One of the strangest things about the modern progression in liberal thought is its increasing comfort with elitism and high style. Over the last 30 years, the enjoyment of refined tastes, both material and psychological, has become a hallmark of liberalism — hand in glove with the art of professional altruism, so necessary to the guilt-free enjoyment of the good life. Take most any contemporary issue, and the theme of elite progressivism predominates.
Higher education? A visitor from Mars would note that the current system of universities and colleges is designed to promote the interests of an elite at the expense of the middle and lower-middle classes. UCLA, Yale, and even CSU Stanislaus run on premises far more reactionary and class-based than does Wal-Mart. The teaching loads and course responsibilities of tenured full professors have declined over the last half-century, while the percentage of units taught by graduate students and part-time faculty, with few benefits and low pay, has soared.
The number of administrators has likewise climbed — even as student indebtedness has skyrocketed, along with the unemployment rate among recent college graduates. A typical scenario embodying these bizarre trends would run something like the following: The UC assistant provost for diversity affairs, or the full professor of Italian literature, focusing on gender and the self, depend on lots of graduate and undergraduate students in the social sciences and humanities piling up debt without any guarantee of jobs, while part-time faculty subsidize the formers’ lifestyles by teaching, without grading assistants, the large introductory undergraduate courses, getting paid a third to half what those with tenure receive.
The conference and the academic book, with little if any readership, promote the career interest and income of the trendy administrator and the full professor, and are subsidized by either the taxpayers or the students or both. All of the above assumes that a nine-month teaching schedule, with tenure, grants, sabbaticals, and release time, are above reproach and justify yearly tuition hikes exceeding the rate of inflation. The beneficiaries of the system win exemption from criticism through loud support of the current progressive agenda, as if they were officers with swagger sticks in the culture wars who must have their own perks if they are to properly lead the less-well-informed troops out of the trenches.
Take illegal immigration. On the facts, it is elitist to the core. Big business, flush with cash, nevertheless wants continued access to cheap labor, and so favors amnesties for millions who arrived without English, education, or legality. On the other end of the scale, Jorge Hernandez, making $9 an hour mowing lawns, is not enthusiastic about an open border, which undercuts his meager bargaining power with his employer.
The state, not the employer, picks up the cost of subsidies to ensure that impoverished illegal-immigrant workers from Oaxaca have some semblance of parity with American citizens in health care, education, legal representation, and housing. The employers’ own privilege exempts them from worrying whether they would ever need to enroll their kids in the Arvin school system, or whether an illegal-alien driver will hit their daughter’s car on a rural road and leave the scene of the accident. In other words, no one in Atherton is in a trailer house cooking meth; the plastic harnesses of missing copper wire from streetlights are not strewn over the sidewalks in Palo Alto; and the Menlo schools do not have a Bulldog-gang problem.
Meanwhile, ethnic elites privately understand that the melting pot ensures eventual parity with the majority and thereby destroys the benefits of hyphenation. So it becomes essential that there remain always hundreds of thousands of poor, uneducated, and less-privileged immigrants entering the U.S. from Latin America. Only that way is the third-generation Latino professor, journalist, or politician seen as a leader of group rather than as an individual. Take away illegal immigration, and the Latino caucus and Chicano graduation ceremony disappear, and the beneficiaries become just ordinary politicians and academics, distinguished or ignored on the basis of their own individual performance.
Mexico? Beneath the thin veneer of Mexican elites suing Americans in U.S. courts is one of the most repressive political systems in the world. Mexican elites make the following cynical assumptions: Indigenous peoples are better off leaving Mexico and then scrimping to send billions of dollars home in remittances; that way, they do not agitate for missing social services back home; and once across the border, they act as an expatriate community to leverage concessions from the United States.
Nannies, gardeners, cooks, and personal attendants are increasingly recent arrivals from Latin America — even as the unemployment rates of Latino, African-American, and working-class white citizens remain high, with compensation relatively low. No wonder that loud protestations about “xenophobes, racists, and nativists” oil the entire machinery of elite privilege. Does the liberal congressman or the Washington public advocate mow his own lawn, clean his toilet, or help feed his 90-year-old mother? At what cost would he cease to pay others to do these things — $20, $25 an hour? And whom would he hire if there were no illegal immigrants? The unemployed African-American teenager in D.C.? The unemployed Appalachian in nearby West Virginia? I think not.