Tom Frank on the elitists on the left:

…certain kinds of Left politics are indeed activities reserved for members of the educated upper-middle-class, for people who regard politics more as a personal therapeutic exercise than an effort to build a movement. For them, the Left is a form of mildly soothing spirituality, a way of getting in touch with the deep authenticity of the downtrodden and of showing you care. Buttons and stickers desperately announce the liberal’s goodness to the world, as do his or her choice in consumer products. Leftist magazines treat protesting as a glamour activity, running photos of last month’s demo the way society magazines print pictures from the charity ball. There is even a brand of cologne called Activist.

Then there is that species of leftist who believes that being on the Left is an inherited honour, a nobility of the blood. There is little point in trying to convert others to the cause, they will tell you, especially in benighted places like the deep midwest: you’re either born to it or you aren’t. This species of leftist will boast about the historical deeds of red-diaper babies or the excellent radical pedigree of so-and-so, son of such-and-such, utterly deaf to the repugnant similarities between what they are celebrating and simple aristocracy.

Leftists of these tendencies aren’t really interested in the catastrophic decline of the American left as a social force, in the drying up and blowing away of leftist social movements. If anything, this decline makes sense to them: the Left is people in sympathy with the downtrodden, not the downtrodden themselves. It is a charity operation.

For them, having fewer people on the Left isn’t a problem that might one day affect their material well-being, cost them their healthcare or their power in the workplace. Those things aren’t on the line for this species of liberal. Quite the contrary: having fewer people on the left makes the left more alluring to them. Superficial nonconformity is what the creative white-collar class values above all else, and the lonelier you are in political righteousness, the more nonconformist, the more rebellious you are. Standing up against the flag-waving masses is the goal for this variety of liberal. Being on the Left is not about building common cause with others: it’s about correcting others, about pointing out their shortcomings.


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