How Elite are Liberals, Anyway?

Kathleen Parker comments on last year’s election:

Trump’s small- and midsize-town “rural” voters may not have ever jumped online to order the latest Walter Isaacson tome or posted their gently worn Louboutins for sale on consignment website the RealReal, but they weren’t stupid, ignorant, racist, misogynist or nativist — not most, anyway. They were regular, God-fearing folks who were sick of Washington, distrustful of liberal policies and fed up with elites, including many in the media, who couldn’t see them except down their noses.

With last night’s election results looking increasingly favorable for those very smug coastal elitist Democrats this morning (more on that later), it looks like this column already looks out of date mere hours after being published.  Still, Parker touches on a common narrative that I want to discuss.  Namely, that liberals are all a bunch of out-of-touch elites, and conservatives are all salt-of-the-earth heartland types, in touch with the wishes of the regular working man.

I don’t buy this story for a second.

For starters, it’s simply beyond parody to claim that “Middle American” conservatives are being put upon by liberal elites.  We’re talking about people who elected the president by negative 3 million votes.  Who have their chosen representatives running the vast majority of state governments.  Legitimately persecuted people would give an arm and a leg for this kind of political power.

Of course, somewhat smarter pundits will point out the problem isn’t their lack of political power; it’s their lack of cultural power.  Now, it’s true that cultural liberalism dominates in urban areas.  But I find it difficult to believe that the cultural power of urban areas is anywhere near as all-encompassing or as strangling as conservatives make it out to be.  Seriously, am I expected to believe everything that, say, Hollywood puts out leftist propaganda?  Er, “Wolverines!” anyone?

(I’ve been scare-quoting “Middle America” because I have family roots in the real Middle America, which is to say the Midwest.  And the people there, believe it or not, are politically diverse—something never mentioned in the stereotypes promulgated by pundits like Parker.  But, if you want to read the perspective of a progressive from the Midwest, I highly recommend checking out this blog in particular.)

That said, for the sake of argument, let’s grant there’s something to these complaints about cultural power.  Does that negate the overwhelming advantage conservatives hold in the political sphere?  Not in the slightest.

Why do I say that?  Well, partly from experience—I’ve known several liberals who cannot be described as anything other than regular folks.  But partly I say this from watching politics play out locally over the last few years.

A great example here is HB2 in North Carolina.  Ever wonder why the North Carolina legislature passed such a blatantly discriminatory measure?  It certainly wasn’t because elitist liberals forced the heartland to accept the latest research in gender studies. The North Carolina legislature had been solidly red since 2011.

No, the reason HB2 was signed into law was because the city of Charlotte passed a nondiscrimination ordinance regarding trans peoples’ use of public facilities—a measure that, needless to say, applied only to the city of Charlotte.  State Republicans, in a characteristic bout of hypocrisy, decided their purported commitment to local governance counted for squat, and passed HB2 to override Charlotte’s ordinance.

How about that?  Urban liberals weren’t ordering rural conservatives around.  Rural conservatives were ordering urban liberals around.

Of course, this most likely wouldn’t happen in California or New York.  But so what?  If New York and California really held as much sway politically as conservatives believe they do, North Carolina never would have passed HB2.  Or if it had passed it, then Republicans would have lost control of the legislature.  Instead, Republicans held on to their legislative supermajority, despite coming within a percentage point in total votes cast compared to Democrats, and Governor McCrory lost his seat by the slimmest of margins.

I bring this up to demonstrate how ridiculous these claims about liberals being the group with all the power really are.  The implication is almost always that liberals need to shut up and take whatever abuse is thrown their way because it’s punching up.  This is, to put it politely, utter nonsense.  Keep this up long enough, and liberals are inevitably going to think something doesn’t add up there.

They’ll be right.

 

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