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Home » Opinion | When Progressive Ideals Become a Luxury

Opinion | When Progressive Ideals Become a Luxury

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Opinion

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When Progressive Ideals Become a Luxury

When Progressive Ideals Become a Luxury

By Rob HendersonVideo by Lindsay Crouse and Kevin Oliver

By Rob HendersonVideo by Lindsay Crouse and Kevin Oliver

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When Progressive Ideals Become a Luxury

July 10, 2024, 5:02 a.m. ET

By Rob Henderson

Video by Lindsay Crouse and Kevin Oliver

Mr. Henderson is the author of “Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class.” Ms. Crouse is a producer with Opinion Video, and Mr. Oliver is a video producer and editor.

In a 2017 Senate hearing, the Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam famously argued, “Rich kids and poor kids now grow up in separate Americas.” Rob Henderson knows this firsthand. His mother was addicted to drugs; he never knew his father. He grew up shuttling among foster homes, where he started drinking beer around age 5 and smoking marijuana at age 9. At age 17 he watched a drunk friend kick a dog off a cliff and knew he had to escape. He enlisted in the Air Force.

When Henderson got to Yale on the G.I. Bill, he was shocked by the differences between him and his classmates. As he explains in the video above, he learned it was popular for his classmates to hold strong, seemingly progressive views about many of the concerns that shaped his life — drugs, marriage, crime. But they were largely insulated from the consequences of their views. Henderson found that these ideas came to serve as status symbols for the privileged while they, ironically, kept the working class down. He came to call these ideas luxury beliefs.

Henderson went on to get his Ph.D. at Cambridge and wrote a book about his experiences, “Troubled: A Memoir of Family, Foster Care, and Social Class.” In the video, Henderson argues that these out-of-touch views are all around us, widening our class divide and fueling our fractious politics. And he envisions another way.

Rob Henderson (@robkhenderson) is the author of “Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class.” Lindsay Crouse is a writer and producer in Opinion. Kevin Oliver is a video editor and producer.

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