From Walter Russell Mead, The Progressive Crisis:
The progressive state has never seen its job as simply to check the excesses of the rich. It has also sought to correct the vices of the poor and to uplift the masses. From the Prohibition and eugenics movements of the early twentieth century to various improvement and uplift projects in our own day, well educated people have seen it as their simple duty to use the powers of government to make the people do what is right: to express the correct racial ideas, to eschew bad child rearing technique like corporal punishment, to eat nutritionally appropriate foods, to quit smoking, to use the right light bulbs and so on and so on.
Progressives want and need to believe that the voters are tuning them out because they aren’t progressive enough. But it’s impossible to grasp the crisis of the progressive enterprise unless one grasps the degree to which voters resent the condescension and arrogance of know-it-all progressive intellectuals and administrators. They don’t just distrust and fear the bureaucratic state because of its failure to live up to progressive ideals (thanks to the power of corporate special interests); they fear and resent upper middle class ideology.
And I want to add this as an aside:
The progressive ideal of administrative cadres leading the masses toward the light has its roots in a time when many Americans had an eighth grade education or less.
And, I would argue, this goes a long way to explain the destruction of the public education system here. As mentioned a couple of posts down, the estimate is that one in seven adults in America is functionally illiterate – i.e.: has a less than eighth-grade education. If one in seven can’t read, what percentage of today’s population meets that “eighth-grade education” criteria? How many colleges offer basic mathematics and english courses to incoming freshmen because they lack the necessary skills a high school diploma used to ensure?
A “progressive ideal of administrative cadres leading the masses toward the light” depends on those ignorant masses. EDUCATED masses tend to think for themselves, and in quite un-masslike ways.