Jared Kushner’s Prerogatives

Maintaining privilege is the most powerful psychological—and political—force.

Posted Apr 25, 2019

Jared Kushner’s position in the Trump administration has mystified people. Coming from a moderate-to-liberal Jewish family, Jared’s support for a regime with distinctively anti-abortion, anti-environmental, anti-business-regulation positions, Donald Trump and all his mishegas seemingly has no basis in his previous life and political stances.

Kushner’s adamant backing for his father-in-law was made clear in his interview under the aegis of his being selected as one of Time’s 100 most influential people. Questioned on stage about the Russian interference in American elections detailed in the Mueller report, Kushner dismissed such concerns:

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, dismissed Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign on Tuesday as a “couple of Facebook ads” and said the investigation of it was far more damaging to the country than the intrusion itself.

Kushner made this assertion even though:

Facebook estimated that Russia-backed ads and social media posts reached 126 million Americans during the election, only about 10 million fewer than voted in 2016. Moreover, Russians hacked accounts of the Democratic National Committee and leaked damaging information about Mr. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, at critical moments during the campaign.

Being surprised at Kushner’s apparent ability to ignore all of the information Mueller presented is surprising, however, only if you consider that people’s political positions are determined ideologically, rather than in terms of their social, psychological and economic self-interest. But this surprise is undercut by looking at Kushner as a real-estate scion who presumably wants to maintain all the privileges he was born with and has since accumulated.

Obviously, there are rich liberals. But how far will such liberals tolerate the erosion of their social and economic privileges? Will they really allow their children, for instance, to be put in general educational situations—for example, integrated public schools? Indeed, will they themselves move to integrated communities?

British-born (now American) economist Richard Reeves begs to differ. For Reeves, liberal positions extend just as far as the privileges of the upper 20 percent of Americans (in terms of socioeconomic status). No matter which political party they endorse, they aren’t challenged. When their privileges are challenged, Reeves maintains, upper-middle-class Americans will strike out.

This means, according to Reeves, primarily maintaining their children in the same social rungs that they occupy, which is accomplished via residential and educational segregation.

One other commentator who challenges liberals in their own territory, producing discomfort in his audiences, is political blogger and columnist Andrew Sullivan (also British born). Sullivan was a Catholic acolyte and conservative diehard for about as long as a gay man can be before abandoning these bastions because, frankly, they had abandoned him.

Since then, Sullivan has bedeviled both political camps. An example is his lecturing wealthy Hollywood liberals that their disparagement of lower-social-status whites who support Trump does nothing so much as solidify support in this group for the President. 

Sullivan criticized "Hollywood" for regularly painting non-coastal elites in unflattering terms, which he said has only exacerbated America's cultural divide.

"These people who are already insecure about losing their job switch on the TV, look at the newspaper and hear that they are being described as bigots, racists," said Sullivan, who was speaking to a packed audience of industry professionals, including some of the town's biggest names, at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. "And they resent it, and the one thing I would urge you people who do this type of content is try and complete the idea of 'the other' being in the room because they can hear what you are saying."

Ironically, for Reeves and Sullivan, this leads both conservative and liberal elites to avoid interacting with African-Americans in their neighborhoods and schools, while disdaining underprivileged whites for their prejudice. Among other consequences of this global disdain is our society’s inability to address the social determinants of our opioids crisis.