How Politically Skewed Is Virginia’s Artista Class?

In my previous blog post, I documented how Virginia’s college and university faculty staff skew leftward in their campaign contributions (at least among those who donated $10,000 or more over the past 20 years). But the imbalance was nothing compared to that of Virginia’s artistic/literary class. Using the same methodology (more than $10,000 in contributions over the 20 years as found in the Virginia Public Access Project database), I find that artists and authors have contributed about 4.5 times more to Democrats than Republicans. That number understates the degree of the disparity. Patricia Cornwell, known for her Kay Scarpetta crime novels, accounted for almost four-fifths of all GOP contributions, but she has long since decamped for Connecticut.

By the standards of business and special-interest money, Virginia’s artists and writers don’t exercise a lot of clout in the campaign-contribution arena. Lopsided contributions from this group is more a reflection of how the Left dominates the commanding heights of highbrow culture.


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


11 responses to “How Politically Skewed Is Virginia’s Artista Class?”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Grisham and Baldacci represent “high brow culture.” What is the point if these tirades? That creative people tend left?”

    1. High brow culture — fair point about Grisham and Baldacci.

      I’ll retract my use of the “high brow” modifier.

      What is your definition of a “tirade”? I usually associate tirades with the use of insults and invective.

  2. Interesting statistics — mainly to see the list of Virginia artists/authors. But how their political contributions demonstrate anything sinister is beyond me. Grisham, for example, is well known around Charlottesville for his generous donation of land and facilities for several Little League fields; he obviously cares about community that surrounds him, that he lives in, that he’s a part of, and he sees an opportunity to do some good, there.

    These authors are generally well educated people and keep themselves well aware of current affairs and, by the nature of their craft, have skills of observation and some empathy for the rest of us, the people they write about. They donate preponderantly to the political party where they find like-minded folks, and those are not gathered in the “center” today, for there is no center. I suppose, giving to politicians who act like they are educated and aware and empathetic qualifies the givers as “high brow.” I submit to you, this disparagement of education and empathy is not something that used to define the political parties of Virginia, but today it demonstrates how far apart we have drifted in our cultural as well as political polarization.

    Could it possibly be that these “highbrow culture” folks “skew leftward” with their political contributions in revulsion to what they see these days on the right: the stinginess, the lack of education, the lack of empathy, the close-mindedness, the racist, ethnic dog-whistling, the refusal to confront gun violence, the arrogance abroad, the moral abdication in Congress? Should today’s remaining Republicans be surprised, let alone proud, that Virginia’s artists and authors have voted so overwhelmingly with their wallets to send their cash ‘across the aisle’?

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Actually, no Acbar, it is none of the above. This is particularly so since these so called “highbrow culture” folks are not “highbrow at all. ” They instead are simply very skilled, but low brow, popular writers who crave to be accepted into the cabal of those they often wrongly assume to be highly literate, that is the typical faux and snotty highbrow class. Of course the faux highbrow class often is just as secretly envious of the low brow writer who earns big bucks because very few of high brow snotty folks can get any body to read them at all.

      Human nature, and its fall, explain most everything, and never changes itself, only its costume, always a disguise, and typically quite snotty in the higher reaches of society or cult.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Hence here, at this highly distilled place called Charlotteville and Albemarle County Virginia, it’s a crossroads where the intellectual class and rich who want to be intellectual class feast / feed on one another. In my undergraduate days, my classmate, Shelby Coffey III, Hallie (St. Anthony Hall) laid this social dynamic out in quite brilliant detail when still an undergraduate himself. That is the benefit of UVa, your peers are typically far better than the place, and often prove it to everyones advantage.

  3. I’m still feeling my way. This is uncharted territory. My larger argument is that the educated elites/cultural elites have shifted decisively to the left side of the political spectrum. That includes all the commanding heights of the nation’s culture — colleges, universities, mainstream media, museums, movies, arts & literature, and even public schools (though school teachers aren’t commonly thought of as part of the “elite”). To a remarkable degree, the cultural elites are contemptuous of what H.L. Mencken referred to as the “boobouisie.” In turn, the boobouisie is increasingly resentful of the elites.

    Acbar, if you seek to answer the question why the political/cultural center is disintegrating, I would submit that this is one of the reasons. With my two posts yesterday — college professors and the artista class — I am simply trying to show how the process is playing out here in Virginia.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Jim, you have just put your finger on why I find H.L. Mencken so distasteful a writer despite his prodigious talents and gravitate instead to folks like G.K Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, mighty talents infused with humility.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Mighty talents infused with humility. Where might we otherwise find it? Here for example:

    “We have gathered here today not just to admire this beautiful Chapel – we have gathered here to dedicate it. The word dedicate in this context means “to set apart and consecrate to the deity or to a sacred purpose.” … setting apart this sacred place on a college campus … a place where man man can enter the presence of God, a sanctuary in which man can withdraw from the chaos of our world and seek a sacred stillness … (hear) a “gentle whisper.”

    Accordingly, men and women have sought respite from the noise and commotion of daily life, where they can “be still, and know that (He is) God, where they can seek an inner calm and a transcendent peace … a place for an encounter with the Divine.

    As the architect of this chapel has written: “When you enter a church, it is as if you are entering thought a gateway from the profane toward the sacred. It is difficult to overstate the significance of the role that this Chapel will play in the life of (this) college.” From Justice Clarence Thomas’s address at dedication of new chapel at Hillsdale College.

    Contrast that with UVA’s obsessive self worship at Christmas time, complete with its own sacred chapel, President Ryan’s study at home, and Ryan’s performance as high priest surrounded by his attendant apostles, all sitting, standing, or diddling about in silence, chewing cookies, tapping golf balls, being clever, or just staring out at us for us to worship as if they were idols.

    The self worship service at UVA’s of itself, complete with numerous selfies, kissing of trophies won, diddling with trinkets, and craven live images of human idols (faculty and administrators) lasts for one full hour with not a word spoken, only a crackling fire, as if on Christmas Eve we are invited to UVA to worship UVA. And throughout it all, this vulgar narcissistic self display, only Larry Sabato looks puzzled at best, and truly disgusted at worse.

  5. Jim, you ask a challenging question, and I don’t entirely agree with Reed’s answer. Have the “cultural elites” shifted “decisively to the left”? As they say in so many other contexts, correlation does not imply causation. Yes, there is some ugly contempt out there in the political arena, and some heightened resentment among those on the receiving end. But I see that on both sides of the spectrum these days.

    It’s way too easy and too simplistic to posit that cultural elites are the ones who are contemptuous and condescending, and that the beleagered “boobouisie” are the resentful and embittered victims. Yes these are stereotypes; and to the contrary, there are some darned contemptuous, even condescending, Trumpers out there notwithstanding their ‘boob’ credentials; there are not a few suburban women and young professionals out there who are resentful and embittered notwithstanding their evident education and ‘elite’ status. Indeed I think the prevailing attitude among the Republican Party defenders of the President lately has been (often feigned) contempt for those who try to remind them what discourse founded on evidence-based reasoning requires. And I think the principal motivation behind the VA election results of 2019 was the resentment of Trump’s self-obsession, crudeness, and disdain for the institutions and policies and professionals of government, amplified by his Party supporters, as illustrated by the high NoVa and Richmond turnout for the spontaneous Women’s March of 2017 and the much-higher-than-Statewide percentage in NoVa supporting impeachment,

    [I use ‘Trumps’ base’ or ‘‘Trumpers’ here as representative of the larger national political context for the phenomenon you describe: “the educated elites/cultural elites have shifted decisively to the left side of the political spectrum” – one could as well say ‘Corey Stewart base.’]

    I agree, contempt and its counterpart resentment have ripped the political center apart. There was a time in my youth when I recall “elitist” was what the victim of cultural condescension called its source. Today the term is more generally applied to those who attempt logical, fact-based argument and defend the MSM and journalism’s role in free speech, by those who see logic as an impediment to arrogance and emotive stridency and the fact-checkers of the MSM as engaged in personal vendetta. You can shorten that to “educated” versus “not” but that oversimplifies the distinction. I personally resent being called an elitist for championing reasoned, articulate discussion and the importance of the scientific method in establishing facts — if that is elitist so be it.

    But why the leftward tilt politically? Well, one hallmark of the Trump-era Republican Party has been lack of compassion – on everything from health care to gun limitations, processing at the Mexican border, refugee immigration, Medicare conditions, etc. — and while the Republican approach has been justified as cost-saving, I think it’s fair to say the Democrats tend to react with compassion first, think about cost later. The Republicans’ attempted repeal of the ACA without a replacement being offered struck many centrists as madness and drove them toward the side expressing a modicum of compassion.

    Another factor has been anti-institutionalist sentiment — not that the Dems have traditionally been the only pro-institutionalist party, but that the Republicans have so conspicuously abandoned that field under Trump. I’m not talking about classic Reagan-era ‘keep government small’ sentiment but some truly ‘we’re shutting you down even if you have a law to administer and Congress continues to fund you’ directives from the White House. In particular the arrogance with which his early appointees have treated their respective agencies (I have a particular bone to pick with Ajit Pai’s handling of “net neutrality” at the FCC), as underscored, for example, through the impeachment testimony about Trump’s bypassing of State Department professionals, and Trump’s infamous directive to NOAA to acknowledge the hurricane threat to Alabama. I live in NoVa and many of my neighbors are career government employees; their morale collectively these days is very low. If you believe that the institutions of government matter, the party that supports that view today is exclusively on the left.

    And another factor has been the rollback of environmental and similar “anti-business” regulations. I get it; the EPA among other federal agencies has been guilty for years of overreach and coercion through bureaucracy. But the way this rollback has been handled, politically, seems not policy driven by what’s good for the nation but targeted specifically and blatantly to reward those industries and lobbyists making large political donations — it smacks too much of “government for sale.” I can’t say the Dems have a clean record in that regard nor is every Republican rollback problematic, but at least the party out of power is less tainted by it currently.

    All that said, is there contempt shown by the occasional public school teacher toward a less-educated parent who resents it? If the teacher is a Democrat, would this alone make the resentful parent more likely to view the Democratic Party as a haven for elitists? I suppose so. But from the teachers’ point of view, wouldn’t he more likely prefer the party that wants to fully fund the school he teaches in and supports educational programs? The political sorting process, of course, is complicated.

    1. Acbar, I see you are struggling to be fair and reasonable in your appraisal of things. All I can suggest to you is that the divisions in our society run much deeper than Donald Trump, and they will still be with us when Trump is gone (whether a year from now or five years from now). I am just trying to understand the sociological roots of those divisions.

      1. Yes, understanding the roots of those divisions is what we’re all trying to do, so we can learn how to bridge them again. And from my perspective, let us hope Trump is gone sooner rather than later as he goes out of his way to deepen and inflame those divisions, even if he was not their root cause.

Leave a Reply