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Op-Ed

Bob Ehrlich: 2020 Has Taught Us That the Elite No Longer Have to Pretend to Care About 'Flyover' America

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It’s always been this way, just not as blatant. But the advent of 24/7 news coverage has made it upfront – and always personal.

I refer to “the attitude” – how our elites view America’s laboring class.

It is a workforce where some still punch a clock and work with their hands. Over the years, they have been stamped with many monikers – some more belittling than others. These include “the silent majority,” “Reagan Democrats,” “Walmart people,” “irredeemable deplorables” and, most recently courtesy of CNN, “Olive Garden” and “Holiday Inn” people.

The point – or image – is impossible to miss. These are the unfortunate folks who missed the boat into the middle class. And regardless of which label is in vogue at any one time, the “really smart” people in charge of media, academia, Hollywood, social media platforms and (more recently) corporate boardrooms have the same demographics in mind: downscale, white, blue-collar people without college degrees.

But the caricature does not stop there. Other familiar elements include gun owner, churchgoer, bowler, cop supporter, rural dweller. More recently, certain African-Americans and Hispanics were added to the narrative, but always with this sort of disclaimer: “traitor to the cause.”

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That cause, of course, is a potent brand of secular progressivism. It is an ideology that has enjoyed considerable success on academic campuses (being taught, again, by really smart people) and along the coasts for decades.

But it is now ready to assume a more dominant role in our cultural identity. I know this because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election while feeling secure enough to run on a platform far more progressive than Barack Obama’s.

You see, there is a world of difference between the warmed-over, Western European, socialism-lite mush peddled in past campaigns and what now confronts America. To wit, a long-promised transformation of our cultural identity. (Some on the left have characterized it as a “reckoning.”)

Indeed, the Biden/Harris team is the only ticket in memory to win the presidency while indicting the country it wishes to govern for its many alleged flaws, including countless “-isms” and “-ics.” That such a critique could beat an unapologetic “America-first” agenda speaks to its wide-ranging appeal.

Do you think the progressive elites will continue to disregard the working class?

I am not the first observer to bemoan what this transformative time means for the beaten-down and now truly woebegone working class. Yet we can all recall that not so long ago, certain of the elitists found this subset of working people to be of some scholarly interest.

Books were written and movies made (most recently “Hillbilly Elegy”) about them. Here, a degree of condescending empathy was employed for the “bitter clingers” of religion and guns (to borrow from President Barack Obama’s critique) left behind by our technological age. They were more to be pitied than pilloried. After all, they weren’t especially bright – and certainly not dangerous.

But all that changed when a Queens developer spoke to them as people, not peasants. They returned the favor with 63 million and 74 million votes respectively in the next two general elections.

The “let them eat cake” members of the intelligentsia were not happy with the turn of events. They saw an empowered proletariat and didn’t like it one bit. And so no more empathetic books for you, Appalachia!

It is a safe bet that not a whole lot of pundits and writers at The New York Times, The Washington Post or CNN follow NASCAR, watch WWE or understand deep down the importance of high school football in small-town America.

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But it doesn’t matter so much anymore. The circa-2016 outsized influence of the working class has been eclipsed in 2020.

In other words, there are now enough highly educated white and minority voters in Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Milwaukee that progressives no longer need to pretend to care about them.

Flyover America accordingly has a very big problem. Very soon, it will no longer be a national priority. And the next opportunity to do something about it doesn’t come around until 2022.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former United States congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.




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