Liberals never learn. At a time when the erosion of public trust is more dangerous than the plague swirling around us, you would think they would be careful about displays of hypocrisy. Instead, the same technocratic elites who rail about the sin of “privilege” and criticize Donald Trump’s unraveling of the social fabric are telling us by their actions: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
The latest example comes to us by way of Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic governor, who was photographed maskless at a Nov. 6, birthday party for a lobbyist. In so doing, he violated his own state guidelines. Newsom apologized, but the incident only underscored the widening social distance between the elites and the plebes—and the sense that lockdowns are for the little people, while parties, salon visits, and swanky dinners are for me, but not for thee. Hypocrisy, thy name is Newsom.
And Newsom isn’t the only Californian who thinks he’s above the rules. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was recently spotted walking around the Senate maskless, and Nancy Pelosi—who drew controversy for visiting a hair salon in September—was forced to cancel a dinner she was planning to welcome newly elected House Democrats after the event caused an uproar.
This is a trend—and not just in the Golden State. These conspicuous displays of hypocrisy reinforce the notion that progressive elites think they’re better than the hoi polloi lumpenproletariat who are forced to follow their “guidelines.” The public might have rejected Trump’s handling of the virus, but it’s easy to see why average Americans, who have to comply with COVID-19 regulations, feel disgruntled by such decadent displays.
It’s almost as if the perpetrators are unaware that cultural aggrievement is the most potent force in modern American politics, and that, for a lot of Americans, complying with COVID rules means shuttering a business, postponing a wedding, or never getting to say goodbye to a loved one in a hospital. And, for many of us, it will mean not seeing family members this Thanksgiving.
Now imagine doing all of these things, and then seeing Gavin Newsom and California Medical Association officials enjoying themselves at the French Laundry.
During times of crisis, leaders have to ask others to sacrifice. But this only works when they earn the credibility to do so—when followers believe that the leader has their best interest at heart and is sharing in the sacrifice. Never mind enduring any real hardship, Californians can’t even count on Gavin Newsom to stay home and watch Schitt’s Creek on Netflix. And this sort of “let them eat cake!” imagery is even more galling coming from members of a political party fond of lecturing others about their privilege.
So why is this happening? In some cases, of course, the problem is simply that elites view themselves as being above the rules. In other cases, there is more than mere class snobbery at play; there’s also political snobbery. More specifically, there is the sense that progressive causes (like protesting the police or celebrating Joe Biden’s election) are exempt from the rules, because, after all, the cause is so good—so important—that the ends justify the means. A Trump rally, for example, is dangerous and irresponsible, while street celebrations for Joe Biden are not just tolerated, but commended.
Case in point: This spring, conservatives protesting Michigan’s harsh lockdown policies were criticized for not social distancing. Now, some of these protesters behaved in ways that were unbecoming. But the subsequent behavior of liberals did little to quell their sense of victimhood and unfairness. That’s because, in early June, as the Detroit News reported “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who's voiced concerns about other demonstrations potentially spreading COVID-19 in recent weeks, participated Thursday in a civil rights march in Highland Park with hundreds of people who did not follow social distancing rules.” (Don’t worry, we are assured by the experts that protests “probably” did not cause a COVID spike.) To be sure, protesting police violence is legitimate and important, but so are a lot of other things we’ve been asked to curtail.
A more recent example occurred when D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser traveled to Delaware to celebrate Joe Biden’s presidential win. The problem? Delaware was on her list of states considered “high risk” for COVID-19. She skirted the rules by insisting that attending Biden’s victory party was “essential travel.” Right.
So traveling to spend her last Thanksgiving with your grandma makes you irresponsible and dangerous, but traveling to celebrate Biden’s win is “essential travel”? You can go to a conference in Hawaii, but you can’t schlep to Cleveland for a family reunion?
To the layman’s eye, there’s a lot of hypocrisy here. But why shouldn’t progressive politicians enjoy these perks? They are our betters, aren’t they?