By Charles Lipson:
It’s important to remember that conventional wisdom is not always wise. It emerges, after all, from a cloistered echo chamber in New York City and Washington, D.C., and is constantly reinforced, not corrected, by the chattering class that promotes it. This insularity was perfectly captured by Pauline Kael’s puckish comment after Richard Nixon’s landslide reelection. The New Yorker’s famed film critic was an early observer of America’s growing culture gap. “I only know one person who voted for Nixon,” she said. “Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”
Today, elites smell them. That is what disgraced FBI man Peter Strzok actually said after a trip to Walmart, and he and his ilk recoil, naturally, from the plebian aroma. But theirs is the nose of a sommelier, not a hunting dog. It failed to sniff out the social movement that elected Donald Trump in 2016, and today it is missing the rage sweeping about half the country. The fury comes from folks who don’t subscribe to the New York Times, let alone the New Yorker, and who don’t habituate yoga studios while carrying NPR tote bags, either. These “deplorables,” to use one memorable description, watch pro football, know when deer season begins, and think they are being badly governed by an unelected caste whose education, expertise, and ideology have not improved the lives of ordinary Americans. They are convinced that corporate suits who are currently lecturing them about race relations have outsourced their jobs and used the profits to buy political influence, as well as grandiose mansions. They know in their gut that this elite class has only contempt for them.
They knew it when they looked at Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, and Beto O’Rourke (but not Bernie Sanders). They like Joe Biden a lot better, perhaps even enough to lift him over the finish line. Joe himself recognizes this appeal and trades on it, emphasizing his working-class roots in Scranton, Pa. When voters think of the tragedies he has suffered, they do more than sympathize. They recognize that pain like his is the great leveler of the human condition. It makes him one with all of us who suffer and still try to live on.
But their doubts about Biden are rising as they learn more about corruption scandals surrounding Joe’s son Hunter and brother, Jim. The conventional wisdom — on both right and left, among political strategists in both parties — is that voters care much more about the economy and COVID-19. That’s correct. They do, and the polls show it. But that doesn’t mean the scandals are irrelevant. They matter politically for several reasons, all of them bad for Joe Biden. They imply the following:
- Biden is just another grifting politician who got rich in office;
- Uncle Joe’s persona as average, lower-middle class guy is just a cover story;
- His self-enrichment makes him the “Washington Swamp” incarnate, no different from all the other politicians turned lobbyists; and
- The media is so crooked it won’t honestly tell the public about these problems, lest they vote the wrong way.