Jill Filipovic: Louise Linton is not an elected official, and how she spends her money is her own business
Linton's actions are the latest example of ever-coarsening behavior online from the nation's privileged, Filipovic says
It’s tough out there for a socialite. Especially when money can’t buy you good sense.
Louise Linton, an actress recently married to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is facing criticism for an ill-conceived social media encounter that first involved her bragging about her designer wardrobe, and quickly devolved into her mocking and berating an Oregon mom. She posted a photo to Instagram of herself having just exited an official government plane, and included a series of hashtags to specify exactly which pricey designer brands she was wearing. When Jennifer Miller, an Oregon mother of three, criticized her (“Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable”), Linton struck back. “Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” she asked. “I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.” She later apologized in a statement.
Liberals were aghast. Some conservatives shrugged, or said nothing. Breitbart gave the story a cursory writeup, and the Twitter chatter about it has been dominated by liberal pundits while conservatives have stayed largely silent.
The right passed up the opportunity to side with someone who represents the working and middle class that Donald Trump’s campaign supposedly championed against the arrogance of the entitled rich. Instead this encounter is another piece of evidence that we can now put a bullet in the idea that most people who voted for Donald Trump did so because of economic insecurity; for many, it’s clearly about a more complex, ugly form of political and racial tribalism.
The response from the right (or lack thereof) to Linton’s outburst is more evidence that the 2016 election wasn’t just about white working-class voters feeling unrepresented by out-of-touch elites. It was also about a group of Americans who don’t care one iota about character or honesty or even reality, but do care about sticking it to liberals and creating chaos for fun – because liberals, and the people increasingly benefiting from the changing political order, are women and people of color.
To be clear, Linton is not an elected official, and how she spends her money is her own business, whether it’s on Birkin bags and Valentino heels or perhaps copies of her own bizarrely self-aggrandizing book, which peddles racist clichés about Africa and has been thoroughly discredited.
There is also something particularly sexist about the vitriol aimed at women who wear pricey clothing, since that outrage is rarely leveled at men who have closets full of $10,000 suits.
But Linton’s actions are only the latest example of ever-coarsening behavior online from the nation’s most privileged and entitled, coupled with stunning conservative hypocrisy. The combination of Linton’s Africa memoir, her tacky name-dropping hashtags, and her condescending and classist response to Miller paints a portrait of a self-involved and narcissistic woman with a loose relationship to the truth and very little self-awareness.
There seems to be no hypocrisy a startling number of GOP voters won’t tolerate, and no point at which an individual’s cronyism, lies and ill character matter if there’s an R next to their name on the ballot.
Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington and advocate for the average working man; instead, he’s appointed bankers like Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, to the richest Cabinet in history, and along with those millionaires and billionaires is pushing policies that would devastate the poor.
Trump tarred his opponent as hopelessly corrupt, and Clinton’s emails got top media billing at his rallies and in media coverage; many of Trump’s supporters cited “Crooked Hillary” as a reason they were voting for him.
And yet as president, Trump has taken nepotism to new extremes and demonstrated a shocking and unprecedented willingness to abuse his position in order to enrich himself and his family. He put his daughter and her husband in plum positions, ignored the fact that his son met with a Russian operative to get dirt on Clinton, and profits handsomely from the hotels and clubs he owns – and that others pay to stay at so they can get access to the president. If Republican voters and their elected officials in Congress are bothered, they aren’t saying so.
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The bad behavior of the Republican at the top of the ticket seems to be trickling down not just to the rest of his administration, but to Americans more generally. It’s poisoning out politics, it’s making us dumber, and it seems to be feeding many of our worst impulses.
Linton is just one incarnation of this disturbing trend: A woman who seems better suited to star on a reality TV show than to be a public political figure who is tied (even if only by marriage) to public service; a narcissistic fabulist with bad social media manners who lashes out at the less powerful who dare criticize her.