Genuine challenge for elite pols: Keep us from ‘coming apart’

It appears that, come November, Americans will elect as president either a wealthy member of a narrow elite or … another wealthy member of that narrow elite.

Of course, I mean the prospect of Barack “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and seen what they charge for arugula?” Obama facing Mitt “[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually” Romney, in a contest to seem more in tune with Americans who gravitate toward iceberg lettuce and Fords.

This would be true even if Charles Murray hadn’t just published “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” And while Murray does not discuss presidential politics in his treatise on the growing gap between the New Upper Class and the New Lower Class, his book’s arrival is timely — and ought to inform the 2012 debate.

“Coming Apart” has been one of the most talked-about books in the commentariat in the past couple of months. But in case you have not come across any reviews of it yet: Murray focuses on “white America” to control for divisions rooted in America’s cruel history of race. “Don’t kid yourself,” he warns, “that we are looking at stresses that can be remedied by attacking the legacy of racism or by restricting immigration.”

That admonition alone would improve our political dialogue. But the trends Murray describes go much further.

He argues that, while our nation has always had disparities of wealth, for almost 200 years Americans shared common cultural experiences. In part, this was because the rich, the middle and the poor interacted. They were not isolated by religious practices or educational attainment; they consumed similar culture in terms of music, television and cinema; they had similar tastes in food and bought different models from the same auto makers.

Over the past 50 years, he says, this has changed. A critical mass formed of highly educated, well-to-do people with jobs of great cultural and/or political influence. There were enough of them, and they were sufficiently mobile and connected, for businesses to cater to their tastes. Think craft beer, espresso, sushi (and arugula).

By and large this New Upper Class is, Murray notes, politically liberal. Yet, in their private lives they behave more traditionally. For example, they marry before having children, and most of them stay married, even as out-of-wedlock births and divorce have risen among all white Americans. Perhaps surprisingly, they are more likely than members of the New Lower Class to attend religious worship services regularly.

Religion and marriage aren’t the only social institutions weakening among the New Lower Class. Its members are less likely to participate in sports clubs, the Elks Lodge, scout troops, elections.

Murray devotes little of “Coming Apart” to identifying the causes of this stratification. But he suggests one reason is the crowding out of social roles by government programs. Another is the New Upper Class does not preach what it practices. Lest they seem judgmental, our elites stay mum about behaviors they deem essential in their own lives. Murray calls them the “founding virtues”: marriage, industriousness, honesty, religiosity.

The reference to the founders is instructive. The people who practice these virtues — increasingly, the elites but not the lower class — are more likely to say they are happy. That is, they are succeeding in “the pursuit of happiness.”

A presidential election that explores this malign neglect of virtue would be worthwhile. Certainly moreso than a contest to see whose theme songs make them most “authentic.”

– By Kyle Wingfield

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292 comments Add your comment

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
5:28 pm

Government (and our next President) is not the solution to the problem. It IS the problem.

Our President Reagan was right.

Big-government Democrats (and the proponents of big government are almost all Democrats) are wrong.

carlosgvv

March 9th, 2012
5:42 pm

I’ve been saying for some time now that America is dumbing down. The “new lower class” just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Michael H. Smith

March 9th, 2012
5:54 pm

By and large this New Upper Class is, Murray notes, politically liberal.

Kyle it has long been established fact, “if liberals didn’t have double standards, they would have no standards at all”.

Where was the liberal sense of out rage expressed by obumer and democrat Congresswomen over comments made by Bill Maher attacking conservative women with vulgar slurs? No one on the left that now seems so concerned for protecting the rights and virtues of women called for apologies then?

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
5:58 pm

In part, this was because the rich, the middle and the poor interacted.

I’ve posted on this before but I think this is one place where urban/suburban life is different than rural life. In the cities and suburbs, there is often times little interaction between the classes. Out here in the country and in small towns, people at least know each other. When it comes time to sort out problems, that can be a first step. You tend not to demonize people as much, if you actually know them.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
5:58 pm

Government and liberals have been actively, purposefully working for 40 years to destroy the institutions that made America strong. The church, traditional families, schools that teach things, the military, private enterprise, heck, even the Boy Scouts.

All to give themselves more power.

Thanks, Democrats.

Michael H. Smith

March 9th, 2012
5:59 pm

I’ve been saying for some time now that America is dumbing down. The “new lower class” just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Thanks to GUB’MENT schools that hold the public education dollar hostage in this country.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
6:04 pm

Government schools have become nothing more than a jobs program for teachers and union bosses. If the kids should learn something along the way, well, whatever.

ragnar danneskjold

March 9th, 2012
6:04 pm

Good essay, great point – choose between a professor whose policies have failed, or a businessman whose policies are unknown. VP may make a difference for a change – as Mr. Romney’s gaffe rate is approximately equal to that of Chauncey, hope he can find someone less goofy than the current VP. (Although, in all fairness, reports say Biden tried to talk Chauncey out of going after the Catholic hospitals – that may tell us who is the goofier one.)

Bart Abel

March 9th, 2012
6:11 pm

Once again, Kyle does his part to execute the right-wing tactic of making Obama seem like one of “them” on the flimsiest of evidence.

Eating arugula, according to the right, means that you’re out of tune with most Americans? Yes, that’s what Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, and now Kyle want us to believe.

For the record, arugula is grown by Iowa farmers (yes, Iowa is in America), and it’s sold in nearly every grocery store. Also, it’s just salad.

Look, if Romney prefers iceberg lettuce, well, that’s his loss. Something tells me, however, that he and his family have eaten more than their share of arugula too. He just won’t advertise that fact, now that his immature voting base chuckles at the sound of the word.

theTruth

March 9th, 2012
6:15 pm

Government (and our next President) is not the solution to the problem. It IS the problem.

Your correct, Reagan was/is proof of that.

ragnar danneskjold

March 9th, 2012
6:18 pm

Bart has a great point, Chauncey ought to run as the “arugula” president, urge every family to plant an arugula “victory garden,” issue a presidential proclamation making November “American arugula month.

tiredofIT

March 9th, 2012
6:20 pm

The republican party is self-destructing before our eyes, with their return to 13th century.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
6:25 pm

There was a Republican party in the 13th century?

St Simons - codewords are the new black

March 9th, 2012
6:25 pm

well, its settled. The talky word of the week was “maher.”
Not “gas prices”, or “absurd” – go figure.

Nope. Ching. No Sale. Its bout pigboy, the Head of the Republican Party
no matter how much you don’t want it to be.
Ask any woman, you know that 51% “demographic” (codeword)
Maybe he’ll let you in on the joke, on his last day on the air, dittoheads

Puck

March 9th, 2012
6:36 pm

I find it somewhat humorous that the son of a single mother and who needed food stamps while growing up is considered a member of the “elite” by the Republican Party, while the son of a President and grandson of a US Senator was considered to be a “regular” guy.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
6:41 pm

Puck, it really isn’t important how Obozo came by his communist beliefs. We’ll take the American businessman over the communist rabble-rouser who by birth is a US citizen.

MarkV

March 9th, 2012
6:48 pm

Kyle again has destroyed the credibility of his writing today by his silly comparison of ‘Barack “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and seen what they charge for arugula?” Obama’ with all the Romneyisms.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
6:51 pm

I’ve got some stuff growing in the yard that looks like arugula. Wouldn’t eat it though.

getalife

March 9th, 2012
6:53 pm

“Better days are ahead” President Obama.

How about a little optimism kyle?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
6:57 pm

I seem to recall Obozo taking quite a few vacations in places like, oh, Martha’s Vineyard, Aspen, Hawaii…always seems to find himself in a multi-million-dollar compound somewhere. Pals with Warren Buffett and some other billionaires who he showers with government billions.

getalife

March 9th, 2012
7:14 pm

‘I Like Grits’… ‘Y’all’… ‘Strange Things Are Happening To Me’ willard romney.

Fake fraud.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:19 pm

‘I Like Grits’

Did he eat ‘em right or did he put sugar on ‘em?

We Do Not Know What We Want And Yet We Are Responsible For Who We Are

March 9th, 2012
7:19 pm

“By and large this New Upper Class is, Murray notes, politically liberal.”

“And out-of-wedlock births and divorce have risen among all white Americans”

” Perhaps surprisingly, they are more likely than members of the New Lower Class to attend religious worship services regularly.”

*******************************************************************************

New Upper Class Liberals – Therein LIES THE PROBLEM for Republicans.

WHO ARE THE NEW LOWER CLASS?

Is it the white Americans who are having out-of-wedlock births and getting divorced?

“Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have.”

getalife

March 9th, 2012
7:22 pm

“Did he eat ‘em right or did he put sugar on ‘em?”

He said cheese grits and a biscuit but he probably lied.

Wa..Wa, WHAT?

March 9th, 2012
7:23 pm

I have a cousin that goes to Martha’s Vineyard every year. I have several friends that have gone to Hawaii and many other places. My husband absolutely loves Cape Cod and I love sushi!! Uh oh, I live in the wrong neighborhood! #thoughtIwasmiddleclass

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:25 pm

getalife

In my world, it’s grits, salt, butter, (pepper optional) and that’s it. ;-)

Wa..Wa, WHAT?

March 9th, 2012
7:26 pm

@Hillbilly D, put some fish with them grits! OOOOOWEEEEE!!

We Do Not Know What We Want And Yet We Are Responsible For Who We Are

March 9th, 2012
7:27 pm

@Michael H. Smith

March 9th, 2012
5:54 pm
By and large this New Upper Class is, Murray notes, politically liberal.

Kyle it has long been established fact, “if liberals didn’t have double standards, they would have no standards at all”.

Where was the liberal sense of out rage expressed by obumer and democrat Congresswomen over comments made by Bill Maher attacking conservative women with vulgar slurs? No one on the left that now seems so concerned for protecting the rights and virtues of women called for apologies then?
*********************************************************************************

The DIFFERENCE is:

Bill Maher is a COMEDIAN and not a politician.

Rush Limbaught is NOT A COMEDIAN BUT he is an American radio talk show host,

CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, and an OPINION LEADER in American

conservatism.

Enough Said..

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:28 pm

Wa..Wa, WHAT?

Never heard of that or even fish for breakfast, for that matter. Course I live a long way from the coast.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:29 pm

Bill Maher is a COMEDIAN and not a politician.

Rush Limbaught is NOT A COMEDIAN BUT he is an American radio talk show host,

They’re both performers. Really no difference at all.

Wa..Wa, WHAT?

March 9th, 2012
7:34 pm

@Hillbilly D, Its is an experience you won’t soon forget! I am from Middle Georgia and my mother was eating fish and grits for breakfast long before it became nouveau! She would fry fish every Friday. Most times it was mullet or butterfish but you can use any. We never ate it all for dinner, so on Saturday morning, she would stick it under the broiler!

getalife

March 9th, 2012
7:36 pm

“They’re both performers. Really no difference at all.”

No pols apologized to bill.

We Do Not Know What We Want And Yet We Are Responsible For Who We Are

March 9th, 2012
7:49 pm

@Lil’ Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
5:58 pm
Government and liberals have been actively, purposefully working for 40 years to destroy the institutions that made America strong. The church, traditional families, schools that teach things, the military, private enterprise, heck, even the Boy Scouts.

All to give themselves more power.

Thanks, Democrats.
************************************************************************
“Government and liberals have been actively, purposefully working for 40 years to destroy the institutions that made America strong. ”

What have you done for AMERICA LATELY?

Besides BLAMING government and putting everyone down.

If YOU were ROWING the boat YOU would not have time to ROCK the boat.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:50 pm

getalife

They’re both a-holes in my book. I wouldn’t give either one of ‘em air if they was in a jug.

Bruno

March 9th, 2012
7:50 pm

HD–FInally found this Lacy J Dalton song on youtube. Not traditional country, but effective:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcWSN96jknQ

getalife

March 9th, 2012
7:52 pm

“They’re both a-holes in my book”

Agreed.

Both are divisive and we could use less of that.

Bruno

March 9th, 2012
7:56 pm

getalife–I’ve always thought of you as a uniter. ;-)

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:57 pm

Bill Maher, for some reason, reminds me of Dick Cavett. Limbaugh reminds me of a guy who lived next to us when I was a kid……….but that’s another story for another day. :lol:

Hey Bruno

jconservative

March 9th, 2012
8:11 pm

“Our President Reagan was right.
Big-government Democrats (and the proponents of big government are almost all Democrats) are wrong.:”

Yet when Reagan left office government was bigger than at anytime in history.

And it was Reagan who introduced the idea that we could reduce government revenue, increase government spending and decrease the deficit.

That is why government grew under his watch.
——————–
“By and large this New Upper Class is, Murray notes, politically liberal.”

Fascinating sentence. So Murray believes that the “new money” is liberal.

I will need to ponder the ramifications of this statement. Is this why Obama is president? He did carry the over $250K family income crowd in Pennsylvania in 2008.

If the controllers of money are liberal, what will happen to the conservative movement if it is the movement of “old money” and “no money”.

Interesting problem.

Phil O'Smiley

March 9th, 2012
8:15 pm

getalife
March 9th, 2012
7:22 pm
He said cheese grits and a biscuit but he probably lied.

Today grits will be his favorite breakfast food. Tomorrow it will probably Egg McMuffin. Next week, Cheerios. Next month, breakfast burrito. Flippity flop, flippity flop. Such a fraud.

Rafe Hollister

March 9th, 2012
8:17 pm

Mitt needs to find a way during the first debate to point out Oblamers wealth and lifestyle of the rich and famous. Oblamer will use the class warfare attack every chance he gets. Romney needs to eliminate that right off by finding some clever way to point out that Barry is a wealthy social snob.

He might steal from Reagan as Reagan chastised Mondale by saying he wasn’t going to make age an issue in the race by pointing out Mondale’s youth and inexperience. That quip silenced much of that talk in the race.

Romney could say he is not going to make personal wealth an issue in the race if Barack can give him some tips on cool vacation sites and places to buy organic arugula.

We Do Not Know What We Want And Yet We Are Responsible For Who We Are

March 9th, 2012
8:28 pm

@Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
7:29 pm
Bill Maher is a COMEDIAN and not a politician.

Rush Limbaught is NOT A COMEDIAN BUT he is an American radio talk show host,

They’re both performers. Really no difference at all.
*************************************************************************************

A Comedian is:

1.An entertainer whose act is designed to make an audience laugh.

2.An amusing or entertaining person.

A Conservative Political Commentator and Opinion Leader is:

1: One relating to a philosophy of conservatism
2. One who is constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism
3. One who maintains existing views, conditions, or traditions.

A performer is:

An entertainer who performs a dramatic or musical work for an audience.

Rush is no PERFORMER or ENTERTAINER. He is an OPINION COMMENTATOR.

@@

March 9th, 2012
8:31 pm

Obama’s nou·veau riche. Don’t know about Romney…old money? It do make a difference. Old money shows class. The nou-veau riche assign it.

Can’t recall which radio personality said this:

The liberal elite only pretend to care about the downtrodden. Why? Because they don’t want to be targeted when “chit” hits the fan.

Makes sense to me.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
8:31 pm

Nope, Rush is an entertainer who knows very well who his audience is and how to keep them coming back for more. Same can be said for Bill Maher and nearly every talking head, left or right, on TV “news” shows.

@@

March 9th, 2012
8:33 pm

In the world of the nou·veau riche, grits are now called polenta.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
8:35 pm

when “chit” hits the fan

The place to be is behind the fan. (IW&SH)

@@

March 9th, 2012
8:43 pm

Hillbilly:

I’m glad you’re back. I was worried the storms took you out. Then I figured you were probably helping any neighbors that had.

Never told you about the time a training potty blew up in my face, did I? Somebody had mixed bleach and ammonia in the lower compartment. It was the bleach what done me in. The rest of the stuff? Child’s play.

(ISH)

@@

March 9th, 2012
8:44 pm

Oops.

…that had suffered damage.

We Do Not Know What We Want And Yet We Are Responsible For Who We Are

March 9th, 2012
8:44 pm

@ – @@

March 9th, 2012
8:31 pm
Obama’s nou·veau riche. Don’t know about Romney…old money? It do make a difference. Old money shows class. The nou-veau riche assign it.

Can’t recall which radio personality said this:

The liberal elite only pretend to care about the downtrodden. Why? Because they don’t want to be targeted when “chit” hits the fan.

Makes sense to me.
******************************************************************************************************

What MAKES SENSE TO ME IS:

THE LIBERAL ELITE only becomes what they are by the radical and deep-seated REFUSAL of that

which OTHERS LIKE YOU have made of THEM.

Hillbilly D

March 9th, 2012
8:46 pm

@@

I’m fine, life just intrudes sometimes. Ammonia and bleach mixed give off a toxic gas. You’re lucky you didn’t pass out.