Murray’s upper-middle-class professionals are not the callous and un-American “Davos Men” of Steve Bannon’s rhetoric. They’re guilty of some mostly benign neglect, but in general their lifestyles are fairly admirable.It's fair to draw a distinction between decent 'elites' and the "Davos Men" (and women, including especially the recent Democratic candidate for President). But let's not lose the fair criticism, either: how many of these don't preach what they practice? How many preach that the traditional family structure is a kind of trap for women and children, or that marriage is a very fluid concept, or that really it's fine if the best jobs go to strangers overseas? They don't practice this way. They practice as if their marriage and family are sacrosanct, and their children need to position themselves to get the increasingly few good jobs that exist in a changing economy.
They’re disciplined and hard-working. They embrace healthy life habits. They are conscientious parents who get involved in their (bubbled) communities. It’s also interesting to note that Murray sees his upper middle class as a genuine cognitive elite.... In short, Murray in “Coming Apart” seems to regard the residents of “Belmont” as fine exemplars of many core American values. He doesn’t want to see them deposed. He just wants them to try harder to reach out to their less-fortunate compatriots, which is especially critical because “Fishtown” needs some help in this regard....
We don’t have to choose between a theory suggesting that “Fishtown” needs more and better professional and educational opportunities, and one suggesting that Fishtowners need more discipline and better life habits. These claims can easily both be true.
But if they are both true, then we won’t be able to lift “Fishtown” up just by tearing “Belmont” down. Populism likes to lionize the common man, but that wasn’t Murray’s impulse. He wanted the elite to “preach what they practice,” negatively judging Fishtowners’ misbehavior for their own good and the good of our shared society.
They say the popular things to say, not the hard things. If the poor and the weak hear these things from the righteous and successful, how many of them will find the heart to say that the righteous and successful are wrong? Well, they are wrong: not so much in what they do, but very often in what they say. Very often, likewise, in what they consent to their government saying.