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July 29, 2014 3:44 PM No, Rich Coastal Liberals Aren’t Trying to “Exile” Poor Californians

By Ed Kilgore

One of the most revealing and powerfully supported movement-conservative memes going back to the Nixon years is that liberals are mostly upscale parasites who are actually hostile to poor and middle-class working people, and only use them to increase their own political and economic power. The idea is at the heart of right-wing “populist” thinking, and at the margins borrows from the ancient “producerist” wing of reactionary politics that seeks a coalition between different economic classes that allegedly share an interest in destroying the power of professional elites, bureaucrats and financiers, parasites every one.

National Review’s Kevin Williamson (a very self-confident writer famed for his widly counter-factual revisionist history of the civil rights movement) offers an aggressive version of this “New Class” hypothesis in an angry meditation on talk of conservatives adjusting their ideology to reach “downscale” voters:

[T]he fact is that, despite the po-faced rhetoric, progressives do not really care about the poor, the brown, the black, or the marginalized. Progressivism is very little more than the managerial class pursuing its own class interests under cover of altruism.
That, and not the state’s gentle native loopiness, is what is really behind “Six Californias,” the eccentric enthusiasm for subdividing California into six states: Having made a mess of the impoverished interior of the state, progressives seek to exile the poor and the unwashed to the new states of Central California (which gets Bakersfield and Stockton) and Jefferson (Chico, Redding), while Silicon Valley and the coastal stretch from Los Angeles up to San Luis Obispo get their own states — golden gated communities, in effect. Affluent progressives already have a great deal of social insulation — the Manhattan doorman serves the same purpose as the $5,000 rental in San Francisco — to keep them from interacting with the human effects of their policies. Journalists, senior bureaucrats, lawyers, union bosses — they all claim to know what’s best for the poor and the middle class, but they end up doing what’s best for themselves. And when the poor and the unglamorous grow sufficiently numerous and concentrated, then it’s time to build a Berlin wall between Malibu and Modesto.

Aside from indicating that Williamson has overdosed on the writing of his NR colleague Victor Davis Hanson, this rant shows a rather striking ignorance of the actual politics of the “six Californias” initiative. Its primary promoter, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper, has conceded his private polling shows the “golden-gated” Silicon Valley itself hates the idea, and that the only region actually supporting it is the Central Valley, which Williamson treats as its victim. A February 2014 Field Poll testing the older idea of letting several hyper-conservative rural counties secede from California to form their own state showed the wealthy liberal regions opposing it overwhelmingly.

In other words, Williamson’s got the whole thing entirely backwards.

Now perhaps he’s somehow confusing Michael Lind’s support for breaking up the big states (which I jocularly wrote about earlier today) with the entire point of view of “progressivism.” Or maybe the whole “New Class” analysis of the left is just as big a crock as it’s always been.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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