Jon Chait On the Spiro Ted Agnewization of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Brad DeLong)

Here is Chait on the mysterious transformation of Bill and Hillary Clinton into clones of Spiro Ted Agnew:

Let Them Eat Arugula: The dying days of the Hillary Clinton campaign have brought the breathtaking spectacle of a candidate lashing out at every element of public life that has nourished her career. The über-wonk has disparaged economists and expertise. The staunch ally of black America has attacked her opponent for lacking support of “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans.” People who thought they knew Hillary Clinton have gazed in astonishment: What has she become? The answer is, a conservative populist….

Liberal populism posits that the rich wield disproportionate influence over the government and push for policies often at odds with most people’s interest. Conservative populism… prefers to divide society along social lines, with the elites being intellectuals and other snobs who fancy themselves better….

Consider this analysis recently offered by Bill Clinton in Clarksburg, West Virginia: “The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it’s by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules.” This is precisely the dynamic that allows multimillionaires like George W. Bush and Bill O’Reilly to present themselves as being on the side of the little guy. A more classic expression of conservative populism cannot be found.

Historically, the conservative populist’s social divide ran along racial and ethnic lines…. [Today it’s] nostalgia about small towns… stronger values… work harder… overwhelmingly white…. Bill Clinton recently declared, “The people in small towns in rural America, who do the work for America, and represent the backbone and the values of this country, they are the people that are carrying her through in this nomination.” The corollary–that strong values and hard work is in shorter supply among ethnically heterogeneous urban residents–is left unstated….

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