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The Power of Progressive Symbolism



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Out here in California, there has been lots of media attention paid to L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s sudden request for an expansive six-foot “security” wall for the city’s mayoral mansion, to augment his 24/7 security detail. Most narratives juxtapose this with the mayor’s ostensible public liberalism: Somewhere over 500,000 illegal aliens reside in the greater L.A. area, costing the city well over half a billion dollars a year in public assistance.

These sorts of lurid anecdotes (cf. Michelle Obama’s “downright mean country” and “never been proud” comments vs. her propensity to high-life vacationing at Costa del Sol and Vail) catch the public attention because they pose all sorts of weird hypocrisies. Why would those so critical of the elite gravitate to the perks of elitism? Why do they seem to be uncomfortable in the concrete with the wages of their own abstract liberal doctrines? What sort of system creates the wealth to equip a mayoral mansion, in a time of financial stress, with a tasteful security wall — or, at a time of a $1.6 trillion federal deficit, subsidize a skiing vacation for Michelle & co. at Vail?



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