From Thurber finalist and former star Time columnist Joel Stein comes a "brilliant exploration" (Walter Isaacson) of America's political culture war and a hilarious call to arms for the elite.
"I can think of no one more suited to defend elitism than Stein, a funny man with hands as delicate as a baby full of soft-boiled eggs." —Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!
The night Donald Trump won the presidency, our author Joel Stein, Thurber Prize finalist and former staff writer for Time Magazine, instantly knew why. The main reason wasn't economic anxiety or racism. It was that he was anti-elitist. Hillary Clinton represented Wall Street, academics, policy papers, Davos, international treaties and the people who think they're better than you. People like Joel Stein. Trump represented something far more appealing, which was beating up people like Joel Stein.
In a full-throated defense of academia, the mainstream press, medium-rare steak, and civility, Joel Stein fights against populism. He fears a new tribal elite is coming to replace him, one that will fend off expertise of all kinds and send the country hurtling backward to a time of wars, economic stagnation and the well-done steaks doused with ketchup that Trump eats.
To find out how this shift happened and what can be done, Stein spends a week in Roberts County, Texas, which had the highest percentage of Trump voters in the country. He goes to the home of Trump-loving Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams; meets people who create fake news; and finds the new elitist organizations merging both right and left to fight the populists. All the while using the biggest words he knows.
In this hilarious refereeing of the culture wars, former Time columnist Stein (Man Made) roams America studying wealthy, Ivy league educated, conference-attending elites and their populist detractors. In Miami, Tex. located in Roberts County, where 95.3% of the population voted for Trump he finds not violent yahoos but friendly, thoughtful conservatives who nicely try to convert his Jewish-atheist soul to Christianity. At a Resistance party with Hollywood elites in L.A., he finds liberal dogmas even more rigid than Texan Baptists' certitudes. And he fences with such "populist elites" as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson as they disparage elite expertise in favor of Trump-ian gut instincts and nationalist allegiances. A halfhearted elitist himself, Stein makes a case against the epistemic anarchism of populists, conspiracy theorists, and antivaxxers, arguing that Americans need intellectual elites to run society his hero is L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, fixer of potholes and transit systems and to protect individual rights. Stein's excellent reportage keeps the ideology light andis full of one-liners "elites feel the same way about college as non-elites do about church," especially because "our church got us drunk and laid" that generously skewer everyone. The result is an insightful, uproarious take on America's political divide.
Very much enjoyed this book. Giggled out loud at least every other page. I found it insightful and honest. I feel like I am a moderate. I do get angry with elites especially in the media. I thought his points were good. A fun read.
A sincere attempt
Joel attempts to make the case for why the intellectual elite is superior to the “boat elite” as he puts it or “captains of industry” as others have referred to them. He has some fascinating points and it’s certainly an entertaining read, but I think it’s going to take another book before he truly understands the origin of the populist fervor redefining politics worldwide, and it’s not entirely the Meteorologist fallacy.
Recommend reading this in conjunction with Nassim Taleb’s trilogy, which pretty much rips the expertise argument to shreds.