Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, June 26th, 2008.


Elitism for Dummies

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Bush Administration, conservatism

President Bush’s unintentionally hilarious/embarrassing/revealing/pathetic remark to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo about the White House chef once again stirred up the “elitism” issue for me.

Were it not for the affected Texas accent, ol’ George would seem a character right out of some dry satire about a clueless and inbred European nobility. In some ways he’s the spoiled, undisciplined boy in school blazer and knickers who disrupts his mother’s crystal-and-china garden parties. Yet in other ways I sense his whole life is driven by brooding resentments and an urge to settle scores.

I’ve also long been curious about the Texas accent, since he appears to be the only member of his family who has one. One wonders if the accent and the rest of the folksy persona developed before or after Little Georgie was shipped back East to the Phillips Academy.

One definition of “elitism” is “The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.” By that definition, Little Georgie is elitist to the core. He’s so entitled he can’t see his own limitations, and so thoroughly elitist he may not see his elitism as elitism, as he’s been protected from other ways to view the world.

You probably know that one of the Right’s favorite Fantasy Narratives is of the mysterious “liberal elite” that secretly runs everything and which countless right-wing politicians have won elections running against, even though it doesn’t exist. Oh, there are certainly groups of elitist liberals, but they haven’t had enough influence to impact a bag of marshmallows for years.

Anyway, awhile back I was reading some op ed by some blue-blooded, Ivy League-educated right-wing pundit in the Wall Street Journal, and out of the blue this guy slams somebody else for being an elitist. Too rich; I’m sorry I didn’t bookmark it. But this is what I mean by unconscious elitism.

Right-wing elitists in particular just love to think of themselves as Men (or Women, as it were) of the People, particularly the People of the Homeland, because these People share their Values and are easily snookered can be flattered into voting for Republican candidates who present themselves as People Just Like Them, and who in turn can be counted on to protect the privileges and prerogatives of the right-wing elitists who don’t see themselves as elitists.

John McCain’s recent mangling of Barack Obama’s famous “bitter” remark is also illustrative:

“We’re going to go to the small towns in Pennsylvania and I’m gonna to tell them I don’t agree with Senator Obama that they cling to their religion and the Constitution because they’re bitter,” said McCain, who might have been referring to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. “I’m gonna tell them they have faith and they have trust and support the Constitution of the United States because they have optimism and hope… That’s what America’s all about.”

A lot of people jumped on the malapropism about the Constitution, but I say look at the next part also — he’s going to small towns in Pennsylvania and (emphasis added) “I am going to tell them that they have faith and they have trust and support the Constitution of the United States because they have optimism and hope and that is the strength of America.” These are people he’s never in his life lived among, but he’s going to tell them what they think? Does anyone beside me think that’s weird?

Shortly after Obama was slammed for the bitter remark I wrote a post called “Elitism for Elites” that most of the people in media screeching about “elitism” were, in fact, elites who had never in their lives enjoyed the true small-town white experience. Yet they stepped all over themselves rushing to a microphone to speak for small-town white folks everywhere.

And then Bill Kristol said,

He’s [Obama] disdainful of small-town America — one might say, of bourgeois America.

Either Kristol doesn’t know what bourgeois means, or else someone ought to take Kristol on a cultural tour of small-town white America.

Karl Rove’s recent attempt to paint Barack Obama as some kind of country club snot was just lame, IMO. But after years of being Mr. Insider does Karl not notice that he’s, um, an elite?

Right wingers assume they have a copyright on religion, whether they personally are religious or not, and on all matters military, whether they personally have served or not. They also assume they cannot be elites, no matter how powerful and privileged they are. Sort of out of touch with themselves, I would say.

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