Part 2—Harvard child's rank condescension: In recent weeks, we liberals have kept ourselves busy looking down at the white working class.
Some of our conduct seems to betray condescension. Some of our conduct seems to betray an attitude more like contempt.
Some of this condescension/contempt has come from our liberal rank and file. But a lot of it comes from our "liberal elite," from our high-profile liberal "thought leaders."
Quickly, let's be fair. This open contempt for the white working class has come, in fairly even measures, from the three major branches of our leadership class—from graduates of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Last Saturday morning, Alexandra Petri chimed in. For today, let't consider the type of contempt she displayed in her weekly column in the Washington Post. Let''s consider the types of moral and intellectual blindness involved in behavior like hers.
As we noted in this award-winning preview, Petri grew up as a member of the "Eastern elite." She lived in Georgetown, right there in D.C., and she prepped at National Cathedral.
Her father was a congressman. She graduated from Harvard in 2010.
The youngster took these enormous advantages and good God how she ran! Last Saturday, she published the latest column in which members of her elite class displayed their unattractive, unintelligent contempt for the white working class, apparently full stop.
Before we continue, let's stress a key point: members of the white working class can see us when we do this. We liberals are the only people who can't see our unattractive, unintelligent behavior for what it actually is.
Everyone else is able to see who and what we actually are. Only we liberals are clueless!
Petri's weekly column for the Post appears on Saturday mornings. Her columns carry an identity tag which says she writes the paper's "ComPost blog."
Presumably, the "Com" is a shortened form of "comedy." Sometimes, the wonderfully whimsical name of Petri's wonderful blog seems more directly descriptive.
Last Saturday, Petri's column appeared beneath this hard-copy headline:
"Every recent story I have read about Trump supporters"
"Story" is a childish term our journalists use to refer to news reports and analysis pieces. According to Petri's headline, she was summarizing the things she has read about the 63 million people who voted for Donald J. Trump.
We were struck by the things this massively over-privileged child hadn't been able to spot in the various "stories" she's read. Plainly, though, Petri believed she had harvested a few key points from those "stories" about Trump supporters. She seemed to have read that Trump supporters are very dumb. She also seemed to have read that Trump supporters have funny white ethnic surnames.
In her wonderfully comical way, she mocked two Trump supporters whose last name was Blarnik; she mocked a third whose name was Slabornik. Lydia Borkle was one of the comical idiots too. Trump supporters have funny last names! This seemed to be one of the basic points she had gleaned from those "stories."
Apparently, Petri had also read that Trump supporters are thin-skinned idiots from the backwoods regions of the country which had supplied her with her own vast set of advantages. In this passage, she tells us about Linda Blarnik:
PETRI (4/8/17): Like the rusty hubcaps hanging on the wall behind her, she was made in America 50 years ago, back when this town made things, a time she still remembers fondly. She says she has had just enough of the "coastal elitist media who keep showing up to write mean things about my town and my life, like that thing just now where you said I was like a hubcap, yes you, stop writing, I can see over your shoulder." Mournfully, a whistle blows behind her, the whistle of a train that does not stop in this America any longer.Saying that Blarnik was "made in America," Petri wittily compared her to a rusty hubcap. She then lets us laugh at how touchy the Linda Blarniks can be about such upper-class humor.
Those Trump supporters are so stupid! As she describes another Blarnik, Petri helps us see how stupid their basic complaints seem to be:
PETRI: Linda's sister, Carla Blarnik, is married to an undocumented immigrant yet voted for Trump, who has vowed an increase in deportations. Asked to explain this contradiction, she shrugs. "Do not tell Bert this," she says, "but I have been trying to find an unobtrusive way to break up the marriage for years." Huh. Okay.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Good God, those Blarniks are clowns! Nor do they have real complaints!
As Petri continued, she further signaled who These People are. Say hello to Herm Slabornik:
PETRI: In the corner, under a picture of George Washington that is cracked and stained with tobacco juice, lies Herm Slabornik. Herm is encased in a cryogenic tube that will be unplugged if Trump gets his way. According to a note on his cryo tube, he knows what Trump said about unplugging tubes but he does not think Trump would unplug him personally. He will vote for Trump again in 2020, provided he is not unplugged. Also, he hates Obamacare.It isn't just that Slabornik is dumb. As with the reference to the hub caps, that reference to the tobacco juice tells us why he's so dumb. It signals his membership, as part of a lesser breed, in our one true lower class.
According to Petri, these wonderfully humorous portraits represent "every recent story I have read about Trump supporters." We thought of some of the things we have encountered in recent reports about Trump supporters. This included some important things a vastly privileged young "coastal elitist" may be unable to hear.
Quickly, let's review a few things which have stuck in our mind from recent press events exploring the situations and outlooks of some Trump supporters.
We recall many exchanges from the Chris Hayes/Bernie Sanders town hall event in McDowell County, West Virginia. No tobacco juice was on the wall, but at one point, a woman younger than the Blarniks offered this:
HAYES (3/13/17): Sabrina, what happens to a place when jobs go away, the way they've gone away in McDowell? What have— What have you seen in your lifetime, if you had to tell someone the story of the trajectory of this place that you call home? What would you tell them?Sanders saw heroes sitting around him. Petri was eager to tell Post readers that she has only seen clowns.
SABRINA: I never saw the jobs. I never saw what could be. I still don't know what-all is out there. I'm trying to figure it out, that you're born in a generational poverty, where you don't know people who can get houses, or can get cars, or if you do, it's like 10 percent of people. I mean, it's not that many. So you think you're really rich if you can get a house and a car, and compared to some people, you are. But for all the coal that has came out of our mountains, and the whole country and all, half of the world got electricity because of my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my uncles, my cousins—we really, we really got bread crumbs out of it. So I was, I was born—
HAYES: Do you agree with that, Senator?
SANDERS: Yes. Of course I do. I mean, you know, these guys are heroes...
Earlier in that program, Hayes had spoken to various people about the difficulties of life in McDowell County. He had spoken to Philip Lucion, a youngish man who had already worked ten years in the mines.
Lucion described the "harsh environment" one finds down in the mines. Late in the program, he explained why he voted for Trump:
LUCION: I don't know a lot of about politics and I don't know what Donald Trump is going to do for the rest of the country, but as far as West Virginia, that's what he promised us. You know, that's what matters to me, because I'm a West Virginian. I'm proud to be a West Virginian. And what the man— I voted for him only solely because what he said he was going to help us. He was going to put the coal miners back to work and we're going to have health care, and this and that.Lucion said he didn't know much about politics. Then again, he didn't go to an elite prep school, then on to four years at Harvard.
We need health care. Everybody in this room needs free health care.
HAYES: Now, are you expect—I mean, when you think about him, he made those promises to you. You're looking for him to deliver on those promises, particularly on health care?
LUCION: Absolutely! On health care, yes. Definitely. Because I mean, some people are elderly. They have no way to work. They have no way—if they can't work, like Mr. Evans said, they can't eat.
Lucion was already down in the mines while Petri lounged by the Charles. After all those years among the elite, Petri seems unable to empathize with, or even respect, lesser beings like him.
Lucion believed or hoped that Candidate Trump would follow through on his pledges. We'll guess he made a bad judgment on that.
Then again, he didn't have all the advantages. Throughout this hour, we saw him, and several others, describing great human need. Petri saw a bunch of clowns spitting tobacco juice.
Here's something else we've remembered from a "story" about Trump voters. We've remembered that 59-year-old woman in Kentucky who was paying $3000 per year for an Obamacare insurance policy, but couldn't afford to go to the doctor due to her high deductible.
She too had voted for Candidate Trump because he said he would fix that.
We remember being able to see that this woman was facing a serious problem. There is no sign in Petri's piece that she has been able to hear anything like that in any of the "stories" she has encountered.
Petri swims in a sea of massive, gigantic advantage. She also displays contempt for those who are less than her kind.
The Riches, the Krugmans, the Rampells, the Petris—our intellectual leaders have been standing in line to voice this noxious outlook. They went to Harvard, to Princeton, to Yale. They have contempt for those who didn't. But then, remember Rachel, back in 2009? Remember all those dick jokes?
Others are able to see who We are when our tyros behave like this. Everyone else can see who We are.
The only dumb bunnies are Us.
Tomorrow: Rebecca Solnit advantagesplains about that "bleak little suburb"