The Blindness of American Elites
For all their reputed intelligence, American elites seem to be blinded by rather simplistic, moralistic views of those I will call “ordinary people.” Allegedly, according to American elites, ordinary people are “good,” are “decent,” even though they are often beset by ambitious manipulators, and they distrust government because they misunderstand it. This makes for a rather interesting view of politics, viz., that the basic political conflict is between tradition-bound ordinary people and modernizing elites, leading to what are called our “culture wars.” By this view, while they are moral, decent, of good, ordinary people aren’t political.
But, in fact, ordinary people don’t distrust government and its elites because they misunderstand it. Rather, they distrust government and its elites because of the inequities they perceive the government and its elites have created, e.g., the inequitable distribution of wealth throughout society or that some people, for one reason or another, are said to deserve “favored status” ala’ “affirmative action” of one kind or another.
By depriving ordinary people of any political concerns, such as concerns for dignity, self-government, or justice, American elites fail to understand why, so often, their plans, their programs are deemed unacceptable by ordinary people. Because ordinary people are concerned with justice, e.g., or consent of the governed, elitist policies that don’t address these concerns are irrelevant, and are often rejected. Whereas elites like to say that the basic conflict is between tradition-bound populations and modernizers, it isn’t. The basic conflict is between politically sensitive populations, those, e.g., seeking justice and self-government, and those elites seeking to maintain and fortify their power, their prominence, and their privileged status.
That these elites want and act on behalf of “progress” doesn’t address the political concerns, the desires of ordinary people for dignity, self-government, and justice. For example, providing more schools, however beneficial, doesn’t address or even recognize the issues of who will control those schools and their curricula. And claiming that particular curricula are to be determined by experts who are “woke” also ignores the issue of control, of who will govern these institutions and what ends they will serve. Providing more prisons doesn’t address or even recognize the issues of who should be incarcerated in them or who will profit from them. Nor does building more prisons address or even recognize the question of what mass incarceration does to our communities and our families. More Is not always better even when it comes to wealth, security, or individual liberties. And whether it is better or not are political questions.
Elites and their commitment to “progress” leads them to consider such political concerns and questions to be irrelevant. They just want ordinary people to get “on board,” so to speak, to endorse their policies. Of course, ordinary people are right to resist such efforts insofar as the elites’ commitment to progress merely disguises what is in fact a political agenda, an agenda that inevitably benefits the few at the expense of the many. As even Aristotle knew so long ago, the most common, the most basic political and human conflict is between what he called “democrats” and “oligarchs.” The ordinary people know this because they feel it and its consequences.