John feels like a wilting flower in the blazing heat of Florida’s climate-changed sunshine. He is confronted by the Black Lives Matter movement, the global #metoo social movement and by the LGBTQ+ movement’s demand that he use the pronouns of they/them. John feels that he is being bypassed. He needs someone to push back.
He has found his champions in the neo-Republican Ivy League elites (that is, Trump, Cruz, Pompeo, Bannon, DeSantis, Rufo, etc.). These Republican elites fuel his angst by telling him that life is a “zero-sum game”: Every demand that “others” (for example, Black Americans, women and the LGBTQ+ community) make are at his expense.
Ironically, it was the Republican Party of old that proffered a more uplifting ideology, that the free market was always expanding, allowing anyone or any group to go from rags to riches. The harder you worked, the more you gained. The less government, the greater individual and group successes. Indeed, everyone would profit from the gains that “others” make.
The question then becomes why has the message to the Republican base changed to warring on “woke”? Apparently, today’s Ivy League conservative elites have read the research on what motivates the white vote. The research shows that white men in particular will oppose policies that benefit them if they perceive that they will also relatively advance “others.” In short, white males would rather be poorer absolutely than become relatively poorer to “others.”
The Ivy League Republican elite are using this research to fuel their personal ambitions at the expense of polarizing our country into warring “cultural” camps, claiming any gain made by “others” is at the personal expense of whites.
How is it that hatefulness and meanness are becoming the norm? Why are we so polarized? The answer is hiding in plain sight. The hegemonic conservative Ivy League elite have purposefully rejected the old Republican dogma that everyone benefits from a rising tide and replaced it with their new ideology that the gain of “others” comes at the expense of whites. The next time you hear someone being hateful to an “other,” remember that they are just the victim of the conservative Ivy League elite’s message that it is “us against them.”
James Unnever is a research fellow at the University of Cincinnati Center for Communities & Justice. He recently retired as a professor of criminology from the University of South Florida.