Suppose that we could "out" the top policy wonks and leaders of both parties. My guess is that we would see a Democratic elite that views poor people with more disgust than sympathy. And I suspect that we would see a Republican elite that finds religious fervor more disturbing than congenial.For all I know Kling has firsthand experience with the views of "top policy wonks and leaders of both parties," though he doesn't claim to be speaking from experience here. What I want to know is where this intuition about the views of elites -- which certainly did not originate with Kling -- comes from. Why couldn't Republican elites also be religious fundamentalists? Why couldn't Democratic elites be genuine populists?
The thing about elites is that there are very few of them compared to we hoi polloi. And yet this Kling is hardly the first to claim to know their "real" views. How does he know? It could be that the knowledge filters down -- the small group of people who actually know and interact with these people talk to a few more people who talk to a few more people and so on -- but I doubt it.
Here's what I think is going on. I think Kling's own opinion is that religious fervor on the right and populism on the left are both sub-rational, baser instincts, opium-of-the-masses-type beliefs. And he assumes that elites must necessarily be rational beings not governed by such base, reptile-brain instincts -- after all, they're the elites!
But as anyone knows, if there is one lesson to be learned throughout human history, it is that powerful people are still people, governed by the same ridiculous irrationalities as the rest of us. So I think some caution is in order when divining what our elites really, really believe as distinct from what they do and say.