The popular narrative of Election 2016 seems to be boiling down to the Elites versus the Populists.
These are broad and ill defined terms. Who are the Elites? Who are the Populists?
Let us first turn to the Elites, since that definition will exclude all others. The pertinent definition from Oxford Living Dictionaries is entry 1.1
1.1[TREATED AS SINGULAR OR PLURAL]A group or class of people seen as having the most power and influence in a society, especially on account of their wealth or privilege.
It has further been said that in a capitalist society, the rich (e.g. Trump) become powerful while in socialist society, the powerful become rich (e.g. Bill and Hillary Clinton).
I’ll turn to one of my preferred sources to further define the Elites.
by Victor Davis Hanson, Defining Ideas
But who exactly are these unpopular elites—and what exactly have they done that has enraged middle-class voters in Western democracies?
Since ancient times, elites have been defined various ways, sometimes by birth (the Greeks’ hoi aristoi), by capital (hoi plousioi), by perceived class (hoi oligoi), by acknowledged influence (hoi gnorimoi), by high culture (hoi beltistoi)—and sometimes by a combination of all of the above.
Today, people are especially mad at political elites, a loose term for those who govern [in the United States] at the state and federal level. They include not just our elected legislators, governors, and President, but also the unelected (and unaccountable) members of the vast government archipelago—cabinet officers, bureaucratic grandees, top military officers, and regulators. Beyond these politicos, the Western elite is comprised, too, of the transnational mega-wealthy, who have been enriched by globalization, especially international finance, investments, and technologies that lubricate worldwide dissemination of capital and communications.
At the considerable risk of riffing off a really old and truely tasteless joke, the political elites just don’t listen.
An elite is also defined by education (preferably Ivy League and its coastal counterparts), residence (primarily between Boston and Washington on the East Coast, and from San Diego to Berkeley on the Pacific), profession (executive positions in government, media, law, foundations, the arts, and academia), celebrity (name recognition from television, Hollywood, network news, finance, etc.), and ideology, such as those prominent in the progressive movement. To receive a glimpse of our next generation of elites, read the betrothal notices in The New York Times, look at the interns at Goldman Sachs, and consider the junior faculty at Harvard.
These select few define our culture, educate young adults on college campuses, run governments, make most economic and foreign policy, entertain America, and dispense the news. And the public is angry at them for a variety of reasons.
I think mere anger on the part of the People is a fading distant object in their rear view mirror.
First, the elites seem to the middle classes to be out of touch and incompetent. Their sterling degrees and titles, voters increasingly think, do not reflect the quality of their minds or the depth of their educations, but have become status markers separating “them” from everyone else. On top of that, these elites sometimes utter silly things, like that there are 57 states, that soldiers are “corps-men,” and that ISIS is a “jayvee organization.” The ruling class is not like those who once built the Hoover Dam, triumphed at the Battle of Midway, or built the interstate freeway system. Instead, the Wall Street implosion of 2008, the negotiations over the Iran deal, California’s stalled high-speed rail project, the Affordable Care Act meltdown, and the doubling of the national debt in eight years reflect either inexperience and ignorance or perhaps indifference and callousness.
The pattern is too consistent to write off as inexperience nor as ignorance. Willful indifference and contemptuous callousness are the least damning descriptors of the path taken over the last eight years.
…public furor arises over elite sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy. Progressive elites are shielded from the ramifications of their own ideologies. Open borders advocates like former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, for example, condemn walls and fences as backward and inhumane—and then ensure that their own residences are quite well fenced and protected from hoi polloi.
The longer that which cannot be sustained is propped up the greater the wreckage is when it finally collapses under the strain of its own un-supported weight. The longer the pressure is allowed to build, the greater the damage when the pressure vessel finally fails.