If anything, I would suggest that we are living in the middle of a golden age of upper-middle-class white professional self-satisfaction. From the Panglossian airport nonfiction of Steven Pinker — the only sort of book that most people of Jacoby’s class will ever encounter after finishing college — to the endless smug Vox and NPR interviews with the authors of treatises on rural white degeneracy to the recent sneering about the distribution of GDP from Hillary Clinton, the dowager empress of American liberalism herself, the supply of elite self-satisfaction seems to me well-nigh inexhaustible.
Jacoby never bothers to adumbrate the supposed virtues of the elites she wishes poorer Americans were capable of emulating, but it is clear that one of them is apparently “reading,” that well-known pastime of brunch goers from Washington to San Francisco. Nor is she very explicit about what she thinks can be done about the epistemological crisis that makes it possible for unnamed Michigan voters to believe President Trump’s conspiracy theories. But it is clear from her piece that this president of an atheist think tank has pretty much the same answer as Ben Sasse, the painfully sincere evangelical pseudo-highbrow Republican junior senator from Nebraska. Both Jacoby and Sasse believe that most Americans are ill educated, crass, lazy, and, probably, fat. What they need to do is broaden their cultural horizons by reading improving books.