Daniel Drezner's latest in the Washington Post is uncommonly good. It makes a useful distinction between Old Money type elites – Kennedys, Bushes, Astors, Rockefellers, etc. – who recognized their own elite status. This is important in the United States since we don't formally christen Old Money elites in the way that, for example, the UK system of titles does. Our informality allows anyone to either claim or deny elite status, regardless of whether that claim has any merit. Neither Drezner (nor I) argue that this makes Bushes good people, but merely that they are unwilling or unable to pretend that they are not the elite dynasty they are.
More often, though, we have ultra-elites going to extremes to deny that they are elites. We all do this to some extent – everyone clinging to and showering one another with tales of our middle- or working-class identification. In politics this goes to comical extremes, with multimillionaire sons and daughters of Congressmen and presidents claiming that something about them makes them normal folks just like us. But it isn't limited to that. It permeates every aspect of our society and especially our professions. Academia is riddled with this kind of thinking; the children of Ivy League professors magically end up as Ivy League professors themselves, yet are curiously unwilling to admit to any sort of privilege or elite status in favor of clinging to the myth of meritocracy. I'm sure other fields experience little different.
More importantly, he identifies where the elite impulse to band together comes from. Early in the Kavanaugh process we all marveled at the number of purported liberals willing to gush over him because, his barbarian politics aside, he was one of them – a fellow Preppie and Yalie. And those ties run deeper than political ones. And, worst of all, the little people were trying to hurl accusations at Kavanaugh. People who are nobodies, from families that don't matter and aren't important to elites. The impulse to accuse Kavanaugh's accusers of lying comes less from a sincere belief that they are liars than from the Blue Blood tendency to pull rank; how dare you speak to one of us that way. You are nobody and you come from nobodies. And to people who think that way, maintaining the social expectations that plebes will speak to their betters only in certain tones and with no pretense of social equality is extremely important. So important that, by any objective standard, they will debase their reputations defending one another to protect it.
An important read.