Not elite enough.
The liberal elite may be good at being some definition of liberal but it’s utterly useless at being an elite.
It’s just lost two contests it was supposed to have walked, the Brexit vote and the US election, and is sure to suffer more defeats all over Europe – who would now be surprised by a President Marine Le Pen? It sounds a lot more plausible than a President Donald Trump would have sounded a short time ago.
But our new class of election-winners can’t drop the phrase ‘liberal elite’ because it’s a useful tool for dismissing another elite; the powerful right-wing media, from Fox News to the the Daily Telegraph; well-funded think tanks like Mrs Thatcher’s favourite, the Adam Smith Institute; donors with bottomless pockets like the Kotch brothers or landed interests posing as country folk, like the Countryside Alliance.
Yet somehow, the right has managed to invoke a David-and-Goliath contest in which the liberal elite are the big, bad guys - privileged and powerful and blind to the needs of ordinary folk (like the multi-millionaire’s child, Donald Trump) who need protection from rapacious trade unions, welfare abusers and, because the war is cultural as much as economic, vegetarians, Bruce Springsteen and gays.
I blame this on the liberal elite. They should have panicked when their world (which it was, then) fell apart in the crash of 2008. They should have thought it possible that loading the cost of the crash onto the people who could least afford it might be storing up trouble; they should have thought that Gordon Brown calling Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman ’ or Hillary Clinton calling near-half the population of the USA ‘deplorables’ was more than electorally foolish – it made the accusation that there was a leftish elite who didn’t like uppity working class people sound plausible and possibly, although I aspire to the liberal elite myself, true.
Over the election period, I heard, watched and read the views of scores of Trump supporters and generally they were saner and more balanced than Trump himself. They thought that their great country (which is what the United States is, even though some English sophisticates are sniffy about it) was falling apart, largely because unrestricted international trade had created low wages, unemployment and a string of local catastrophes, such as Detroit.
So Trump supporters won enough declining industrial states (as opposed to redneck states, which give liberals nightmares) to capture the presidency. This, like the Brexit vote, shouldn’t have happened. It doesn’t compute.
The liberal elitists, while they lick their wounds, should be thinking of where to go next. If Trumpism, which may turn out to be, alongside all the lies and hysterics, an interesting experiment in right-wing Keynesianism, fails, maybe they should think about trying out some sort of revised and unashamed socialism.
The key phrase in Donald Trump’s campaign was one which has been cherished by the Daily Mail for at least the last 20 years – ‘political correctness’. This is the cudgel which has been used to beat supposedly ordinary, decent people out of expressing themselves through words and phrases such as ‘gollywog’, ‘homo’ or ‘women’s rights.’
And I now realise that I have been complicit in this. I like eating meat, especially rare steak, but I’ve accepted the governing, university-educated liberal elite view that vegetarianism is somehow better than steak-eating, just as obscure continental films are better than Hollywood blockbusters and hand-knitted socks are better than Primark.
So I found it unsettling when, a few years ago, there appeared on the scene a wave of macho meat restaurants with names like Cattle Grid, Gaucho or Red’s True Barbecue.
This, I should have realised, would set the scene for President Trump; the soft, liberal view of meat – as something to be eaten in moderation without offending non-carnivores – was replaced with an unabashed lust for blood and an insensitivity to those who found slaughter distasteful. The jackals, and Mr Trump, have won.