Our Elites' Snotty Attitudes, Then and Now

Wikileaks’ revelations that Hillary Clinton and her operatives take a dim view of social conservatives–following her characterization of large portions of the population as “deplorables”–has ignited a great deal of anger.  As someone who started out life growing up with the elites, I think some perspective is in order.

Let me start by putting up something that’s been on this website since 2004.  It comes from my Around the Island post about Palm Beach, and it goes like this:

Below: “There’s a hole in my bucket…” Fourth graders at Palm Beach Day School perform a satire on “hillbillies” called “Appalachian Legend” during Stunt Night 1969. Attitudes from the “coasts” about “flyover country” in the U.S. have been deep seated for a long time; stage productions like this only reinforced that. It’s fair to say that, if the “Religious Right” had fully grasped the contempt they were held in when the movement first got going in the late 1970’s they would not have started the Moral Majority: they would have started a revolution.

Haughty attitudes of our elites towards the rest of the population aren’t new; they’re as old as class differences.  So why didn’t the revolution I thought would be a logical outcome (then, at least) not happen?  There are several reasons:

  1. Our elites had better taste and manners then; they knew better than to rub the rest of the population’s face in their perceived superiority.
  2. We lacked the instant means of communicating contempt we have now.
  3. Most of the “moral majority” didn’t see the difference between their values and those at the top as class based.   That was simply false; the top of our society had been lost to the fervent Evangelicalism for a long time, being steeped in either Main Line Christianity or Judaism.
  4. Some actually did, but didn’t care; they felt that those at the top would go to hell for their lack of belief and they would not.  That kind of “remnant” mentality was very deep in Evangelical Christianity, especially in the South.  One result of the political activity of the last forty years or so is the erosion of that mentality.
  5. Others sensed it, but were too ashamed to admit it, because it would imply those who opposed them were better than they were.  They were and are the aspirational types; much of the impetus for political involvement has come from these people.
  6. Income inequality has increased since that photo was made; the gap between the elites and the Appalachians has grown significantly.

That leads me to some observations about the present:

  • I think it strange that the standard-bearer of those who seek a revolution is a billionaire; it’s one of those bizarre American things.  But it’s the aspirational way: those who idolize Trump project their own aspirations into his own success, which is very common in our society.
  • On the other hand, aspirational people are a threat to the existing power holders, which is why Hillary Clinton and her operatives feel about them the way they do.  Elites, then and now, prefer corporatism.  And that’s ironic too for a bunch whose ideological roots are in 1960’s radicalism.
  • As far as her attitudes towards social conservatives is concerned, what we’re headed for under her idea is a “two-tier” religious structure where certain churches and religious organizations are “acceptable” and certain ones are not, with legal disabilities following.  That was the case in Nazi Germany with the “Confessing Church,” in the Soviet Union, and is the case in China, although the Three-Self Church is showing many signs of life.  Her idea that Roman Catholicism is an “élite” religion (as opposed to Evangelicalism) has a strange feel to it.  Going from Episcopal to Catholic was a drop in social level in the 1970’s, but the Main Line churches have lost most of their relevance even at the top.
  • Trump’s crudity is unsurprising, especially for someone raised in South Florida as I am.  What we have to choose from is one candidate whose forced sexualization agenda is one of personal depravity and the other whose forced sexualization agenda is a matter of public policy.
  • Personally I’ve always gravitated to the “remnant” mentality.  I was raised listening to the encounter with the rich young ruler and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; somehow anything else misses the point.  The most active alternative along these lines is the “Benedict Option” advocated by Rod Dreher.  Maintaining that in a totalitarian society–even one with periodic elections–won’t be easy.

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