The Elites’ War on the Deplorables

Recently, Politico reporter Marc Caputo was angered at rude hecklers at a Trump rally who booed beleaguered CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.

So Caputo tweeted of them, “If you put everyone’s mouths together in this video, you’d get a full set of teeth.”

Politico had not employed such a crass journalist since before it fired Julia Ioffe for tweeting, “Either Trump is f—ing his daughter or he’s shirking nepotism laws. Which is worse?” (Ioffe was then snatched up by the Atlantic, which has an unpredictable policy either of excusing or not excusing the controversial expressions of its newly hired journalists.)

I suppose Caputo meant that Trump voters intrinsically lacked either the money to fix their teeth or the knowledge of the hygiene required to take care of them or the aesthetic sensitivity of how awful their mouths looked. Or Caputo was simply rehashing the stereotypes that he had seen on reality TV shows like “Duck Dynasty” and “The Deadliest Catch.”

Or none of the above: the journalist grandee was just stupid.

That last alternative seems most likely since Caputo then escalated and called them collectively “garbage people.” Or rather, in the manner of a cowardly age of social media, he tweeted that slur when safely at a distance. 

What did “garbage people” mean? That by birth or training such toothless, smelly people were subhuman, like refuse? And if Caputo had substituted any other racial minority for his slurs, would he still have his job according to the canons of progressive censure and Internet lynching? Could he have said something similarly degrading about the attendees of after an open borders or Black Lives Matter rally and still have his job?

Sarah Jeong’s Struggle
Last week, the New York Times named tech writer Sarah Jeong to its editorial board with apparent knowledge of her long history of racist tweets, as well as verbal attacks on police and males in general. Perhaps such gutter venom was proof of militant orthodoxy to be appreciated rather than medieval racism to be shunned. Her mostly empty résumé seems compensated by her identity and her politics—as the Times more or less confessed in its sad defense of her racist outbursts.

Jeong claimed that white people smelled like wet dogs. She had bragged that she hated them, and hoped that soon they would become childless and disappear. Her final solution of demographic extinction was, she said (in historically dense fashion), “my plan all along.”

One wonders whether she will canonize her collected tweets into something like “My Struggle,” replete with less abstract territorial theories how to reify her “plan” or add pseudo-scientific details explaining why and how whites, as she alleges, smell or have had no cultural or scientific achievements.

Lots of her other tweets about toxic white people and culturally repugnant white heterosexual males suggest that Jeong’s twitter corpus is not, as alleged, one of flippant jest, counterpunches to trolls, or accidental streaming.

Rather it is consistent with the profile of an embittered but otherwise mostly undistinguished social justice warrior who had fueled her bias at Harvard Law School and honed its expression in the no-consequences world of left-wing blogs.

Of course, once caught, Jeong predictably retreated to victim status: she was simply replying to hateful trolls. (One wonders whether her venom against police was likewise supposedly prompted by police attacks on her?)

The Times, which claims it has a practice of calling out hate speech, and blackballing any with Jeong-like skeletons, suddenly tsk-tsked its hiring by claiming that she was merely overzealous in her eliminationist response to Internet trolls. More likely, the Times liked her verve and smiled at the click-bait attention she earned. It’s a free country, after all, and the Times is perfectly free to hire all the progressive racists it wishes to enhance its brand.

Routine Demonization
In the text message trove of disgraced FBI operatives Lisa Page and Peter Strzok there was the same sort of barnyard contempt. Georgetown graduate Strzok claimed to Page that a local Virginia Walmart “smelled” of Trump voters—a progressive stereotype of white Neanderthals that is increasingly freely expressed.

In another government text, an unidentified FBI agent, assigned to the Hillary Clinton email investigation, had written of the Trump voters that they were “lazy POS that think we will magically grant them jobs for doing nothing.”

Again, demonizing the Trump voter as beyond cultural redemption is nothing new. During the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton infamously dismissed Trump supporters as “deplorables” who were “irredeemable” and were “not America.”

After her defeat, Clinton proved her early smears were no accident. Speaking in India, she again slurred Trump supporters as being racist, sexist, and xenophobic for their inability to appreciate her progressive godhead. All this from the 2008 candidate who earned the sobriquet of “Annie Oakley” from Barack Obama for quaffing boilermakers, shooting, and bowling while pandering to what Clinton had once endearingly called “hard-working Americans, white Americans.”

In some sense, the rebranded Clinton simply continued where Barack Obama had left off in his denunciations of the “bitter clingers” of Pennsylvania, who were prone to simplistic trust in their guns and religion and, out of insecurity, scapegoated others.

When Obama periodically wrote off Americans as “lazy” and ignorant of the world beyond them (this, from another Harvard law graduate who thought Hawaii was in Asia and Austrians spoke “Austrian”), he was, to use a progressive metaphor, dog whistling the themes of his clingers speech.

Easy Targets, No Consequences
Elites are confident that there is nothing either ethically wrong or career-endangering in smearing middle-class Trump supporters with such crude stereotypes.

When pundits on television go after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), they inevitably resort to attacking his Tulare roots, and his dairy-farm upbringing (“A former dairy farmer”; “way over his head”; “nothing in his résumé that would have qualified him for the post,” etc.) to claim that he is mismatched by Harvard-trained Adam Schiff. Again, how strange that egalitarians always revert to base snobbery and class stereotypes in lieu of an argument or an idea.

Arkansas native Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, is a frequent target of such venomous cultural disparagement.

She has become our new Sarah Palin, whom the elite used to ridicule routinely. Remember David Letterman’s stupid joke about her daughter (likely a reference to then-14-year old Willow) being raped by baseball star Alex Gonzales in a dugout—the subtext being that white trash like the Palins love to have underage gratuitous sex wherever they can find it. (Projection alert: Letterman was later blackmailed into admitting to turning his studio office into a sort of sex den where he routinely before and after his show seduced female staffers).

At the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, comedian Michelle Wolf trashed Sanders’ appearance and her pedigree. Actor Peter Fonda later called her a misogynistic obscenity, and said she should be deported to Arkansas.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni once mocked her accent. Listening to her, he said, was akin “to hearing the air seep out a flat tire.” And Los Angeles Times writer David Horsey mocked Sanders as a “slightly chunky soccer mom” who was out of place with “fake eyelashes” and “formal dresses.”

Equally bizarre is another trope that Trump voters should be deported and illegal aliens welcomed in their place. After the 2016 election, conservative NeverTrump pundits variously expressed their contempt for Trump supporters as a sort of class of expendables, or at least as inferior to immigrants.

David Brooks, for example, claimed that white working communities were often xenophobic given their own realization of inferiority. “You’d react negatively, too, if confronted with people who are better versions of what you wish you were yourself,” he wrote.

If I had noted the same contempt for the Norteños gang member living across the road who this month shot at another neighbor’s house, broke the windows of my nephew’s home, was arrested, released, and rearrested in one night, and periodically used drugs in my orchard—that he acts so antisocially because he and associates are “confronted with better versions of what he wished he was himself”—I would face a career-ending charge of racism from the electronic mob.

Sometimes state rather than national deportation is dreamed of as a less drastic cure for the deplorables. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said that his state’s white population did not have enough “B+” citizens and therefore needed to find them from Somalia. “Our economy cannot expand based on white, B+, Minnesota-born citizens. We don’t have enough.” One wonders why the bigot Dayton considered himself and unknown Somali immigrants en masse to be B+ and above, but most of his fellow Minnesotans otherwise sub-B+. What were the racial criteria by which he judged whole classes of people?

The Shield of Progressive Victimhood
These examples of contempt from politicians and media for what might be called the Trump voter, the white working classes, or red-state America, could be repeated ad nauseam. The stereotypes, however, raise a number of ironies and paradoxes.

Liberal orthodoxy has always professed to oppose stereotyping people by their outward appearance.

Or has it? I might argue that progressivism used to remind us that our character, not our color mattered. But then I cannot, because it never did—given that progressivism at its birth emerged as a bastard mix of Darwinism-fueled eugenics and Germanic inspired pseudo-science.

Academic dogma postulates that white people cannot be the victims of racism, and such banal white demonization has now seeped into the larger liberal commentariat. With that bias comes the notion that one can smear the white working classes with impunity. Caputo, however, was not brave or stupid enough to visit a Trump rally and to suggest to the crowd around him to get to a Clear Smile clinic.

If you are a non-white purveyor of such prejudice, venom like Jeong’s is contextualized through the lens of compensatory historical grievances. Someone’s grandfather mistreated your grandmother, so you can invert and then replay the roles with impunity. Or less charitably, life’s disappointments are always due to past cosmic injustice, not one’s own perceived tragic shortcomings or bad luck or just cruel fate.

If you are an elite white liberal, you are a twofer: virtue signaling your identity politics bona fides, while psychologically squaring the circle of your own privilege. Those who ridicule less fortunate white others for their supposed racial privilege—themselves often the products of old boy networks, elite upbringings, inherited perks, prep schools and parental leveraging—end up as the privileged smearing the non-privileged for their privilege.

Jeong is a Harvard Law graduate. Strzok has a master’s degree from Georgetown. The ridicule of the white working class by NeverTrump conservative pundits is read on the pages of the nation’s premier newspapers or voiced in hallowed symposia.

Is such ignorance of an entire class because of, or in spite of such, elite training?

Does the university-bred cursus honorarium have room for real-world experience beyond the campus and laptop?

Has Jeong ever worked welding alongside the grandchildren of Dust Bowl diaspora to adjudicate their actual skin-colored advantage? Did her class and gender studies work at Harvard Law constitute a tougher curriculum than a 12-hour shift at Denny’s? Is the soybean jack-of-all-trades farmer really denser than the Yale English major?

A final irony. In answer to the now hackneyed question, who or what created Trump? All these purveyors of class and racial prejudice need only look in the mirror.

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Photo credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.