Elite Pedigrees Are Normal for the Right’s Phony Populists
If you were surprised to learn there are scores of secret diners dotting the American heartland, where teachers and construction workers sit down to have regular-Joe conversations over bacon and eggs about the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, you are not alone.
But that’s what a Fox host, Pete Hegseth, said to an approving crowd at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, this weekend.
Hegseth insisted, very earnestly, that the people HE sits down with at these diners for his regular Fox segments — presumably the REAL AMERICANS — aren’t talking about “esoteric things” that “the Ivy League talks about or MSNBC talks about.”
“They’re talking about the Bible, and faith, and prayer, and their family, hard work, supporting the police, standing for the national anthem, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the 10th Amendment.”
Suffice it to say, the idea that anyone, whether a waitress or a tax attorney, was talking about the 10th Amendment, i.e., the fairly esoteric topic of states’ rights, over breakfast at a diner, struck many as highly unlikely.
But no matter, Hegseth wasn’t going for accuracy. Populism doesn’t care about accuracy.
He was, like so many of the televangelist-populists on the far right who’ve fashioned themselves in Donald Trump’s image, merely playing red-meat Mad Libs with a captive audience, knowing all too well it wouldn’t care if the final sentence ultimately made any sense.
Hegseth, like Republican Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas, and John Kennedy of Louisiana, regularly put on these tired, anti-intellectual, populist performances meant to cast the left as out-of-touch, overly educated elites, and the right as the keepers of real America.
But, as many have pointed out, their anti-elite screeds often neglect to mention their own elite pedigrees. Cruz, who likes to slam the Democratic Party as “the party of wealthy elites, Big Tech, and Big Business” when he’s not jetting off to the Cancun Ritz-Carlton to escape a deadly snowstorm in Texas, attended Princeton and Harvard.
Hegseth also went to Princeton and Harvard.