We Don’t Need ‘City-Slicker Elegy’
Here’s an ugly little piece by author Louis Bayard I came across in my reading this morning. Stupid, uninformed, written with all the insight of a rant in a high school newspaper. The Washington Post should be embarrassed for publishing this tripe, though I do always enjoy it when liberals show their prejudices so clearly for the world to see.
Since you brought it up, Louis…
For starters, Louis, those of us who aren’t liberal elitists don’t have to read a special book to understand you. You are not mysteries to us. We have numerous movies, tv shows (including the weak sauce that passes for broadcast news these days), books both fiction and non-, and veritable reams of clickbait-y slop churned out by The New York Times, Slate Magazine, The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, and The Washington Post centered around the interests of elitists, particularly urban elitists. We’ve been inundated by your navel-gazing patrician propaganda for half a century. And if all that wasn’t enough, lord knows you never shut up on social media, either.
It’s actually kind of hard to AVOID your point of view, Louis. Most of us have the equivalent of a PhD in Liberal Elite Studies we earned just by living our lives day to day. I already know more about the inner workings of New England prep schools and the tortured angst of middle-aged writers than any country woman ought.
Louis, it is your peers who remain ignorant of what the rest of America is like. Not the other way around. Thus, the rest of us don’t need to create a cottage industry around scientifically investigating the strange interlopers in our midst. We’re the strange interlopers here, interlopers in our own country. Liberal urban elitism is the dominant American culture, as much as it pains me to say so.
You and your insular, overweening friends are the ones in a bubble, Louis. You believe the Hollywood myth that most of the people who live in vast swaths of the US think and behave exactly like the characters in Hillbilly Elegy. You believe anyone who doesn’t appreciate the exact same subset of consumer goods as you do is drowning in ignorance and fear that somehow manifests itself as bad taste. You believe anyone who doesn’t vote the same as you are evil rather than believing that two equally intelligent, well-informed people can draw two separate conclusions from the same information.
The so-called “Red States” are made up of millions of people, many of whom voted Democrat. The so-called “Blue States” are made up of millions of people, many of whom voted Republican (myself included.) It is not only common but typical for elections even in supposed “Red” or “Blue” areas to have a 60-30 breakdown, meaning that in many locales 1/3 of the people in that area retain political opinions the opposite of what those bicolored maps people in the media love so much would predict. Additionally, many, many voters are neither “red” nor “blue”, but individuals who vote based on a candidate’s personality or the issues of the day, rather than strict adherence to any given political philosophy.
Thus your silly notion that America is a monolith in EITHER direction based on geography is so ridiculous and ignorant as to be laughable, Louis. While the terms “Red States” and “Blue States” are meant to illustrate a principle, you were never supposed to actually BELIEVE that those artificially created divisions existed!
Nearly 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. All across America. This was not a small number of toothless hicks who are easily written off, but people from a variety of economic backgrounds and cultural heritages. Furthermore, I am told a fair number of folks who voted Trump in 2016 didn’t vote for him in 2020, so please explain their existence, if you’d be so kind. How does that fit into your Hillbilly Elegy theory, Louis? Did they become properly cultured overnight like a batch of kefir? One mouthful of Grey Poupon and they were transformed into Biden voters? Or were they the same people they always were who simply drew a different conclusion based on the information available?
Your Hillbilly Elegy theory also fails to explain the existence of a whole lot of people who voted Biden without sharing your noxious elitist sensibilities. One of the biggest reasons why Trump appeals to people is because they despise elitist sensibilities, not because they are “hillbillies”. In case you were unaware, Louis, since you certainly seem to be unaware of quite a lot, this is the reason why many folks voted for Bernie Sanders as well. Hating intellectual snobbery is in no way a single-party phenomenon, far from it. Since you desperately need those Bernie voters in the Democrat coalition, non-Bernie-voting members of that coalition might want to be careful when lobbying salvos at people who harbor anti-elitist sentiments.
Rejection of cultural elitism is an attitude held by Americans across the financial and political spectrum, people who, believe it or not, know things about our country, about science, about history, about culture and literature and fine cuisine and yes, even a good deal about politics. Many who loathe elitist snobs actually even live in or near cities of some size. Many of us know far more than you, Louis; you’ve made that quite clear by displaying your ignorance, not just pretending but actually seeming to believe that “everyone who voted Trump is a character in Hillbilly Elegy”. Let alone your imagining – an imagining bordering on delusion, IMO – that most people would find your dull, unfunny, warmed-over viewpoints on subjects that better writers have already strip-mined to the bedrock remotely humorous or insightful.
I mean seriously, Louis, do you really believe that people in so-called “Red States” don’t know what yoga is?? Do you think they don’t have vegan restaurants and Chardonnay in cities in Middle America? Do you really and truly think anyone who doesn’t live on a coast has never listened to NPR? Eaten an avocado? Or “met a scientist”? Do you really think that half the nation is comprised of brain-damaged troglodytes living in trailer parks huffing paint while unironically lecturing me about being wise and well-informed?
Louis Bayard, you and your ilk are either willingly, deliberately, reducing over half of America, including a good number of people on your side, including a good number of urban people (your kombucha swilling neighbors!) who voted differently than you, to an ugly and untrue stereotype because it suits your political agenda to do so, or else because you are so ridiculously up your own asses, so awash in your own sense of faux-intellectual superiority that you actually believe it.
You might want to think about that.
Because I am well informed about your political ingroup, Louis, quite well informed indeed despite being handicapped by my geographical location, I can state unequivocally that you, Sir, are neither a liberal nor a Democrat. You are in no way representative of those groups. You are a rich old, highly educated white male who works in the media. You are the dictionary definition of an elitist snob, a person so grossly out of touch that you truly believe your elitist snobbery is actually representative of the majority rather than a fading relic of a time few younger than 45 even remember. Louis, you are an arrogant classist dinosaur, the last of a dying breed of tedious stuffed shirts none will mourn, and you will go down equally loathed by the vast majority of “Red State” and “Blue State” voters alike.
Write an elegy for yourself, why don’t you.
Joe Biden has repeatedly said he’ll be president for all Americans, that it is time for our country to heal. He says he’ll work as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as those who did. Jill Biden claims to want a spirit of national unity, while Kamala Harris has called for empathy and decency. While I admire their sentiments, I personally have a hard time believing them, because I’ve read so much toxic waste from “liberals” like Louis Bayard that decry their noble words. Still, I do appreciate the efforts of the Biden-Harris campaign in attempting pleasantries rather than wallowing freely in the egotistical us vs them mindset that hurt the Clinton campaign so badly – and indeed, hurt ALL of America.
Liberals, you must stop normalizing pathological snobbery, especially when it’s based in gross falsehoods such as “everyone who voted for Trump is an inbred, lardlicking oaf ripped from the pages of Hillbilly Elegy”. It is time for divisive dross like this to go away now. It is time for this MENTALITY to go away now. Permanently. It isn’t funny, it isn’t helpful, and it WILL come back to bite you all in the ass someday.
Louis, if you can’t keep your mouth shut because it’s the right thing to do, do it for your own self-preservation. If you want Democrats to win elections in the future, you need to stop alienating vast swaths of Americans so a microscopic handful of elitist snobs can high five each other over the pwn. Because America needs the Democrats to remain a functional political option, to give voters a reasonable option to both the far left and the far right.
If the Democrats choose instead to continue devolving into a party for the exceedingly privileged and endlessly self-impressed, and the primary thrust of “liberal” culture amounts to getting ones’ jollies from spitting on people who are poorer than you because they don’t watch the right TV shows, well hey, there are only so many hours in the day that you can spend watching TV shows if you have to work for a living. And most of us have to work for a living.
That’s what that whole 99% thing was all about, remember that?
If self-professed Democrats in positions of power continue allowing absolute trash like this “think piece” (using the term loosely since it appears to me very little thinking actually took place during the writing or publishing process) to see the light of day, glorifying the cultural touchstones of 1-percenters while denigrating everyone else, you’re going to be eaten alive, the Bernie Bros on one side and right-wing populism on the other.
Every time a “liberal” pundit craps out yet another pile of divisive vitriol like this, every time a mainstream publication like The Washington Post (Democracy Dies in Darkness, hurr de durr) runs one of these pustules of cultural rot, you undermine the message of your own leadership. You undermine the message of your own philosophy, in which helping the poor is decidedly a thing. You undermine the chances of the Democrats to win elections in the future. And why? For that momentary frisson of joy that some of you get from, as South Park put it, perhaps inelegantly but completely accurately, sniffing your own farts.
A frisson of joy is not enough to make up for what it costs you. Not nearly enough. No liberal will remember Louis Bayard’s obvious, forgettable, and badly written piece in a week; it will fade away into the background, and rightfully so because it imparts nothing of value.
But I will remember it, and I will vote accordingly.
What’s going to happen, Louis — and I suspect the process is already well underway — is that there’s going to be a realization in this country that the proles on the left are just as looked down on, just as reviled, as the supposed “poor hillbillies” who voted Trump, most of whom are not poor hillbillies at all. The Democrats, spurred on by their utter conviction that they have the world completely figured out despite all evidence to the contrary, have turned their back on union workers, loggers, miners, and indeed all the little people of this world, to cater to the whims of a very, very small chunk of self-congratulatory elitist morons who pretty much everyone dislikes (irredeemable misanthropes to a one, they even tend to dislike one another).
That is not going to be a sustainable political strategy for the Democrats in the long term.
People despise elitists, and not without cause. People across the political and cultural aisles agree that elitist snobs suck – something that brings many of us together in solidarity even when we disagree on many other things. In this cultural climate, a political party that continues to cater to elitist sensibilities while alienating vast swaths of the very people it claims to be fighting for, is going to be fighting an uphill battle moving forward.
This truth is obvious and undeniable; I didn’t have to go to an Ivy League college to see it.
Trump is uniquely terrible, I am told, and who am I to argue with conventional wisdom? Despite that, despite a pandemic that has killed 200k Americans and the economic malaise that followed, despite having the full force of the mainstream media, the institutions of higher education, the corporations, and the tech monopolies firmly on their side, the Democrats barely beat him. In light of that brutal fact, rather than continue saying “half the people in this country are ignorant buffoons I shall mercilessly mock” Democrats might want to spend that same mental energy on addressing the many systemic failures within their own party.