Can't anyone here play this game: For what it's worth, we're inclined to agree with Michael Tomasky, who we met once or twice a long time ago and the cut of whose jib we like.
These headlines sit atop his New Republic piece. We're inclined to agree with this:
Elitism Is Liberalism’s Biggest ProblemIs "elitism" really our biggest problem? At present, we'd put it up there with the current excesses of so-called "identity politics," which recently had black assistant professors telling people not to vote for Candidate Clinton because, on one occasion twenty years in the past, she used a term which was in wide use at the time.
There are plenty of non-deplorables in middle America. The Democrats need to learn how to embrace them.
That advice struck us as very dumb and yes, it helped elect Trump. That said, our liberal team is full of people from various sectors offering such advice. Our team can be very, very dumb. How did you like Kathy Griffin with the shrunken head?
In his piece for the New Republic, Tomasky talks about the problem of "elitism"—of liberal disdain for the people of "middle America." It seems to us that that's a very large problem, politically, intellectually, morally.
Alas! As is the custom among the career class. Tomasky doesn't name any names as he alleged this problem. Because we're always eager to help out, we'll go ahead and name one, although there are many more:
We'd have to say that Paul Krugman is on a jihad which is driven by such condescension. We think his recent work has been very dumb, and that such work drives votes away.
(In fairness, he has posed with no severed heads.)
This sort of thing has gone on forever—until you read Ed Kilgore. At New York magazine, Kilgore wrote a rebuttal to Tomasky's piece. It appeared beneath this headline:
Do Coastal Liberals Hate Middle America?Let's face it, that question is basically dumb. Presumably, the answer is plain:
Some coastal liberals pretty much do, and then again quite a few others don't. We're not sure what makes this hard.
Plainly, though, this is hard. At various points in his piece, Tomasky seems to be new to the simplest points of logic. How in the world could anyone, let alone a major journalist, compose a passage like this?
TOMASKY (5/30/17): This glass-half-empty mindset must change, and it must change most dramatically with respect to how elite liberals view the rest of the country. There are plenty of liberals out there in middle America, and plenty of liberalish moderates, and plenty of people who lean conservative but who aren’t consumed by rage and who think Barack Obama is a pretty cool guy and who might even have voted for him. These people are potential allies. But before the alliance can be struck, elite liberals need to recognize a fundamental truth: All of these people in middle America, even the actual liberals, have very different sensibilities than elite liberals who live on the coasts."All of those people in middle America have very different sensibilities than elite liberals who live on the coasts?"
Obviously, that statement has to be false. It's hard to imagine how a journalist could compose such a puzzling sentence—and Kilgore proceeds to misrepresent it, if only a tad, as he shoots it down.
That said, Kilgore is busy playing Pollyanna as he responds to Tomasky's critique. On what planet was this passage typed?
KILGORE (5/31/17): [W]hile you can always find professional or armchair liberal observers who have the attitudes Tomasky condemns, they are not really found that often among people in the business of running for office—you know, the liberal politicians Middle America is presumed to hate. I can’t recall ever hearing a Democratic politician spit contempt at people for being religious. Democrats have gone far out of their way to express support for the Second Amendment, and now regularly talk about “gun safety” rather than gun control. And conspicuous displays of patriotism and of respect for the military were as common at the coastal-elite-dominated 2016 Democratic National Convention as at the aggressively Middle American GOP confab.The problem isn't so bad, Kilgore says, because Democratic candidates don't "often" display the attitudes Tomasky describes.
In that passage, Kilgore is setting the bar rather low. He goes on to say that he can't recall ever hearing a Democratic politician "spit contempt at people for being religious."
That sets the bar under the ground.
Beyond that, maybe it all depends on what the meaning of "spit contempt" is! Quite famously, our candidate in 2008 said that Those People "cling to their guns and their religion," thus making them hard to reach. Our next candidate, eight years later, quite famously said that half the people who favored the other guy were from a "basket of deplorables."
It was one of the most appalling, tone deaf, ridiculous statements a candidate has ever made. Does our team perhaps tend to look down on The Others? That comment might tend to say yes.
Kilgore is cast in the role of Candide in this debate; he looks around, seeing no evil. Tomasky describes a general problem, but he fails to cite a single example of this allegedly widespread tribal problem, and he makes weirdly sweeping statements about what Those People are like. Meanwhile, might we ask this:
Did someone decree that racism had to be one of Tomasky's (only two) reasons explaining The Others' votes?
On balance, we tend to agree with Tomasky. In our view, low-IQ "liberal" condescension has been a political (and moral) problem for decades. In the age of targeted tribal news, it has become a gigantic political flaw.
(Remember when Rachel spent two weeks dropping dick jokes on The Others' heads? We can pretty much assure you that The Others do.)
Still and all, we'd have to say that we were struck by the careless work done by both these writers in debating this deeply important point. Is this really the best our self-impressed liberal team can do? Again and again, our liberals sites and our liberal orgs have been providing an answer to this question.
Is this really the best we can do? We keep hearing this answer: