Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Great Gulf Between Elites and the Public

Those who are familiar with our blog are aware that we rarely if ever engage in rants about the "liberal media," instead focusing our attention on questions of policy, history and economics. But, I came across a few articles in the Huffington Post that demonstrate the huge gulf that exists between its writers and its mostly liberal and progressive readership, regarding issues of immigration. In publications that attract conservative readers, this is even more well pronounced.

Recently I came across an article that covered the State of New York's decision to withdraw from the Secure Communities, a program in which local law enforcement agencies share information and coordinate with federal immigration authorities. What was most notable was the overwhelmingly negative response of the readers, many whom provided clear and reasonable critiques of NY States policy, that centered on questions of rule of law and strained public finances, rather than racist and xenophobic rants. Interestingly, some respondents transcended  the dominant paradigm of pro-amnesty progressives vs pro-enforcement conservatives, presenting the opinion that the failure to enforce existing laws is but another examples of powerful corporate elites promoting their narrow interests (desire to maintain a large supply of cheap, passive labor) against broad national interests (maximizing wages and working conditions). The strength and direction of public responses are even more pronounced when they address editorials.

 I believe that the emerging divide seen in these discussions is not between liberals and conservatives, but between a public who (in spite of strong ideological divides) are nationally oriented and members of the political, corporate, educational and media elites who are post-national in their sentiments. Post-National "conservatives" express these sentiments when they express no more concern over the welfare of American workers and communities than they do with those in China or India. And liberals manifest their pots-national sentiments when they hammer away at distinctions between citizens and non-citizens. This is seen in initiatives to grant non-citizens, including undocumented residents, the right to vote. Such activists elevate their role as "global citizens," while downplaying the very concepts of national citizenship and sovereignty. Even though "economic globalists" and "progressive global citizens" are at odds over a great many issues, their worldview and spirit are remarkably similar: they hold no more loyalty and concern for the wishes and welfare of their countrymen than they do for "global citizens," including undocumented immigrants.  In his fascinating work Who We Are?, Harvard Professor Samuel P Huntington discusses denationalization among growing segments of the American Elites in the following paragraph

"The views of the general public on issues of national identity differ significantly from those of many elites. The public, overall, is concerned with physical security but also with societal security, which involves the sustainability—within acceptable conditions for evolution—of existing patterns of language, culture, association, religion and national identity. For many elites, these concerns are secondary to participating in the global economy, supporting international trade and migration, strengthening international institutions, promoting American values abroad, and encouraging minority identities and cultures at home. The central distinction between the public and elites is not isolationism versus internationalism, but nationalism versus cosmopolitanism."

We will certainly expand upon this essential topic in subsequent posts.

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