Elites have power, wrong ideas
The elites in this country are surprisingly unified in accepting and promoting terrible ideas. The mystery is why this is so. The elites are the people who control the commanding heights of academia, business, and government.
First, academia skews hard left. Faculty at 40 leading universities have a Democrat to Republican ratio of 12-to-1. Writing in the Washington Times, James Varney points out that in 2018, and the faculty and staff of Ivy League schools gave money to Democrats over Republicans in battleground races at a ratio of 250-to-1. This far surpassed their 2012 ratio of political spending of 90-to-1. Brooklyn College’s Mitchell Langbert found that in 2017, faculty at elite liberal arts colleges (for example, Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore) have a similar 13-to-1 ratio of Democrats to Republicans as the leading universities. Remarkably, 39% of these liberal arts colleges did not have a single Republican professor.
The commanding heights of the business world — Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street — skew hard left. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Jeremy Barr, found that the top Hollywood people gave 99.7% of their donations to Democrats or Democrat-leaning political groups. Writing in FiveThirtyEight, Farai Chideya found in that in 2016, employees at tech companies gave 95% of their political donations to Hilary Clinton and 4% to Donald Trump, a 24-to-1 ratio. In 2018, Karl Evers-Hillstrom writing in OpenSecrets.org found that the securities and investment industry gave 62% of its contributions to Democrats. Not as far left as Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Wall Street still leans to the left.
Federal workers follow the same pattern. Writing in the Federal News Network, Mike Causey found that in the 2016 Presidential Election, federal workers gave 95% of their donations to Hillary Clinton. Department of Justice employees gave 99% of their donations to Clinton. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and State Department employees gave similarly.
For context, for Americans in 2020, Democrats and Republicans stand much closer to a 1-to-1 ratio (54% Democrat to 46% Republican for people registered with a major party). In the 2018 election spending, Democrats spent roughly 55% and Republicans 45% of the money. Again, much closer to a 1-to-1 ratio.
The odd thing is that elites often have terrible ideas. First, consider the elite’s unadulterated love of immigration. 61 million immigrants and their young children live in the US today (2016 figure). Immigrant households are far more likely to be on some sort of welfare (63% versus 35%) and more than twice as likely to be on Medicaid or get free food. Yet, the elites in both parties continue to try to flood the country with more low-skilled immigrants and to amnesty the 22 million illegal aliens currently here. This craziness has been accompanied by a movement toward open borders via attempted amnesties, laws that prevent the building of a wall, catch-and-release policies, a push to eliminate ICE, refusal to enforce crime and welfare requirements, and so on. Despite near universal support from elites on both the right and left, U.S. citizens neither wanted nor needed the importation of tens of millions of unskilled immigrants, many of whom snuck in illegally.
Second, consider the elites’ widespread support of foreign wars. Supported by the establishment on both sides of the political spectrum, in the last few decades the country has waged war — sometimes followed by nation building — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Serbia, Somalia, and Syria. Trillions of dollars later, the US still needs to prop up Afghanistan, Iran controls Iraq, Libya is a failed state, and our side lost in Syria. Judging from the last couple of presidential primaries, there is little evidence they, unlike Donald Trump, learned anything from the blood and treasure foolishly poured into the sand.
Third, consider the elites’ policies on race relations. Despite national self-flagellation accompanied by affirmative action, quotas, and a cancerous diversity-industrial complex, race relations are a mess. Judging by the looting, protests, rioting, and statue-toppling as well as the rise of hate-filled politicians such as the Squad (specifically, see Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib), things are moving in the wrong direction. Racial grievances have now given rise to a jump-the-shark movement to eliminate the police. Yet companies — including Apple, Amazon, and Walmart — have committed to dumping $450 million into social and racial justice groups (for example, Black Lives Matter) that sew racial division. This is well-illustrated by the kneeling, BLM messages, and related nonsense in professional sports. The elites not only fund racial division, but spend their time reading inane books on how to eliminate their own racism and counter white privilege.
Fourth, consider the elites’ acceptance of government debt. The federal debt continues to increase at an alarming rate. The debt is roughly 30% larger than the economy (crudely, $27 trillion versus $21 trillion) and will likely go up another trillion before the year ends. There is barely a peep about this unfolding mess in either political races or the establishment media. Politicians fight over whether to spend an additional $1 trillion or $3 trillion on COVID-subsidies without bothering to mention that the country is broke.
Elites have other terrible ideas. Consider, for example, Big Tech censorship, cancel culture, and the continued subsidization of housing — and student-loan bubbles.
One of the reasons elites support these things is ideology. Academia has done its work. A second reason is that the elites have little skin in the game. Their wealth largely insulates them from the effects of these disastrous policies. It also prevents them from having to revisit their ideas when reality crashes into them. A third reason is the way in which the business and political worlds are structured to reward career bureaucrats, judicial scoundrels, and lifetime politicians. Terrible ideas often pay handsomely in money and prestige.
The one thing that can be done is to recognize that the elites have a hard-left worldview that includes some terrible ideas. Forewarned is forearmed.
Stephen Kershnar is a State University of New York at Fredonia philosophy professor. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org