Being Elitist: The Oligarchy and Flyover America

December 13, 2016
Bristol, New York


From Richard Cohen today in the Washington Post, “…I will not concede that a greater wisdom exists in what is known as “flyover country.” It has voted for a charlatan, a blinged ignoramus who has promised the past as the future. Trump… lives in a gilded bubble of his own…”
I just flew over. In fact I flew over my own house. I’m returning to the end of my semester, the fall of my 30th year as a college professor.  I am a liberal, elitist humanist.  What I would give to get on one of those Rightwing watch lists.  It’s a personal aspiration.  What awaits me is a stack of sincere but crippled prose from young people trying hard to understand difficult ideas and write in complete sentences. They will get grades and my own deteriorating eyesight will be challenged. I was busy with other work this weekend and finally read some of the news too about the Russians and the CIA and the Congress.
I also read more of the desperate wishes of well-meaning liberals who feel the powerlessness, frustration, and astonishment of the on-going failure of our empire. About how Congress will be serious about this inquiry into Russia, about how the Electors can change the outcome, shall we go on? That is not going to happen. So, I opine, admittedly driven by a desire to delay All of the Above, which is also more than a little wishful.  I am not a cynic (well, maybe a little). I would prefer “critical realist” if there must be a label.  “Liberal” also works just fine because that word means someone of inclusive and critical temperament bent upon progress.  And what’s America without another label?  Progressive? Dare I say, “elitist”? Yup, that will do too.  I have no qualms about wearing that one.  Being white and male has given me privilege and I intend to do whatever I can with that privilege to try to make the world a better place.  Call me “bleeding heart” if you like.
The majority of American elitists —coastals with success, education, diversity, and hard working lives— are not the .01% who are about to ascend the Presidency, fill every cabinet and agency post, and govern the other two branches of government. The majority of elitists are doing far better than flyover America because we go to work and live in States with better policies. We’re mostly just about making it. I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that most of us are a few paychecks away from real catastrophe. We persist. What makes us elitists is, in part, that we are working at jobs because we are coastal elitists and flyover America, except in elitist blue dots, known as cities, is suffering from everything that isolates them. Blue dot flyover folks are by this definition elitists too. Elitist is almost the equivalent of city dweller; flyover equals ex-urbanite.
The oligarchy too largely inhabits the coasts, so we know them within our shared geography. The oligarchy has the kind of money and so the power, with the skills and education, to understand exactly what they are doing. They have put self-interest and power over all other considerations. They have flyover America in their pockets or, more properly speaking, at their disposal. The oligarchy rules from the far Right with populist flyover America cheering loudly and voting in their small but effective droves. They will gain seats in Congress in 2018. 
But their news is not like our news. Their views are well-shaped by their masters’ sources. Fake news is real. That is America too. Go look at Fox, please. Not just Breitbart and the white supremacist sites. Compare Fox with any reputable source. The oligarchy owns these folks and their votes as far as the eye can see, as it has for the last 20+ years. It’s flat out there in flyover country. The dupe is complete, the con has won. 
So then there are the Russians and the CIA?
Big news, eh? Umm, no. Not. One.Thing. Will. Change. You see the Republicans got the result they wanted. That is all that matters to them. They may put on another show but will do nothing to jeopardize their power. McCain, Graham, the few squawking will fold, because they won too. They intend to keep things just the way they want: with every bit of power under their management. “Bi-partisan” will fold too, and it won’t take long because nothing will alter their plans to _keep power_.
The only recourses we have are in the courts and the Congressional minority’s ability to thwart the Right’s efforts. Count on the Courts becoming more Republican day by day. Rural America will be fed from the trough of Fox —please DO go read their website because the TV is even more foxy propoganda— and then add in the fact that 146 million didn’t vote. The vast majority of working people of all political demographics don’t have time or don’t care enough to be informed. They are not elitists. The fact is the oligarchy doesn’t need to care about the elitists, even if they inhabit the CIA as stalwart, non-partisan patriots.
I often pause to explain to young people that their education confers privilege, not only in the material sense but because of their exposures and the requirements of critical thinking. There have been a flurry of pieces— including an infuriatingly stupid piece from Nick Kristoff in the Times— about America’s liberal professoriate echo chamber and how conservatives feel left out. These are the same people who don’t regard science as explaining climate change, whose religion demands belief over criticism, and who have willfully given the country over to an imbecile and oligarchs. Then, there is the claim of the wisdom of flyover America, the rural wise man. (It’s nearly always men but rural women voted Trump by significant margins, so let’s get the whole demographic in here.)
One of the many anachronisms of the American ethos, not merely it’s flailing early 18th century Constitution that granted 80,000 rural voters from three States the power of the Presidency, is that flyover country possesses some kind of preternatural wisdom. Leaving aside how American history and law has favored slave owners, always the wealthy, and always whites, this idea that some jackass who chose not to finish high school in a diner in rural Wisconsin is _wise_ because he works every day really ticks me off. Why? Because the vast majority of working people are not these people at all but rather people who have more “elite” and “coastal” qualities — like tolerance, inclusion, hope for science, and modest religion. Why should opinions so woefully uninformed be regarded superior? Jefferson was wrong about this: there is no superior wisdom to the farmer. And do note that only 2% of America today are farmers, most of that industry controlled by oligarchs.
We liberals suffer our own stupid bubbles but we ALL live in America the Bubble. It’s all a matter of which bubble. I happen to live in Trump country, in a largely impenetrable bubble of failing people, not just people failing. And so I scream from inside the bubble of my own head, knowing full well that I am better off here, in the company of my own virtual bubble than I will ever be in dealing with the oligarchs and the flyovers. The quotation below is more from Richard Cohen’s piece in the WaPo today about people living in the bubble, which prompted my echo chamber response. My elitist bubble, which is the plurality of American voters (some 2.8 million more, at last count), is in for some rough times at the hands of a flyover minority and their oligarch leaders. Read on from Cohen,
“…What I cannot understand is fellow bubble dwellers who tell me, with an air of impeccable condescension, that a vote for Trump was such proof of their own superior wisdom that it eclipsed all doubts about his qualifications, his temperament, his honesty in business and his veracity in speech. These people live in a bubble of their own. It is one that excludes the lesson of history and the demands of common sense. It will burst.”

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