affluent people are. The same goes for education. Put another way, plenty of rich and well-educated conservatives live in those affluent areas, where they are unfortunately outnumbered by the liberals.
But more fundamentally: do you really want to assume that the rich and well-educated are the most enlightened? Or does wealth and education (which is often indoctrination) corrupt?
On that issue, the Democrats have come down on the side of the elitists.