The left’s fondness for autocratic regimes is well chronicled. Seminal works such as Friedrich Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” (and a briefer indictment, “The Intellectuals and Socialism”) analyzed totalitarianism’s appeal to Western elites, while George Orwell’s “1984” captured the dystopian reality of the mass surveillance state.
Yet despite these (and numerous other) compelling indictments, the progressive movement’s fascination with central control has been an undeniable calling card for generations. Simply put, our academic, political, entertainment and cultural leadership regularly falls in love with the latest iteration of socialism — Soviet gulags, Cambodian killing fields, Cuban prisons and Chinese reeducation camps notwithstanding. A common refrain: the next autocratic regime’s assault on personal freedom will be more benign … just trust us. (RELATED: BETSY MCCAUGHEY: Democrats Have Abandoned The Working Class To Become The Party Of Freeloaders)
Still, there is something remarkably different about today’s infatuation with big government: Intellectuals, AKA The Really Smart People (TRSP) have jettisoned the working class in no uncertain terms. Yep … FDR’s blue collar vanguard has been officially off-ramped by Ph.D. types with decidedly white — and starched — collars. You can see some of their offspring, ski masks and all, doing their thing at any Antifa riot you care to watch. In the process, the alleged beneficiaries of the modern welfare state have been dismissed as uneducated rubes — and worse.
So what happened? How did a key component of America’s Labor Party come to denigrate all those formerly celebrated folks who still work with their hands and have dirt under their fingernails?
Barton Swaim’s well-written column (‘Why the “Smart” Party Never Learns,’ Wall Street Journal, December 10-11, 2022) provides insight: an “intellectual pathology” dominates on the modern Left, dismissive of the great unwashed, and borne of a near total monopoly of left-leaning cultural influences. In less polite terms: We get it … you don’t (can’t) … so get over it, peasant.
Of course, intellectual elitism is by no means a new phenomenon. But the difference today is found in the agenda of the cultural Left. Gone is the traditional focus on workplace organization and employee rights and minimum wages and domestic content requirements and supply chains and a higher capital gains rate. Good luck trying to get a decent protest / sit-in / riot going over those staid (so 20th century) issues.
Woke is now the rage. Mass culture is the stage. And the degree of cultural transformation is the gauge. Here, Dr. King’s admonition regarding the primacy of character over skin color is summarily dismissed. Here, parents have no standing to protest curriculum decisions issued by local school boards. Here, 6-year-olds receive instruction on their sexuality from public school teachers. Here, biological females are forced to compete against biological males in athletic events. Here, immigrants who illegally crossed over the border five minutes ago are provided many of the rights and privileges of American citizens. Here, the amount of media reporting on violent crime is a function of what perpetrators and victims look like rather than the crime itself. Here, working class East Palestine, Ohio, represents just another train derailment, not an environmental disaster with potentially long-term consequences. Here, our history and language and institutions are daily contorted in order to comport with the latest progressive outrage.
It’s as though TRSP have concluded that flyover types are simply incapable of appreciating the ways, means and ends of a newly progressive culture. In one sense, they are correct. Much of blue collar America rejects many of the newly popular, campus-initiated social constructs. But this disapproval is not due to some sort of intellectual deficit or prejudice. Just the opposite. (RELATED: JUDGE ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO: How The Unaccountable Feds Ignore The Constitution To Spy On Whoever They Want)
You see, respect and appreciation for values and institutions that have secured American liberty for more than 230 years still prevails in the heartland. Accordingly, anything as radically different as woke culture will continue to be a difficult sell, regardless of the academic credentials (or previous commercial success) of the marketer.
Another point to ponder: The plain ol’ folks (also once dismissed as the “irredeemable deplorables”) did not start this culture war. But they see it as one they can ill afford to lose.
Bob Ehrlich is a former Governor of Maryland, Member of Congress, and State Legislator. He is the author of five books on American politics and opinion pieces that have appeared in America’s leading newspapers and periodicals. He and his wife, Kendel, can be seen and heard on their weekly podcast, “Bottom Line with Bob & Kendel Ehrlich.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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