Allow me to update a post I wrote in 2020 about Donald Trump and social class, because the topic is broader than Trump.  Let me begin with what I said then. 

There is a lot to dislike about him.  Mr. Trump was a sneerer, mocker, boaster, and person of bad character -- and he still is.  But then-president Obama, and his then-vice president, Joe Biden, were are also sneerers, mockers, boasters, and persons of bad character.  “Why is the reaction to them so different?”  I asked.  The political classes adored Mr. Obama, liked Mr. Biden just fine, and still put up with Biden despite his obvious dementia, corruption, and incompetence.  By contrast, they despised Trump so intensely that they were willing to pull down the republic to get rid of him.  The instrumentalities of justice were weaponized against him.  Their entertainers openly made jokes about assassinating him.  The war shows no sign of ending; new assaults are launched daily.

Of course part of the difference in the reaction to these politicians is ideological.  Biden, like Obama before him, does things the political classes love, like promoting abortion, removing rules that protect the consciences of medical workers, distributing patronage to industries the political classes like, and expanding the regulatory apparatus.  By contrast, Trump appointed pro-life judges and did other things that they hate.

But that explains only part of it.  The political classes didn’t cast a hold-your-nose vote for Obama, or even for Biden; they didn’t put up with them despite their personality, vices, or bad manners.  They admired them for these qualities.  Biden has become embarrassing to them, but not because of his crudity.

I suggested in 2020 that “it’s a class thing.”   A certain kind of oafishness is considered lovable by the political classes, and not even recognized as oafish because it is their sort of oafishness.  Another kind of oafishness is considered lovable by those whom they disdain.  Obama was a smooth rich fellow who flattered the elites.  Biden is a coarse rich fellow who sneers at the common people in the same breath as he boasts of his humble origins.  The elites think this kind of talk is merely telling it like it is.

Trump is a coarse rich fellow who flatters the common people.  Since he sneers at the elites and adopts a popular tone in doing so, it enrages them.  Though all of these rulers claim to look out for the “little guy,” the difference is that Obama and Biden styled themselves as their patrons, and viewed the “little guys” as their clients.  Trump styles himself as their benefactor, and views them as his constituents.

Some people react viscerally to one kind of oafishness, some to the other.  Very little of the reaction is about the respective vices of these politicians, though much could be said about them.  Most of it is about the respective styles of their vices.  It is very hard to wipe the smear of class from the window of judgment to see clearly.

So much I wrote then.  But there is more to say, because the “class thing” is much bigger than Donald Trump.  Let’s put it in context.

The same people who used to love the Republican and despise the Democratic Party have now flipped, for the wealthy and professional classes used to be mostly Republicans; today they are mostly Democrats.  The biggest change is that “old money” doesn’t count for much any more, because the power has shifted to new money, high-tech money.  Progressivism, understood as the ideal of rule by managerial elites who “know better,” has doubled down.  Contempt for the blue collar and middle white collar classes, otherwise known as the “deplorables,” has intensified.  People can be arrested for peacefully complaining at school board meetings, or surveilled for being religious.

Several facts have obscured the reversal in the parties’ roles.  One is that although the Democratic Party is now the party of the privileged, it still positions itself rhetorically as the defender of the marginalized.  This, despite the fact that the actual effect of its policies is to increase economic dependence rather than reduce it, establishing all sorts of classes and underclasses of governmental clients.  The second is that it retains the support of the most powerful unions, although these are no longer trade or industrial unions.  The baton has now shifted to public employee unions – who strive to make their employer still bigger, and whose officers fully accept the managerial ethos.

There is no longer any place in the Democratic Party for the deplorables to go.  However, the Republican Party bosses adhere to a milder version of the same progressive ideology that the Democrats accept.  So the deplorables have no home there either.

No wonder the deplorables are resentful.  And no wonder so many of them still admire Mr. Trump.  It’s not that they like thugs.  But if they have to be ruled by them, they would rather be ruled by their own thugs.