Thursday, June 21, 2018


Steve Benen seems puzzled by something President Trump said last night in his Duluth campaign rally:
... towards the end of his speech, the Republican shared a thought I haven’t heard him make before.
“You ever notice they always call the other side ‘the elite.’ The elite! Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”
For a quite a while, prominent voices in Trump World considered “the elite” to be their rivals, and perhaps even their enemies.

... in the [2016] Time cover story naming Trump “Person of the Year,” [Kellyanne] Conway argued, “You cannot underestimate the role of the backlash against political correctness – the us vs. the elite.”

In this sense, the “elite” doesn’t describe wealth or status; it describes attitude. The “elite” care about niceties such as science, diversity, and the rule of law. Trump and his acolytes thumb their nose at the “elite” and their pointless principles.

... as of last night, Trump isn’t satisfied with this dynamic – because he wants to be the elite, too.

... Since launching his political career three years ago, Trump has laughably presented himself as a “man of the people,” but now he wants more. The president also sees himself as more elite than the elite, and he expects to be appreciated as such.
I don't think that quite captures what's going on. All along, Trump's followers have hated the "elites," and all along they've known that Trump is a rich One Percenter -- in fact, since they believe everything he says, they probably think he's richer than he actually is.

It's not surprising if they hate "elitists" while believing that Trump, whom they love, is one himself. They don't like black people, but they like their black people -- Ben Carson, Candace Owens, maybe Kanye West. They don't like Hollywood celebrities, but they like their celebrities, starting with their other favorite president, Ronald Reagan. (See also James Woods and Scott Baio.) They don't like gay people, but they like their gay people -- Milo Yiannopoulos, Tammy Bruce, Jim Hoft.

Also, they believe that people on their side aren't recognized as the superior beings they are, while people on our side are given way too much credit for being superior. I recall a widespread belief on the right during the 2012 campaign that Newt Gingrich was much smarter, much better educated, and a much better debater than Barack Obama, and that he'd be the runaway winner if he ever had the chance to debate Obama. Reporting from the campaign trail, Dave Weigel wrote this:
After a while, the only differences between [Gingrich supporters'] endorsements were the verbs they used to describe what Gingrich would do to Barack Obama in debates.

In Charleston, [South Carolina,] a voter named Jayne Harmon claimed that Gingrich would “dismantle” the president.

In Monck’s Corner, I learned that Gingrich would “humiliate” him. In Columbia, I was told that Obama would be “lacerated” or “annihilated.” When Gingrich spoke, and repeated his promise to challenge Obama to seven debates, a biker named Vincent Sbraccia hoisted his sign and screamed: “Wipe the floor with him! Wipe the floor with him!”

A lot of these people considered Gingrich a genius, or at least a first-class intellectual.... [Mitt] Romney, who recites America the Beautiful in his campaign speeches, didn’t convince them that he hated “the elites.” Gingrich did. He’d outdebate Obama because he didn’t accept the notion that Obama was a competent, eloquent president. They didn’t accept it, either.
Trump is thinking along similar lines: The "elite" class as it's defined now is bad not because there's anything wrong with elitism, but because the wrong people are considered elite. In a better world, elite status would go to people who deserve it. Six years ago, the established elite failed to recognize Gingrich's obvious intellectual elitism. Since 2015, according to Trump, they've made the same mistake about Trump's all-around elitism. Trump wants to join this club that won't accept him as a member -- and probably wants to kick all the current members out.

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