Posted on September 22, 2016
The term “limousine liberal” dates from a 1969 campaign against liberal Republican New York Mayor John Lindsay. It filled a right-wing rhetorical need and has been used ever since to demonize a distinct social class I will call Educated Elites or EEs, meaning those whose jobs typically require advanced degrees (plus their families). EEs are a leading target of the so-called populist right, for reasons that actually have a great deal of validity.
–the EEs really do run things, in the sense that they are the visible foremen of the power structure. The billionaires, in contrast, are basically invisible: they are never the ones turning down your mortgage or suing you in court.
–the EEs really do speak a different language and think differently from others.
–many of the EEs do in fact condescend to almost everyone else, and even those who are not condescending are pretty sure that they know best how how to run things (and in fact they do know best how to run the economic machinery as it currently exists)
–a majority of the EEs really are political liberals who believe they are trying the make the world better for ordinary people.
–and yet the world is not getting better for ordinary people in the US. On average, their economic condition has been getting worse ever since 1973 (but there are winners and losers).
–and at the same time, somehow the economic condition of the EEs themselves keeps getting better.
Now at a minimum, there has got to be some hypocrisy going on among the EEs (who by the way include me and most of my Facebook Friends).
Donald Trump stands for demoting the EEs, It is not as blatant a theme as his attacks on minority groups and women, but it is there.
Radical right irrationalism, wild talk, science denial, conspiricism, and myth mongering can be understood, in no small part, as forms of counterculture to EE culture. And Trump talks that language. The EEs always seem to have logical, rational reasons for screwing ordinary people over (a perception about EEs that in my opinion has some frightening degree of validity). Ordinary people are untrained in the various rational models used by the EEs; it makes considerable sense for them to respond by rejecting the entire intellectual ideology that seems to be, and often is, fucking them over.
Of course, this reaction only makes sense for folks who have been hurt by the social changes going on. That would pre-eminently consist of white males. Ongoing changes in civil rights and education have raised the relative wealth and social position of women and minorities at their expense.
But not all radical right “populists” are white males who have been losing income or relative social position. A lot of them are reactionary for other reasons. Some are religio-sexual conservative still pissed about the sexual revolution. A large number are racists. Quite a number are small business people who hate government regulation. What they all have in common is hatred of the EEs, who they perceive–with considerable accuracy–have been, in various ways, messing with their lives.