You can always count on establishment liberals. On cue, the New York Times editors today commented on the Iowa caucus, speaking of Marco Rubio as trying “to put a younger and more charming face on the basic Republican message of anger, xenophobia, fear and hate.” The implication, of course, is that the kinds of voters who are driving the populist rebellion on the Right are not decent citizens, but haters of various stripes.
On the opposite side of the op-ed page in today's Times, I have a column noting that the political establishments of both parties consistently deride and dismiss the concerns of an increasingly anxious, demoralized, and disoriented white middle class. On the left this takes the form of describing these voters as racist haters, and so forth. I did not anticipate confirmation on the same day in the same paper!
Can intelligent liberals really not grasp the fact that lots of people in middle America find that the current system doesn't work for them, and so are attracted to politicians who promise to blow that system up? This sort of populism might not be prudent. It might not lead to a situation that's better. But to insist on describing it as xenophobic? Fear and hate?
I toggled over the Wall Street Journal's editorial page. The editors there clearly regard Bernie Sanders as a socialist throwback with ideas that won't work, because they never worked. But they don't deride him, and they certainly don't deride the people who voted for him.
One of the most significant problems we face as a nation is the tendency of our establishment to regard all challengers with disdain. In my op-ed I point out how the establishment on the right does that. I must admit, however, that I'm a little shocked at how blatant the bad-mouthing is among the establishment left.
How can you possibly lead a country when you say, out loud, that a significant plurality of fellow citizens are moral cretins?
R. R. Reno is the editor of First Things.