Our New Antoinettes 

Marie Antoinette, the beheaded wife of the beheaded French Bourbon King Charles Louis XVI, did not really say “Let them eat cake.” 

But in the short time that the French Revolution became utterly unhinged, toxic, and nihilistic, she became nonetheless iconic as an out-of-touch elite who had lived in a make-believe world at Versailles, without a clue (or care?) about the ordeal of the masses. 

Rather than worry about the drudgery of the French peasant, Marie dressed up as one. And she roamed about in her idyllic faux peasant “farm” at the Hameau de la Reine, near the palace at Versailles. 

Apparently, during these brief rustic interludes, Marie felt that the more she might act out a sort of aristocratic peasant life, the more she could find simplicity and escape the drama of court life, but without the real-life, crushing poverty of the poor. 

The modern left-wing elite are becoming our version of Antoinettes. Thirty-eight-year-old Mark Zuckerberg is worth over $60 billion. But he enjoys T-shirts, jeans, and apparent simplicity in his many landed estates. He is so worried about the wrong voting tendencies of the clueless middle classes that he poured nearly $420 million of dark money from his vast fortune into the 2020 election—de facto absorbing the work of key precinct registrars—to ensure the “right” result for the unthinking multitudes. 

Americans, almost uniquely among modern nations, mostly do not envy, much less despise the rich. But there is a certain sort of privilege that they do not like: the sanctimonious and hypercritical rich whose rhetoric is at odds with their own lifestyles and the methods by which they inherited or made vast sums. And they especially are turned off by those who exude open disdain for the clinger/deplorable/dregs class—to paraphrase the Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden nomenclature. 

An especially grating habit of the left-wing wealthy is to lecture the middle class on their supposed illiberality. Often, those struggling are told they need to pay more for what White House economic advisor Brian Deese recently called the “liberal world order.” 

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or George Soros, to take a few examples, are multibillionaires who live lives unlike any in the history of civilization. They also fund various agendas through multibillion-dollar foundations and their own personal riches. 

Their causes are all deemed critical to the nation and planet, but unfortunately not fully appreciated as so vital by the peasant classes—whether they be global governance, massive restructuring of the economy to stop carbon releases, radical abortion on demand, or the sponsoring of critical legal theory prosecutors who feel crime is but a rich man’s construct. 

Indeed, when various pollsters recently asked the public what their chief worries were, they found the culprits were the prohibitive price of gasoline, the ruinous effects of hyperinflation, supply chain shortages, the nonexistent southern border, or the escalating violent crime wave—all of which concerns are of apparent little interest to left-wing billionaires. 

In other words, the worries of the Antoinette liberal elite—climate change, abortion on demand, transgenderism, strict gun-control—are not those that terrify the middle and lower classes. The latter, for some reason, first want to survive one more day with enough affordable food and energy and to be safe from criminals. 

Why Democrats are currently unpopular transcends even Joe Biden’s daily, dangerous, and tragic loss of cognition. Their low ratings arise more from the implementation of an array of disastrous policies dreamed up at left-wing university departments and think tanks. 

As a result, voters have concluded that the Left “just doesn’t care.” 

By that, they conclude that the drivers of modern hard progressivism—the billionaire donor class, the highly compensated professional bicoastal elites, the ideologues who have captured and transformed the old Democratic Party—ignore criticism of their policies. Or they claim that their disasters are unappreciated benefits, or mere PR problems, or shift blame to the Russians, the Emmanuel-Goldstein Trump, the toadish media, or the victims of their disastrous policies. 

The border is overrun by illegal aliens. Lethal drugs, cartels, gangs, and child traffickers enter at will without consequences. American towns and cities are being swamped by hundreds of thousands of unlawful border crossers. In response to public outcries, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas either ignores the anguished or falsely claims that the border is “secure.” Translated that means Americans either are racists or should get over the fossilized idea of a border itself.  

Gasoline is at all-time highs. Joe Biden tells the public “Putin did it”—although prices soared well before the Ukraine War. Translated, that means the spiral to nearly $5 a gallon in California by February 2022—before Putin invaded Ukraine—was “cheap” compared to the current $6.70 a gallon. 

Alex Wong/Getty Images

When Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was asked whether she might take measures to ease the fuel burden on American commuters, she laughed and thought it “hilarious” that she either could or would consider such action. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) scoffed that clueless gas-guzzling motorists should buy a Tesla (base price for a low-end Model 3: $46,990) like she drives and so skip the greedy service stations. 

Biden will not reconsider pipelines, new federal leases, or his green demonization of fracking. But he will drain the strategic petroleum reserve on four apparent Orwellian principles:

  • Oil pumped into an underground vault and then pumped back out does not exude the stigma of pristine oil pumped first out of the ground.
  • Motorists would be encouraged by cheaper prices to drive more and thus consume more of the dirty fuel that Biden wishes to restrict.
  • The oil pumped out of the reserve to cushion Americans in times of national emergencies can be sent into the global market and thus end up in the hands of our de facto enemies, the communist Chinese.
  • Biden looks to the reserve, the Russians, the Saudis, the Venezuelans, and the Iranians to pump more of the awful fuel that America has in abundance, needs desperately—and should not dare extract.

Commercial air travel is in near shambles. Shortages of everything from baby formula to tampons are making America seem akin to the old Soviet Union. For Biden’s cabinet, this disaster is called “transitioning” to a better green future.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg presumably oversees our nearly ruined commercial air travel system, ports where cargo ships are backed up to the horizon, and gas and diesel prices that are impoverishing the middle classes. In response, when he is not on paternity leave, Buttigieg brags that he rides a bike, and lectures Americans on the racist origins of their once modern but now ossified freeway system.

Why does the party of caring and good ole Joe Biden from Scranton seem so indifferent? Why is the Left so callous to the consequences of Biden’s self-created high inflationary, unaffordable gas-and-food presidency and what it has done to the middle class? 

The answer is not just that the Democratic leadership or the progressive elite are smugly “rich.” Rather, the problem is that they are “Antoinette rich.” 

That is, they have lost any empathy for those who endure firsthand the consequences of the elites’ ideological rigidity. So, this is not the Democratic Party of Harry Truman or even of Bill Clinton. 

Hunter Biden, without any apparent income, is renting a $20,000 a month Malibu mansion, necessitating that the Secret Service rent a nearby $30,000 a month mansion to watch over this 50-something trainwreck of an adult. The elite know that Hunter’s prior income came from quid pro quo shakedowns of foreign governments, that he failed to pay taxes in a manner that would earn any other American a jail sentence, and that he is exempt from investigation. 

Americans are not supposed to even mention the truth: the president’s son was enriched, deeply leveraged by the Chinese, and so, too, by association was the president himself. And such “collusion” may explain the Biden Administration’s inexplicable tolerance for Chinese aggression. 

Multimillionaire Governor Gavin Newsom lectured Californians on why they must wear masks and avoid social gatherings even as he declined to do so while enjoying a birthday party at the pricey French Laundry restaurant in Napa. He was captured on camera, maskless again, and in the company of the celebrity Magic Johnson while the state mask mandate remained in place. 

Now Newsom preens that California won’t pay for its state employees to travel to supposedly backward, homophobic Montana for business trips. But Newsom has no problem dragging his costly state security detail to his in-laws’ tony Montana ranch. 

From time to time, Michelle and Barack Obama pontificate to Americans about their racist, sexist, and homophobic pathologies—but always from their Washington, D.C. Kalorama digs or their Martha’s Vineyard chateau, or now from their new, third mansion on Oahu. 

How strange that the more millions of dollars the Obamas earn, the more castles they acquire, so all the louder they hector the struggling middle classes. Most apparently illiberal Americans can hardly afford to fill their 250-gallon propane tank; the Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate tanks require 2,500-gallons of dreadful carbon polluting fuel. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi castigates the illiberality of the deplorable classes. During the lockdowns that she championed, however, she got caught maskless violating quarantines—to get her hair done. 

Pelosi also released a clueless Antoinette video of herself boasting about her just delivered $13 a pint ice-cream, stocked up in her twin $23,000 sub-zero refrigerators in her Napa estate. Her multimillionaire husband, Paul, recently wrecked his new Porsche (a carbon guzzler) while driving under the influence. 

Americans are reaching the point where they either cannot afford vacations at all or are terrified of flying only to be left stranded in the now inert airport archipelago. No matter. The woke Pelosis this week are guests of superstar Andrea Bocelli at his Tuscan beach estate. 

No one begrudges the elite Left their riches or their frolics. But they do resent the talk-down and accusatory sermons that come with them and the hypocrisy that fuels them. 

This list of Democratic “men and women of the people” who are detached from the people could be endlessly expanded but the size of it explains why they seem tone deaf to the struggles of others they never wish to see or hear. Their exalted status reflects the new globalized wealth of the United States that is found most often in high-tech, media, entertainment, professional sports, finance, investment, law, universities, and insurance—and is mostly left-wing. 

The new zillions are quite unlike the old, fossilized money in timber, mining, agriculture, oil, construction, and manufacturing that was grounded in grubbier realities and without the high-altitude sermonizing. Whether one calculates elite blue money by ZIP code, congressional district, or counties, the result is the same: the Democratic Party is run by billionaires and is the sanctimonious party of highly compensated bicoastal professionals. 

Both have agendas that transcend the middle class and reflect the reality that they care little for those who cannot match their wealth and tastes. The “crazies” and “clingers” lack the elite’s supposed empathy, superior talent, and wisdom. More bothersome, our left-wing elite has the means to ensure that it is never subject to the disasters that naturally follow from its own ideological bankruptcy. 

In other words, the left-wing has a problem. These humanitarian rich feel just terrible about the sins of America, but not terrible enough to sacrifice any element of their privileged lifestyles—the just deserts they feel for being so righteous. To square that circle, of indulgence for their rich selves, and sacrifice for poorer others, they hector and preach—and thereby find medieval penance and indulgence that excuses their own spectacular levels of illiberal consumption. 

To the bread-poor masses, the irredeemables, the chumps, and the “right-wing Latinas” they don’t quite say: “Let them eat cake.”

Instead, as they jet about on private planes, free of their own bothersome quarantines, edicts, and masks, while acquiring additional, carbon-gulping, seashore estates, they let their guard down with cries of, “Let them drive Teslas,” “Wear a mask!” and “Transition to a greener future!”

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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.

Photo: Nancy Pelosi at a window overlooking the Piazza del Campo on July 2, 2022 in Siena, Tuscany. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI via Getty Images)

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