Okay, I admit it: I can’t get Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment out of my mind.
A blue-state friend of mine responded to some of my tweets, urging me to bring more nuance to my comments. I know that this issue should be considered within a wider perspective. But I just can’t help seeing it from the perspective of a white, middle-class Southern male who grow up in a small northwest Alabama town and counted many working-class kids as some of my closest friends.
The Left’s Growing Disengagement from the White Working Class
My problem with the “deplorables” remark is that it not only reflects the left’s brazen lack of interest in the plight of the white working class but also its growing contempt for it. Our left-leaning prattling class makes a big fuss about engaging in dialogue, connecting with others, getting in their heads, and empathizing with them. But I’m reasonably certain that most of them would regard an an evening discussing life experiences with a working-class unemployed plant worker from Richmond, Kentucky, or Ashland, Alabama, as an ordeal worse than a root canal.
From the perspective of this middle-aged white Southern male, most on the left seem content to stick with their default position: In between the enlightened bookends of continental America teem millions of know-nothings who, aside from clinging to KJV Bibles and guns, are the happy dupes of alt-right ideology.
Extending and Withdrawing Accreditation Status
And I think that there is something even far more troubling, if not sinister, at work. The left seems to be increasingly inclined to extend or, as the case may be, to withdraw, a sort of accreditation status. Indeed, that is what troubles me the most about Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comments. Its almost as if she is affording accreditation to some groups – actually most demographic and ethnic groups – while withdrawing it from others, the ones deemed unwashed, untutored and threatening to the progressive agenda, namely, the increasingly alienated and angry white working class.
There have been telltale signs of this pattern of thinking for more than a generation. Years ago, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan noted that gifted working-class Americans, particularly those of eastern European Slavic backgrounds, faced unusually daunting odds gaining admission to the Ivy League.
Recently, Frank Bruni, one of the more consistent and courageous liberal public intellectuals, noted the almost complete absence of veterans in the Ivy League.
Call me a paranoid conspiracist , but our ruling class seems to be increasingly inclined not only to categorize Americans but also to extend or withdraw assent – accreditation status – in some cases.
Yes, Virginia, in the coming leftist utopia, there will be no more room for the geriatric, racist, homophobic working-class great uncle who, despite his retrograde views, is really a decent human being at heart, as Norman Lear’s Archie Bunker proved to be in the end.
These sorts of people are no longer simply deplorable but irredeemable, apparently undeserving of the respect due a citizen of a “progressive” country.
Indeed, this sort of thinking increasingly appears to be reflected in the diversity culture of higher education. Note the implications of the University of Nebraska’s “nonnegotiable” respect policy. Free speech and expression are lauded on campus, but only so long as the speech and expression don’t venture what UNL administrators define as “hate and disrespect.”
And what becomes of students who purportedly venture into this territory? Consider the ordeal of the SGA vice president at the University of Houston, whose Facebook post affirming that all lives matter initially resulted in suspension from her post and her subsequent promise that she would submit to three-day sensitivity training.
In a very real sense, anti-progressive dissent in this country is not only being silenced but the perpetrators afforded a kind of non-accreditation status that increasingly bears eerie parallels to the non-personhood status meted out to dissidents in totalitarian societies.
The Threat to Open Discourse and Liberty
While I possess many personal failings, I’m a disciplined reader of political theory, history and philosophy, and based on my reading, I think I have a pretty good idea of where all this is heading, and, frankly, it doesn’t bold well for the future of open discourse and personal liberty, at least,as these safeguards historically have been understood. Indeed, it’s looking more and more like a Kafkaesque world, one in which a well-paid African-American athlete essentially can abjure his American identity and be extolled as a hero and an articulate defender of free speech, while a handful of Southern Gulf war veterans who participate in a Civil War reenactment are characterized as harbingers of a growing alt-right backlash.
I’ve mentioned before that the great Russian novelist and Gulag survivor Alexandr Solzhenitsyn once described the Gulag as the only place in the Soviet Union where sane thinking and discourse occurred. I’m beginning to see his point.
Yes, there is an unmistakable totalitarian ring to Hillary’s language. Fortunately, millions of so-called dumb, untutored rubes in the hinterland are discerning some not-so-inscrutable and rather troubling handwriting on the wall, and they may soon be serving our ruling class its just deserts.