Peggy Noonan, this week, is remembering her working class roots again.
I’m afraid, however, when push comes to shove, Peggy is always going to side with the Community of Fashion over ordinary America.
There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one sideâ€”those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in â€œThe New Class War,â€ calls â€œthe overclassâ€â€”and regular people on the other. The overclass are highly educated and exert outsize influence as managers and leaders of important institutionsâ€”hospitals, companies, statehouses. The normal people arenâ€™t connected through professional or social lines to power structures, and they have regular jobsâ€”service worker, small-business owner.
Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in chargeâ€”scientists, doctors, political figures, consultantsâ€”calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist wonâ€™t lose his livelihood over whatâ€™s happened. Neither will the midday anchor.
Iâ€™ve called this divide the protected versus the unprotected. There is an aspect of it that is not much discussed but bears on current arguments. How you have experienced life has a lot to do with how you experience the pandemic and its strictures. I think itâ€™s fair to say citizens of red states have been pushing back harder than those of blue states.
Itâ€™s not that those in red states donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a pandemic. Theyâ€™ve heard all about it! They realize it will continue, they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. Or, hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy is damaged but still stands, in which case there will be fewer economic casualtiesâ€”fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined.
Theyâ€™ll take the latter. Itâ€™s a loss either way but one loss is worse than the other. They know the politicians and scientists canâ€™t really weigh all this on a scale with any precision because life is a messy thing that doesnâ€™t want to be quantified.
Hereâ€™s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. They havenâ€™t had familial or economic ease. No one sent them to Yale. They often come from considerable family dysfunction. This has left them tougher or harder, you choose the word.
Theyâ€™re more fatalistic about life because life has taught them to be fatalistic. And they look at these scientists and reporters making their warnings about how tough itâ€™s going to be if we lift shutdowns and they donâ€™t think, â€œOh what informed, caring observers.â€ They think, â€œYou have no idea what tough is. You donâ€™t know what painful is.â€ And if you donâ€™t know, why should you have so much say?
The overclass says, â€œWait three months before weâ€™re safe.â€ They reply, â€œThereâ€™s no such thing as safe.â€
Something else is true about those pushing back. They live life closer to the ground …