When Michelle Wolf launched into her incredibly cruel attacks on White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabe Sanders at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, she must have assumed she'd be playing to the room.
Not only was Wolf's performance so over the top that she turned off many of the liberal media types in the room but her shtick went over badly with the regular people watching the dinner on TV or reading about her remarks next day.
In a must-read column headlined "Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think You Are," Gerard Alexander, formerly of the American Enterprise Institute and now of an associate professor of political science at the University of Virginia, argues that the liberal elite is shooting itself in the foot with such vitriol.
In a nutshell, Alexander argues that the condescension and worse (much, much worse) by liberals towards regular Americans is creating a backlash against liberals that just might be a key factor if President Trump wins re-election in 2020.
People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.
Take the past few weeks. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, the comedian Michelle Wolf landed some punch lines that were funny and some that weren’t. But people reacted less to her talent and more to the liberal politics that she personified. For every viewer who loved her Trump bashing, there seemed to be at least one other put off by the one-sidedness of her routine. Then, when Kanye West publicly rethought his ideological commitments, prominent liberals criticized him for speaking on the topic at all. Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman from California, remarked that “sometimes Kanye West talks out of turn” and should “maybe not have so much to say.”
Liberals dominate the entertainment industry, many of the most influential news sources and America’s universities. This means that people with progressive leanings are everywhere in the public eye — and are also on the college campuses attended by many people’s children or grandkids. These platforms come with a lot of power to express values, confer credibility and celebrity and start national conversations that others really can’t ignore.
But this makes liberals feel more powerful than they are. Or, more accurately, this kind of power is double-edged. Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be. In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.
Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America.
One thing the left is always lecturing conservatives on is the need for civility.
And they are right–it'san essential civic virtue.
If Alexander is right, the left may pay a steep price for its own abandonment of the virtue about which they so love to lecture those they consider their social inferiors.