For as difficult as the past year has been, from politics to the pandemic, it has at least helped to illuminate and clarify certain things about the state of our country.
Above all, 2020 has illuminated and clarified the relationship between America’s elites—in government, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, corporate America and the corporate press—and everyone else. In short, our elites believe, contra Thomas Jefferson, that most people were born with saddles on their backs while a favored few were born booted and spurred to ride them, legitimately.
We like to think we live in a country where everyone, rich and poor alike, is equal before the law. But we know now, thanks to the exigencies and emergencies of 2020, that isn’t true—or at least it’s only true sometimes, when the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to weigh in and enforce equal treatment.
But left unchecked, as many of our leaders were over the past year, we all know what they will do. In no particular order, then, here are the five big things we learned about America and its elites in 2020.
1. Democrats Don’t Care About Science—Or Religious Liberty
This year we learned Democrats aren’t the “party of science,” and in fact don’t care about science at all—especially if it gets in the way of their policy agenda or the exercise of emergency powers.
Lost in the media coverage of these and similar cases was the disturbing fact that these governors weren’t basing their pandemic-related restrictions on science or data. When a Los Angeles judge earlier this month struck down an outdoor dining ban issued by county health officials, he noted that the county hadn’t presented any scientific evidence justifying the ban or even done a basic cost-benefit analysis on the effects of shutting down more than 30,000 restaurants.
“It’s not rational to make a decision without doing everything you’re supposed to do, and you haven’t,” the judge said. “You’re imposing restrictions but there’s no reason to believe it will help with ICU capacity.” In all these cases, science had nothing to do with the attempted shutdown. Power and prejudice did.
2. Lockdowns For Thee But Not For Me
Speaking of Newsom, he became the poster boy for elite hypocrisy when he was photographed at a fancy Napa Valley restaurant with a bunch of wealthy and powerful friends right after imposing harsh pandemic-related lockdowns on much of the state.
He wasn’t alone. All over the country, elected officials—almost all of them Democrats—were spotted flouting their own pandemic rules and restrictions. My colleague Tristan Justice catalogued some of the most high-profile instances.
There was Austin Mayor Steve Adler telling residents to stay home—and threatening them with more restrictive measures if they didn’t comply—while he was vacationing in a Mexican resort town.
There was Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who boarded a flight for Houston to visit his daughter for Thanksgiving right after telling residents to “avoid travel if you can.”
On and on, all over the country. The mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, D.C., all of them Democrats, all of them caught flouting their own lockdown orders.
We can conclude two things from this. The first is that our ruling elites, despite their grave intonations and warnings, don’t really believe the coronavirus is very dangerous or that their lockdown orders are necessary—at least not for them. The second is that they hate you and think you’re stupid.
3. Lockdown Elites Don’t Care If Small Businesses Die
The elites’ hypocrisy went beyond their personal behavior. It also affected the pandemic policies they supported and imposed. Especially in blue states and cities, elected officials opted for pandemic restrictions that disproportionately harmed small businesses and working families, while giving generous carve-outs and exemptions to special interests.
Nothing illustrated this better than a viral video by a distraught restaurant owner in Los Angeles, who was justifiably upset over an outdoor dining ban that shuttered all bars and restaurants but exempted the film and television industry. Angela Marsden, owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Los Angeles, had spent tens of thousands of dollars to create an outdoor dining space that complied with Centers for Disease Control and county health guidelines in an attempt to save her business, only to have the rules changed on her without warning.
The real slap in the face, though, was an outdoor dining area for a television production set up not 50 feet from her restaurant. The two dining spaces were nearly identical. The only difference is that she, a small business owner, wasn’t powerful or important enough to get an exemption.
4. Silicon Valley Wants You to Shut Up
Another disturbing revelation in 2020 was that Big Tech doesn’t care about free speech or the free exchange of ideas, and will, given the right circumstances, censor what you can read and share on their platforms according to criteria they invent out of thin air.
We saw this over and over again, not only with COVID-19 commentary and reporting but with coverage of the presidential election and the many instances of fraud and illegal electioneering that were documented in the days and weeks after the vote. Twitter and Facebook in particular were aggressive in their censorship of any opinions or information that challenged their chosen narratives about the pandemic and the election.
Again, science and data and verifiable facts didn’t factor into these decisions. Experts like former White House advisor Scott Atlas were censored by Twitter for sharing studies that showed the ineffectiveness of masks. Amazon did the same thing to former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson’s booklet on the ineffectiveness of masks.
On election night, Twitter repeatedly censored President Trump but not former Vice President Joe Biden. Facebook “fact-checkers,” some of them funded by China and Russia, repeatedly flagged content critical of Democrats.
Most infamously, Twitter and Facebook conspired with corporate media before the election to impose a blackout on coverage of the Hunter Biden scandal, including an unprecedented move by Twitter to suspend The New York Post’s account for breaking the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop and emails. This was done rather straightforwardly to shield voters from the Biden family’s corruption. After the election, the FBI confirmed that it is in fact investigating Hunter Biden.
5. Elites Are Okay With Chaos and Violence From the Left
Another glaring instance of elite hypocrisy in 2020 was the reaction to riots and looting in American cities throughout the spring and summer. Because Democrats and corporate media agreed with the ideology and politics driving this violence, and approved of groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) that were fomenting it, they excused it. Over and over, reporters and commentators characterized violent riots and urban unrest as “mostly peaceful protests,” sometimes even while showing images of burning buildings and mayhem in the streets.
By contrast, peaceful and orderly protests of pandemic lockdown orders in the spring were reported as dangerous and threatening, not because they were actually dangerous or threatening but because the protesters were mostly conservatives and Republicans who thought governors and mayors were overstepping their authority. At the same time, these same outlets downplayed or simply refused to report on the many instances of violence, including shootings, perpetrated by Antifa rioters and BLM demonstrators across the country.
When armed groups began showing up at these BLM “protests” to protect property and businesses from being looted and burned down, major outlets like The New York Times pretended the gunplay and violence started with the right, not the left. Biden’s deputy campaign manager even went on air and accused Trump of “inciting violence,” as if the mere fact of Trump presidency justified widespread violence and rioting.
We learned from all this that the left is prepared to burn down cities to seize power, and will make excuses for rioters and looters as long as it serves their political and ideological agenda.
That’s of a piece with everything else we’ve learned about our elites in 2020. They don’t really care about the things they claim to care about. They don’t care about science or data or even keeping us safe during a pandemic. They don’t care about small businesses or working families or getting kids back to school. They don’t care about free speech or the free exercise of religion or anything else that hinders their power—and they certainly don’t care about you.