Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein must count among the intellectual elites. Despite his not having any background in behavioral science he has happily joined the behavioral economists who believe that they should be telling everyone how to life their lives.
According to Sunstein, those who know best need but nudge others to do what they consider to be the right thing. He does not say it, but if nudge does not work, you go to push and shove. Since Sunstein worked for the Obama administration, and since, for the record, his wife is Samantha Power, current U. N. and one of the architects of the administration's Libya policy, he must count as one of those whose superior judgment has been repudiated by the British electorate.
As I and many others have suggested, the transnational and rootless elites constitute a class of guardians who, as in Plato, believe that they know what is best for everyone. They reject the marketplace; reject science except when its results suit them; and cling jealously to their own poser and authority.
After Brexit they threw what may properly be called a temper tantrum against the ignorant low-class people who voted to leave the European Union.
The brilliant calculations of behavioral economists notwithstanding further research has shown that if someone gets the impression that you are trying to influence his decision or even to push him toward one or another decision, he will react by rejecting your advice... at times in a most unfriendly fashion. If you tyrannize people, even by using a soft tyranny, they get angry.
On the other hand Sunstein did offer a cogent analysis of the state of the American body politics a couple of years ago in Bloomberg. His point at that time, point that we see enacted on the political stage is that prejudice on the basis of political party (and, I add, ideology) has turned the parties into warring camps. The opposition if never just the loyal opposition, but counts as enemy combatants. Engaging in conversation or discussion with a member of the opposing army counts as treason. Far more people would allow their children to marry outside of their race than would allow them to marry outside of the political party.
Since the data cited goes back to 1960 we note that when conservatives and Republicans took out after communists the left retorted by demonizing Richard Nixon. Eventually, Nixon was shown to have been corrupt and those who hated him with a passion came to believe that their hatred was rational and justified. They did not consider Nixon's policies on the merits; they simply hated him and blamed him for everything... including the Vietnam War.
Of course, the same people had the same feelings about Ronald Reagan. It was almost as though the password to enter their club was: I hate Ronald Reagan. This allowed them to dispense with all rational thought and to allow themselves to be carried away with their passion.
The hatred is so strong that even so mild mannered and upright citizen as Mitt Romney was vilified and demonized in the 2012 presidential campaign. The habit has become so pervasive that even Republicans have denounced Ted Cruz as Lucifer.
And, of course, the Obama administration has fed the fire with its divisive politics and its willingness to underwrite political correctness. After all, the Obama administration Department of Education has decided that anyone who has been accused of sexual assault must be deprived of all his rights under the law and should have his case adjudicated by an administrative panel.
Obama was happy to demonize Republicans and to take every opportunity-- even terrorist attacks-- to set one group of Americans against another. Obama looked mild-mannered but his policies and his conduct of his office were decidedly divisive. While the data does not suggest that Obama created the problem, it does suggest that he aggravated it.
The American experiment in self-governance depends primarily on political virtue. It requires that people respect their opponents, that the loyal opposition really is loyal. Once you start saying that your opponents have ulterior and evil motives, you have stepped off the virtue train into the slough of despond.
In a country where political virtue has gone out of fashion, people are now worried about what they can and cannot say. They are worried that their words or opinions will be counted as racist, sexist, homophobic, or whatever. Thus they are constantly on edge, fearful of the arrival of the thought police.
When virtue ceases to exist, a society becomes divided against itself.
More significantly, as I have had occasion to point out, a society is held together by a uniformity of customs and manners, by a uniform culture. When different groups have different manners and customs, you cannot easily tell who is friend and who is foe. Thus, you will lose the sense of belonging to a nation by respecting its traditions, its history, its virtues and its successes. By now, no one is really allowed to take pride in America, lest it offend one or another of the different cultures that are fighting for influence.
And yet, when a culture is based on public behaviors it is relatively easy to tell who belongs and who does not. When good behavior has been undermined as a tyrannical force, people will be judged on the basis of their ideas and beliefs. And, as was discovered during past inquisitions, it is hellishly difficult to know who really believes what.