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Liberal elite

Liberal elite (also metropolitan elite in the United Kingdom)[1][2] is a pejorative term used to describe people who are politically left of centre, whose education had traditionally opened the doors to affluence and power and form a managerial elite. It is commonly used with the implication that the people who claim to support the rights of the working class are themselves members of the ruling classes and are therefore out of touch with the real needs of the people they claim to support and protect. The phrase "liberal elite" should not be confused with the term "elite" as used by writers such as Vilfredo Pareto and C. Wright Mills. They use the term to mean those who exercise the most political power.

The label is essentially a rhetorical device with flexible meaning depending on where in the English speaking world it is used. As a polemical term it has been used to refer to political positions as diverse as secularism, environmentalism, feminism, and other positions associated with the left.[not verified in body]

The originating usage in the United States is applied in other English-speaking countries and by extension to left-leaning elites in other countries. However, the term "liberal" does not have the same political connotation in all English-speaking countries. In Australia it has the opposite connotation to that which it enjoys in the US; while social liberalism is generally associated with the Labor Party, the Liberal Party is a conservative party whose name is based on their objective to liberalise the market economy within Australia. In the UK, the Liberal Democrats occupy the political centre between the rightist Conservative and the leftist Labour parties, though the term "metropolitan elite" is frequently used in reference to Labour politicians too.[not verified in body]


United States usageEdit

In the United States, the apocryphal lifestyle of the liberal elite is often referenced in popular culture.

Columnist Dave Barry drew attention to these stereotypes when he commented, "Do we truly believe that ALL red-state residents are ignorant racist fascist knuckle-dragging NASCAR-obsessed cousin-marrying roadkill-eating tobacco-juice-dribbling gun-fondling religious fanatic rednecks; or that ALL blue-state residents are godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving left-wing communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts?"[3]

During the 2008 presidential election, Republican candidate John McCain likened Democratic candidate Barack Obama's celebrity appeal to that of pop star Britney Spears and socialite Paris Hilton.[4]

A political advert from the right wing organization Club for Growth attacked the Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean by portraying him as part of the liberal elite: "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."[5]

Those Americans who equate intellectual pursuits and careers with elitism often point out American intellectuals, most of whom are upper middle class not upper class,[6] are primarily liberal. As of 2005, approximately 72% of professors identify themselves as liberals. At Ivy League Universities, an even larger majority, 87% of professors identified themselves as liberals.[7] Those with post-graduate degrees are increasingly Democratic.[8][9][10][11]

In Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas? the idea of a liberal elite is compared to George Orwell's character Emmanuel Goldstein in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fictional hated enemy of the people. Frank argues that anger directed towards this perceived enemy is what keeps the conservative coalition together.[12]

United Kingdom usageEdit

A British synonym is metropolitan elite or Islington set.[13] A Labour Party MP for Islington South and Finsbury named Emily Thornberry resigned as a member of the shadow cabinet on 20 November during the Rochester and Strood by-election, 2014, in which she tweeted a picture of a house draped with England flags and a white van parked outside with the caption 'Image from Rochester', thought by many to be a snobby jibe. Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, commented that her tweet furthers the perception that the Labour Party "has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite".[14][15][16]

Furthermore, the term 'Hampstead Socialist' is often used synonymously, referring to the North London area of Hampstead, despite the fact that all the component wards of the area are held by the Conservatives. The wider constituency has, however, often elected Labour MPs, including the 2015 incumbent, and the seats in Hampstead Town ward have previously been won by the Liberal Democrats, making the similar term Hampstead liberal somewhat more accurate as a description. The term was also regularly used by Nick Griffin, the former leader of the British National Party.[17][18][19]

Toby Young of The Spectator made a similar claim of metropolitan elitism regarding Gordon Brown over the Bigotgate affair.[20] On the campaign trail for the 2010 United Kingdom General Election, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown had a conversation with a voter who expressed concern about immigration, before describing her as "bigoted" whilst being driven away in a car with a microphone still transmitting. Stephen Glover of the Daily Mail was even more direct in his criticism of Gordon Brown as being a member of the metropolitan elite.[21]

Toby Young also used the expression whilst writing in the Daily Mail to refer to Sacha Baron-Cohen, a comedian whose alter egos Borat and Brüno have focused on Deep South residents.[22][23] The article was entitled "It's Bruno who's sick, not the ordinary people he treats with contempt", during which he wrote "Baron Cohen is encouraging the sophisticated, liberal elite to look down on those in a lower-income bracket".[24]

India usageEdit

In India, the term 'liberal elite' is used to describe the English speaking, left-leaning establishment, aligned to Nehruvian socialism and Marxism, who have formed much of the mainstream intelligentsia and the ruling political class of India, since its independence in 1947. 'Indian National Congress', often referred to as the 'Grand Old Party' of India, is a left-liberal party, which has dominated the Indian politics for much of its independent history.[25]

Ireland usageEdit

A similar concept exists in Irish politics in the form of the "Dublin 4 accent" and worldview (an area code in the affluent south of Dublin). This term is used in a class sense to signify a difference between the metropolitan elite and the ordinary people (whether urban working-class or rural "culchie").[26][27][28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ""The party's been hijacked by a metropolitan elite": Labour MP Simon Danczuk". New Statesman. 12 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Speaking as a member of the liberal metropolitan elite…". Daily Telegraph. 8 February 2015.
  3. ^ Barry, Dave (19 December 2004). "An Off-Color Rift". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  4. ^ "McCain ad compares Obama to Britney Spears, Paris Hilton". CNN. 30 July 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  5. ^ Tierney, John (11 January 2004). "THE 2004 CAMPAIGN; Political Points". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  6. ^ Thompson, W. & Hickey, J. (2005). Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, Pearson.
  7. ^ "Kurtz, H. (29 March 2005). College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds. The Washington Post". 29 March 2005. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  8. ^ "Election Results 2008". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  9. ^ "CNN. (1996). Exit Poll". Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  10. ^ "CNN. (2004). Exit Poll". Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  11. ^ "CNN. (2008). Exit Poll". Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  12. ^ Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas?, Holt, Henry & Company, ISBN 978-0-8050-7774-2
  13. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (2014-06-13). ""The party's been hijacked by a metropolitan elite": Labour MP Simon Danczuk". The New Statesman.
  14. ^ "The metropolitan elite: Britain's new pariah class". The Guardian. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Emily Thornberry: How one tweet led to her resignation - BBC News". 21 November 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  16. ^ Michael Rundell. "Political incorrectness gone mad: the myth of the metropolitan elite". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  17. ^ Helen Pidd, northern editor. "Nick Griffin concedes European parliament seat as BNP votes fall away | Politics". Retrieved 22 May 2015.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "British National Party". Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  19. ^ Waterfield, Bruno. "BNP's Nick Griffin defends jailed leader of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  20. ^ "Voting Remain is an act of heartless snobbery". The Spectator. 14 May 2016.
  21. ^ "If this woman's a bigot then I'm proud to be one too". Daily Mail.
  22. ^ "Ali G star opens old wounds in the Deep South". The Telegraph. 24 July 2005.
  23. ^ "Sacha Baron Cohen is Brüno: Achtung Baby!". The Telegraph. 5 June 2009.
  24. ^ "It's Bruno who's sick, not the ordinary people he treats with contempt". The Daily Mail. 17 July 2009.
  25. ^ Shekhar Gupta. "Saving Indian liberalism from its left-liberal elite". India Today. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  26. ^ "Dublin English: Evolution and Change - Raymond Hickey". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  27. ^ "'Avant Garde Weirdness' in an Irish Accent". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  28. ^ "Irish English: History and Present-Day Forms - Raymond Hickey". Retrieved 30 May 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Bartels, Larry M. (2006). "What's the Matter with What's the Matter with Kansas?". Quarterly Journal of Political Science. 1 (2): 201–226.
  • The Economist staff (18 November 2004). "The Fear Myth". The Economist.