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Kavanaugh And American Elites

The Kavanaugh debacle has revealed ugly truths about race, class, and privilege
Kavanaugh And American Elites

Reader Annie comments:

My father-in-law went to one of the top Ivy schools back in the 70s. He was a poor kid from rural Appalachia. Back then there were quite a few of those guys, and they bonded together against the elitism of the prep kids (who didn’t know how to do actually do or make anything, according to my FIL). When they got out, they headed back to their home city and have great records of public service and dedication. No big flashy careers; just the quiet pillars who do the small but life-saving tasks of getting one new public park opened, overturning one rotten law, etc.

Last year my FIL quit his volunteer service for the Ivy. For 10 years he’d driven around his state, interviewing kids. It got to be too sickening. The rich kids have few genuine interests, and the opportunities given to them by their parents have padded their resume to the point of absurdity. Every few interviews he meets a kid in some rusted coal town, working double shifts at the Dairy Queen and hitting the books all night. They don’t have a chance. After averaging several dozen of these a year, eating up his weekends, seeing that all the recent graduates have no interest in “giving back” by going out to do interviews themselves because they can’t conceive of actually giving back (alum activities are about happy hour or writing checks, not going out to the sticks to see if some hick as a chance), and realizing there was no way a kid like him would ever have gotten in there today, he quit.

The doors may seem more “open” than ever, but they’ve actually swung shut. The schools aren’t about education. They’re about branding and credentialing. We’re still falling for the old rhetoric about ideas and learning in the 21st century, but who is less interested in ideas than our Beltway Mandarins? It’s especially rich, though, because I spent a lot of time at my FIL’s Ivy, and have floated on the fringe of the Beltway Mandarins circle for too many years. They’re all a mess. The reporters, the pundits, the lawyers, the wanna-be’s; the projection they’re engaged in with Kavanaugh is really rich, and that probably accounts for much of the viciousness. They’ve got to make the most of the difference between him and themselves: they’re enlightened. They don’t need to check out how those programs they advocate for work in real life; they don’t need to move zip codes to show solidarity with the children of poor people; they’ve got the right ideas and the right trademark on the diploma. That’s all that matters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: social conservatives’ best bet is fighting credentialing. Don’t allow higher education to be the gatekeeper to culture or prosperity. Don’t fall for the brand.

I know Annie personally. She’s legit — she really did spend time living among these people in Washington. She tells some eye-opening stories about the lives of the DC professional class.

David French has good piece about Brett Kavanaugh’s real sin: class treason. Excerpts:

The social battles of the elite college represent the squabbling of men and women at the tip of the privilege spear in the most powerful nation in the history of the planet.

But as real as these petty resentments were and are, they pale in comparison to the most important thing. They miss the real roots of Ivy rage. Brett Kavanaugh’s true sin isn’t his connections, his popularity, or his prep school. His true sin is that he’s a conservative. And now he’s a particular kind of conservative — a conservative who matters, a conservative who will have the power (and might actually have the convictions) to threaten one or more of the most sacred elements of progressive jurisprudence. He can potentially affect the law and the culture in a profound way.

So what we’re watching is the systematic revocation of his elite privilege. We’re watching the Ivy Borg — and its associated media infrastructure — turn on a man who was never truly part of the collective. The real resentments Ross outlines in his piece act as penalty enhancers, but the true crime remains. The rage would exist even if Kavanaugh had been born in a double-wide and was the first of his family to attend college.

French says that if you’re a conservative, that elite may tolerate you for a while — Kavanaugh taught law classes at Yale — but if you start to threaten them, you’re out:

Really, you risk worse than expulsion. You risk destruction. Your classmates are far more connected and far more powerful than the average collection of roommates and drinking buddies. They can move even the most thinly sourced allegations from an email listserv to the front pages of the newspapers with astonishing speed. They don’t have to try to track down elite reporters. They’re friends with them. They’re a friend of a friend away from the highest offices in the land.

Yes, you can sometimes coast for years on the privileges, relationships, and opportunities you’ve gained through your connections or your education. Heck, you can get hired by Elena Kagan to teach at Harvard Law School, but there is always a line, and that line is not defined by your character.

If you’re a progressive and want to understand the power of Brett Kavanaugh’s opening statement in his testimony last week, think of it as the moment that Kavanaugh got “woke.” He saw and condemned the malice behind the process and the malice behind at least some of the allegations against him. There is immense value in confronting that malice — even more as a husband and father fighting for his good name and his family’s well-being than as a judge fighting to become a justice.

I think that last paragraph is exactly right. Many of those people who say Kavanaugh shouldn’t have shown his anger are people who have never known what it was like to be a conservative inside a liberal-dominated institution or profession, and to know that you are always on probation. That there are people who hate you and don’t want you there, and who are on the lookout for evidence that justify their spite. If you’ve been in that position, you have to be careful not to give them anything that they can use against you, but also work hard to keep a chip from forming on your shoulder. It’s a hard thing to accomplish, because you can never quite be sure where you stand with people. Don’t trust anybody, and you turn into a resentful paranoiac. Trust too freely, and you won’t see the knife coming.

This morning a tradesman came by my house to do some repair work. Before he left, we talked a little bit about politics. Kavanaugh came up. He knew the names of senators on the Judiciary Committee, because he’s been following the controversy — and he’s angry about what’s been done to Kavanaugh. This man lives in a small town, and works hard, in hot, miserable conditions, and has no political or cultural power. But he believes — rather, he knows — that to the liberal elites who are trying to destroy Kavanaugh, he is nothing but the bearer of unearned privilege, and a menace to society, because he is white, and because he is male. Trump speaks for him, he said.

I told him I’m not a fan of Trump, but the Kavanaugh thing has shaken me up. It has shown me the lengths to which the liberal establishments — political, academic, legal, media — will go to destroy a man perceived as a threat to them. If Kavanaugh really did assault Ford, then we should confront that fact, and it should factor into the Senate’s decision on him. I do not believe, though, that the evidence is sufficient to conclude that Kavanaugh is guilty. And yet, the Democrats, and the media (but I repeat myself), are throwing all kinds of garbage at him. Have you seen any reporting, outside of the conservative media, about the sworn statement Christine Blasey Ford’s former boyfriend gave, about how he observed her teaching someone how to fool a polygraph test, and how in their years-long relationship (they lived together), she never once mentioned her supposed trauma from sexual assault, or mentioned Brett Kavanaugh? Of course you haven’t.

Plus, the far left are physically harassing Republican members of Congress — this, a year after one leftist opened fire on a group of House members, severely injuring Rep. Steve Scalise. We are at the point now in which unless the FBI turns up something clearly damning about Kavanaugh, I believe he should be confirmed because we cannot have a country in which someone can bring up unsubstantiated allegations against a nominee at the last minute, and amid a flurry of activism, slander, and intimidation, succeed in destroying his nomination.

NPR reports today that the Kavanaugh nomination battle has caused the Democratic edge in polling evaporate. Excerpt:

With Democrats already up fired up for this election, the Kavanaugh confirmation fight has apparently had the effect of rousing a dormant GOP base.

“The result of hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base was awakened,” noted Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.

That’s true of me, a conservative who is a registered independent. You all know how I feel about Trump, and how little I care for the GOP. But the liberal establishment’s treatment of Kavanaugh has clarified some important things — first among them, what the Democrats would do in the Senate if they regained power. The Kavanaugh hearings made me fear Congressional Democrats and the media more than I loathe Trump and the Congressional Republicans. I sure as hell didn’t expect to be in this position.

Finally, Emma Green reports on Republican women who are standing with Kavanaugh. Excerpts:

Contrary to what some liberal pundits have claimed, however, the women I spoke with did not downplay the seriousness of sexual assault. “I never would want to disparage, in any way, Dr. Ford. Every woman deserves the opportunity to tell their story, to receive healing from what’s happened,” Smith says. She herself was sexually assaulted, she says, and her daughters passionately support Ford. Ultimately, though, she doesn’t believe the allegations are backed by evidence, and “I also am the mother of sons,” she says.

Laurie Lee, a Navy veteran who runs a political-consulting firm in Arkansas, has spent months working with the Susan B. Anthony List on its field operations in states with contested U.S. Senate elections, including Florida and Missouri. “Any kind of sexual abuse is intolerable,” she says. “I’ve been in male-dominated universes my entire adult life, and so I know that this happens.”

What she’s been hearing over the last couple of weeks, though, is that Democrats have “overplayed” these accusations. “It’s a disservice to women that have had horrific stories,” she says. She was open to believing Ford: “It doesn’t matter to me if it’s Bill Clinton or Brett Kavanaugh. We want to make sure that sexual predators are dealt with.” But like other women I interviewed, Lee believes the professor’s account is faulty, and that Democrats are using her for their own political ends. “This whole process, to me, comes across as something that has been crassly weaponized for political purposes,” says Kathleen Hunt, a political donor in Florida who spent 20 years in the CIA.


The women I interviewed, however, resented the notion that people’s accusations should be believed on the basis of their identity alone. “That makes me furious, because I think that’s taking advantage for the worst purposes of something that is real in our culture,” Hunt says. “Women are not a monolithic bloc. Most of us … [are] not going to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches… That said, there’s a large, large percentage of us who feel very, very strongly about the way this process has played out.”

Anecdotally, I’ve been hearing the same thing from white conservative women I talk to. Not one of them thinks sexual assault or harassment is no big thing. Every one of them, though, thinks Kavanaugh has been shafted here, and they worry about their own sons being falsely accused — and found guilty by institutions of elite culture (corporations, media, Title IX tribunals on campus, etc.) simply because they are white men. Like the repairman who came to my house today, they know what it means when Ivy League graduates go on TV and denounce “privilege.”

UPDATE: A reader:

A minor factual point, Rod, but you’ve misread the NPR article. It doesn’t say that the Democrats’ polling lead has evaporated – it is referring to the enthusiasm of the different parties for voting in the midterms, where the Democrats and the Republicans are now equal. It is still the case that the Democrats have a substantial polling lead, but turnout of their own base is now less likely to be as much in their favor as people thought.

No, I read it correctly, but I wrote sloppily. I appreciate the correction.



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