In 2008, when a Progressive friend expressed absolute horror that Sarah Palin was on the Republican ticket, I asked him to tell me why she was less qualified than Obama. After all, unlike Obama, Palin had experience governing. With his back against the wall, my friend uttered the worst indictment he could think of, and it had nothing to do with Palin’s abilities: “She’s not one of us.”
As someone who is by birth and upbringing “one of us,” I know exactly what he meant. The “us” people have all attended prestigious schools, whether public or private or large or small.
The “us” people always laugh at the cartoons in The New Yorker, and they often read the articles.
For news, the “us” people all go to the New York Times, where they read the front page and the style section. They feel smug about the fact that they’re entirely comfortable with the LGBTQI marriages now announced on the wedding page. In the car (and they all wish they could have a Tesla), they listen to NPR. In the evening, during or after dinner, they watch NBCCBSABCPBSCNN, but not Fox. If they’re edgy, they watch MSNBC.
The “us” people always make sure to see the movies that “everyone” is talking about. And when they say “everyone,” they don’t actually mean that. They mean the reviewers at The New York Times, NPR, and other select, sophisticated outlets. If those reviewers say a movie is important, the “us” people will rave about it too, no matter that the plot was unintelligible, the dialogue mumbled, and the message ugly. “It’s important, don’t you know.”
Rather peculiarly, given their snobbery (especially about education), the “us” people think that the opinions of Hollywood actors, many of whom are minimally educated and all of whom live peculiar, cloistered lives, surrounded by unimaginable wealth and unseemly yes-men, are valuable advocates for the “us” crowd.
The “us” people believe passionately in climate change (never mind that none of the predictions have borne fruit) and think it’s a brilliant thing to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible. (After all, they’re Tesla drivers.) The little people at home and abroad who depend on fossil fuels for food, protection against temperature extremes, and all other aspects of their basic livelihood will just have to adapt. Mother Gaia is more important.
The “us” people agree with Hillary that all white people are racists — except that each individual member of the “us” people knows in her heart-of-hearts, just as Hillary knows in the shriveled, blackened mass that once was her heart, that this indictment doesn’t apply personally to her.
The “us” people passionately support abortion. As Obama, the King of “Us” so beautifully expressed it when speaking of his young daughters in 2008, “if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”
The “us” people travel extensively abroad and always come home talking about how much better “abroad” is than America. If it’s Europe, it’s more cultured and sophisticated; if it’s the Third World, it’s more genuine and less materialistic. If the “us” people are really lucky, they grew up in a cosmopolitan home with non-American parents, entitling them to look down upon American culture, despite having been born and raised in America.
Although the “us” people travel extensively abroad, they never go to the Midwest unless on business. After those trips, they always explain that the cities were unexpectedly nice (“and so clean”) but that the people are yokels (“but really nice”). Moreover, those “us” people who happen to have grown up or gone to school in the Midwest, make sure to say how grateful they are for having been able to escape the stifling confines of flyover country.
In the 1990s, the “us” people all watched The West Wing and congratulated themselves on being able to keep up with Aaron Sorkin’s coked-up, rapid-fire dialogue — and, more importantly, they revered the president and staff who tirelessly, week after week, in the vacuum of our TV sets, advanced perfect Progressive policy.
I needn’t bring up more examples. It’s enough to know that the “us” people are sophisticated, cultured, educated, and Progressive. They are not Alaskan born and raised Sarah Palin with a degree from Arizona State. They are, instead, Barack Obama, with his edgy, multicultural background, his fancy Hawaiian private school, and above all his Ivy League credentials — never mind that his transcripts have had to be hidden lest they reveal either that he was a sub par student or that he leveraged himself into those schools by falsely claiming to be a foreign national. And like Obama, they aren’t troubled by facts; it’s enough to be “one of us.”
The “one of us” dynamic is obviously class-based, with the division being one of culture, rather than lineage. That’s why, even though Hillary and Bill emerged from the political swamp in Arkansas (definitely not a “one of us” state), they were still shiny sophisticates because Hillary went to Wellesley and Yale, and Bill went to Yale and got a Rhodes Scholarship (a very racist thing to do, in retrospect).