In the nearest thing we have to a medieval royal progress, Hillary Clinton recently went to have her hair cut at John Barrett’s salon at Bergdorf Goodman’s and was accompanied by an entourage of aides. Leave others to fret about the price of a Barrett bob ($600, if you must know), I was troubled by something else in the scene: Mrs. Clinton was cordoned off and preserved from rubbing elbows with other, regular shoppers. (To the extent that there are “regular” shoppers at Bergdorf’s.)
As a source told “Page Six,” the New York Post gossip column: “Staff closed off one side of Bergdorf’s so Hillary could come in privately to get her hair done. An elevator bank was shut down so she could ride up alone, and then she was styled in a private area of the salon. Other customers didn’t get a glimpse.”
Here’s the thing: If other customers didn’t get a glimpse of Mrs. Clinton, she didn’t get a glimpse of them either. Like many American political leaders, she lives in a world far removed from the rest of the populace. Mrs. Clinton, however, should not be singled out for this aloofness from the run of mankind. When was the last time you spotted a prominent politician boarding a commercial flight? Is their business is so much more pressing than ours that only a donor’s jet will get them there rested and on time?
I am not offended by income inequality (if you have more money than me, I’m okay with that). But I am offended that our political class doesn’t seem to want to associate with us. Ordinary citizens may be trundled in to stand up and take a bow at a State of the Union address. But otherwise you wouldn’t want to chat up one in the beauty salon, would you?
Charles Murray has written that increasingly the rich and the poor are isolated from one another in the United States. It was not always thus. “The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people,” Alexis de Tocqueville observed of us in the 1830s. “On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes. They listen to them, they speak to them every day.” Sadly, this is no longer the case.
And our political caste are the worst offenders.
Think about it: For a trip to the salon, Mrs. Clinton requires a retinue of courtiers (officially called “aides” in Washington, D.C., and you’d be surprised at how many relatively mid-level officials in our nation’s capital have scads of aides). Situations during which ordinary observations and thoughts—or mere common courtesies—might be exchanged have been minimized. Some of this is of course born from security concerns. But not all of it, and it breeds contempt that trickles down from the very top to the entirety of government.
In one of the emails Congress was able to obtain, IRS official Lois Lerner, on vacation in England, complained to a friend to that an “Edwardian English village” with big houses had been “ruined by letting (!) the hoi paloi [sic] live there!”
If I were on Hillary Clinton’s team, I’d find the closest thing to a real-life Truvy’s salon from Steel Magnolias and send her there. She’d sit with other women with her hair in tinfoil and learn about the lives of the people she seeks to lead. Beauty salons are great levelers.
She could try Hair Tenders, a similar, real-life establishment in my hometown, where women from all walks of life gossip, bake cakes for each other, and when somebody is sick, rally ’round. They learn the lessons of life that one misses when surrounded by a retinue.
Americans care about more about a politician’s ability to talk and listen to them than about how our leaders are coiffed or suited up for the job. It is an outrageous comment on the authenticity of our politicians that the one who is the most real in the estimation of many voters is an escapee from a reality TV show.
Hillary, it doesn’t take a retinue. C’mon, we’re not so bad.
Charlotte Hays is the director of cultural programs at Independent Women's Forum