Populists and Elites

This past weekend gave Americans two studies in contrasts, between President Trump and Democratic hopeful Michael Bloomberg.  Contrasting these two men and their attitudes highlights the wide divide between populists and elites.

On the one hand, President Trump made a grand entrance to the Daytona 500, where he served as the iconic race’s grand marshal.  NASCAR is a hugely popular sport among President Trump’s core supporters, so that move was good politics.  But it was also an acknowledgment of the humanity of his supporters, and an endorsement of a key event in their lives.

I’ve never understood the appeal of NASCAR personally (other than the crashes… and then you realize that a real person is inside that hunk of steel, and the thrill quickly vanishes).  But that doesn’t matter.  Millions of Americans love the sport, and my inability or unwillingness to understand or appreciate it doesn’t detract from their enjoyment.  Nor does it mean they’re wrong to enjoy the sport.

That’s the trap most elitists fall into—“if I don’t like something, then it’s the height of philistinism!”  I confess I get this way about rap music, but I can at least articulate an objective case against rap (it lacks melody, its subject matter is often foul and dehumanizing, it is often unsophisticated in its musical structure, etc.).  Nor do I seek to destroy it, even if I believe—sincerely—that it is detrimental to the health of our society.

There’s also a haughty arrogance to most elitists:  they presume that they what they like is nuanced and complex, whereas everything else is simplistic rubbish for rubes.

Such was the case of former New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who ostentatiously proclaimed that farming is a job any moron could do, while information technology work is difficult and requires more “gray matter.”  Here is the quotation from the linked Fox News article:

“You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that,” Bloomberg said during a 2016 appearance at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. “At one point, 98 percent of the world worked in agriculture, now it’s 2 percent in the United States,” he continued.

Ask any gardener how easy it is to grow even the simplest of plants.  How many of us have killed a potted plant due to lack of watering, or overwatering?

Now, apply that to hundreds of acres of crops, many of which are complex, genetically-engineered supercrops that depend on a deep understanding of agronomy, horticulture, biology, and chemistry.  There’s a reason people go to school for four years to become farmers.

And farming is hard work.  That’s nothing against all the code monkeys out there slaving over a hot C++ compressor (that reference probably dates me, and illustrates my ignorance of coding).  But both professions require focus, attention to detail, and a degree of erudition.

If anything, coding is probably easier.  Lest I indulge in the same arrogance as Bloomberg, just consider how we’re importing Third Worlders (mostly from India) to write code for us (undercutting the ability of native-born Americans to make a good salary in tech).  Indians are bright, hardworking people, but their ability to code well is more the result of relentless focus and intense family and social pressures.  Anyone willing to apply the effort could figure it out.

And it’s not slaving away in a field, sweating every weather forecast, wondering if it will rain too much this winter, or if the late frost does or does not come.  Will a hurricane hit and wipe out an entire crop?  Will hail destroy my barn?  The code monkey’s biggest worry is when his next shipment of Mountain Dew Code Red is coming in, and if he’ll have it in time to help him meet his next deadline.

Regardless, President Trump is the model of respect for Middle America:  he respects the people that work hard, and he respects their interests and traditions.  Michael Bloomberg is an out-of-touch elitist who disdains everyone who doesn’t have enough money to buy the Democratic nomination.

When NeverTrumpers ring their hands over “decorum” and “character,” they should understand that President Trump has shown his character through his actions:  he cares about his voters, and about Americans generally.  Michael Bloomberg only cares about Michael Bloomberg.

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