How the creative class broke America

As the bobos achieved a sort of stranglehold on the economy, the culture, and even our understanding of what a good life is, no wonder society has begun to array itself against them, with the old three-part class structure breaking apart into a confusing welter of micro-groups competing for status and standing in any way they can. So, for instance, the bobos have abundant cultural, political, and economic power; the red one-percenters have economic power, but scant cultural power; the young, educated elites have tons of cultural power and growing political power, but still not much economic power; and the caring class and rural working class, unheard and unseen, have almost no power of any kind at all. Our politics, meanwhile, has become sharper-edged, more identity-based, and more reactionary, in part because politics is the one arena in which the bobos cannot dominate—there aren’t enough of us.

Into this fraught, every-which-way class conflict walks Joe Biden. Weirdly, he stands outside it.

Biden is the first president since Ronald Reagan without a degree from an Ivy League university. His sensibility was formed not in the meritocracy but in the working-class neighborhoods of his youth. Condescension is alien to his nature. He has little interest in the culture-war issues that drive those at the top of the hierarchies, and spent his 2020 campaign studiously avoiding them. Biden gets prickly when he is surrounded by intellectual preening; he’s most comfortable hanging around with union guys who don’t pull that crap.

Biden’s working-class version of progressivism is a relic from the pre-bobo era. His programs—his COVID-relief law, his infrastructure bill, his family-support proposal—represent efforts to funnel resources to those who have not graduated from college and who have been left behind by the creative-class economy. As Biden boasted in an April speech to a Joint Session of Congress, “Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree; 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.” Those are his people.