I generally try to avoid repeating myself, but some things bear repeating.  A couple of years ago I did a post by this title challenging the common belief that condescending attitudes by liberal elites towards average Americans were a contributing factor to Donald Trump’s election. My basic argument was that “average Americans” mostly don’t experience condescension from liberals in any direct way.  Many of them nevertheless do think that elitist urban liberals condescend to them because that is what they are told, repeatedly, endlessly, by the right-wing media and by Republican politicians.

Meanwhile, many liberals are too ready to buy into the right-wing propaganda, I think because of a kind of guilt.  Most of us have basically egalitarian values but we know that we are, in fact, better educated, better informed and more sophisticated than the average voter. It stands to reason that other people like ourselves are similarly conscious and are likely to manifest those attitudes of superiority in condescending behavior.  That’s a reasonable assumption, but I don’t think it actually happens very much if at all.  I ask you, dear readers (who I’m pretty sure are disproportionately well-educated, liberal and urban) have you condescended to any less-educated conservatives lately?  I bet you haven’t.  And, unless I’m tone-deaf, I don’t think offensively patronizing attitudes are conveyed by the reputedly liberal media. So, where and how is all this obnoxiously patronizing, condescending behavior taking place?

But I said all this before, at greater lenght–why am I repeating myself?   This reprise was prompted initially by Joe Biden’s outrageous accusation that Elizabeth Warren was condescending and elitist. It’s outrageous because Democrats should not attack other Democrats by parroting Republican talking points. You just know that if Warren (Harvard professor, etc.) becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, Trump et. al. will milk the elitist charge for all they can get.  And they’ll be able to say “Even Joe Biden said….”

But Biden is a politician whose campaign is sagging.  I was more disappointed to see Tim Egan, a commentator whom I usually appreciate, echo the same trope about liberal elitism, citing Biden’s accusation approvingly. (Claiming neutrality, Egan didn’t acknowledge that Biden was talking about Warren, but he went on to inveigh against Warren.) According to Egan, middle-Americans feel insulted and dismissed by liberal Democrats.  Typically, he gives no actual examples of liberals dismissing or patronizing or insulting other people–it seems to be an article of faith for him that that’s what liberals do.  But the real problem is  liberals like Egan who buy into and thus legitimate the Republican narrative. Somebody needs to tell Egan that he’s helping the bad guys by endorsing their propaganda.

 

7 comments

  1. Jeffrey Herrmann November 9, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    I tend to believe Egan, because he is much more in touch with rural people who are likely to be tRumpists than I am. In fact, I haven’t talked to someone from a region where tRump is popular in so many years that I can’t even recall when. I know a few crypto-tRumpists who are hiding among the intelligent elite of suburban New York. In their presence we all talk condescendingly about those morons who admire tRump, and you can discern the lowered gaze and the grimace of a raging crypto-tRumpist, if you look for it. If it would help to beat tRump, we should dial back our displays of moral and intellectual superiority.

    • tonygreco November 9, 2019 at 5:23 pm

      But I didn’t deny that these feelings of being patronized exist. My question is how do they arise. My claim is that people don’t directly experience the alleged condescension but they believe the propagandists who tell them they are being condescended to.

      • Jeffrey Herrmann November 10, 2019 at 12:37 pm

        tRumpist: from Fox News I know that those Eastern elitists would treat me with condescension, if I ever encountered one of them.

        Eastern Elitist: if I ever run across a tRumpist, I won’t be able to conceal my condescension.

        Result: mutual understanding

        • tonygreco November 10, 2019 at 3:08 pm

          “If I ever run across…”. That’s part of my point. Eastern elitists don’t interact much with Trumpists, so they have few opportunities to condescend

  2. Jeremy A Graham November 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Working class righties do think we condescend to them. We express amazement when they don’t agree with us about gun control, abortion, climate change and such. Those issues make such great wedge issues because they’re important. We continue to fall into that trap. Union leaders have known for a long time, whether we differ on other matters, we want a bigger piece of the pie, “we”, in this case, being poor, working class, and middle class.

    • tonygreco November 10, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Again, I don’t deny that people feel they are being condescended to; I do question that “we” are condescending. Condescension isn’t just a state of mind; it’s a behavior, an interaction between people, either person-to-person or through some medium. I don’t believe that we engage in condescending behavior on any significant scale. Some of us may well have feelings of superiority, but I don’t think we generally act on them. The idea that we do, I think, is a myth created by the right-wing media. We tend to buy into the myth, however, because we are conscious of our feelings of superiority, and are uncomfortable about them. I went into this more in the earlier post, including in replies to some of the comments.

  3. Donald Campbell November 13, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    We have to remember that that the real wages of working people have been declining since about 1970. The democrats claim to be the party of the working people, yet they have been complicit in the neo-liberal project that is largely responsible for the decline. This failure to even attempt to realize their supposed goal of representing the working people is at least partly responsible for the fact that so many rural white people despise the democrats.

    The Republicans simply found fertile ground in this disaffection and were able to make abortion and gun rights into wedge issues to peel off rural white voters.

    Yes, the Republicans are disgusting and dangerous, but the problem is the democrats are not good enough.

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