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Liberal elite (also metropolitan elite in the United Kingdom) is a term used to describe politically left-leaning people, whose education had traditionally opened the doors to affluence and power and form a managerial elite. It is commonly used with the implication that the people who claim to support the rights of the working class are themselves members of the ruling classes and are therefore out of touch with the real needs of the people they claim to support and protect. The phrase "liberal elite" should not be confused with the term "elite" as used by writers such as Vilfredo Pareto and C. Wright Mills. They use the term to mean those who exercise the most political power.
The label is essentially a rhetorical device with flexible meaning depending on where in the English speaking world it is used. As a polemical term it has been used to refer to political positions as diverse as secularism, environmentalism, feminism, and other positions associated with the left.
The originating usage in the United States is applied with various changes to other English speaking countries and by extension to left-leaning elites in other countries. However, the term "liberal" does not have the same political connotation in all English speaking countries. In Australia it has the opposite connotation to that which it enjoys in the US. It is associated with the Labor Party, as the Liberal Party is conservative party whose name is based on their objective to liberalise the market economy within Australia. In the UK, the Liberal Democrats occupies the political centre between the rightist Conservative and the leftist Labour parties.
United States usage
In the United States, the lifestyle of the liberal elite is often considered noteworthy.
Columnist Dave Barry drew attention to these stereotypes when he commented, "Do we truly believe that ALL red-state residents are ignorant racist fascist knuckle-dragging NASCAR-obsessed cousin-marrying roadkill-eating tobacco-juice-dribbling gun-fondling religious fanatic rednecks; or that ALL blue-state residents are godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving left-wing communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts?"
A political ad from the right wing organization Club for Growth attacked the Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean by portraying him as part of the liberal elite: "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."
Those Americans who equate intellectual pursuits and careers with elitism often point out American intellectuals, most of whom are upper middle class not upper class, are primarily liberal. Approximately 72% of professors identify themselves as liberals. At Ivy League Universities, an even larger majority, 87% of professors identified themselves as liberals. Those with post-graduate degrees are increasingly Democratic.
In Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? the idea of a liberal elite is compared to George Orwell's character Emmanuel Goldstein in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fictional hated enemy of the people. Frank argues that anger directed towards this perceived enemy is what keeps the conservative coalition together.
United Kingdom usage
A Labour Party MP named Emily Thornberry resigned as a member of the shadow cabinet on the 20th of November during the Rochester and Strood by-election, 2014, in which she tweeted a picture of a house draped with England flags and a white van parked outside with the caption 'Image from Rochester', thought by many to be a snobby jibe. Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, commented that her tweet furthers the perception that the Labour Party "has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite".
Furthermore, the term 'Hampstead Socialist' is often used synonymously, referring to the North London area of Hampstead.
A similar concept exists in Irish politics in the form of the "Dublin 4 accent" and worldview (an area code in the affluent south of Dublin). This term is used in a class sense to signify a difference between the metropolitan elite and the ordinary people (whether urban working-class or rural "culchie").
Such descriptions are made about the Södermalm area of Stockholm, which is claimed to be a common area of Miljöpartiet support and opposition to the Swedish Democrats, often inhabited by journalists working for Sveriges Television, the national broadcaster.
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- Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas?, Holt, Henry & Company, ISBN 978-0-8050-7774-2
- "The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class | Politics". Theguardian.com. 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2015-05-22.
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- Helen Pidd, northern editor. "Nick Griffin concedes European parliament seat as BNP votes fall away | Politics". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2015-05-22.
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- "Why do Swedes accept mass immigration from the Middle East?". Swedishsurveyor.com. 2014-12-09. Retrieved 2015-05-22.