Monday, January 12, 2009

Elite

Elite: a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social or economic status. Selected as the best; "an elect circle of artists"; "elite colleges"

George W. Bush, on how the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay have affected our reputation internationally:
"I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope."

The more Supreme Court decisions and dissents I read, the more disgusted I become with judges like Scalia and Thomas who throw around the word "elite" like it's a curse. Talk show radio hosts--same thing goes. They may relish in having inferior intellects, inferior social statuses, and being poor; they may enjoy not being one of the best. That is their choice. But if I were them, I wouldn't be bragging about not being elite.

From David Brooks:
Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.
What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.
Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut.
The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.
The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.
Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.
This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clich├ęs took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.
Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.
She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.
(End quote: the full article can be found here.)

That is precisely the trait I dislike the most about Palin. Smarter, more educated, more experienced...all that was looked down upon. Elite was used as a curse. And that is why I can't stand the woman, despite the fact that Mormon women like her almost as much as they like vampire romance novels.
To be fair, Bush himself has restrained himself on some fronts, most notably on the issue of immigration, and the financial help he's given to Africa. But he didn't practice much restraint on the war with Iraq, or with Guantanamo Bay, or on other fronts.
We need more than one party that prides itself on being smart. The Republican party of old didn't shy from intelligence. I'm worried that the current one does. I hope those of you who consider yourselves Republican would make a point to support Republicans that are smart, that think things through and don't just act from the gut, and that don't call people they don't like "elite."
The next time you hear the word "elite," remember what it really means. If you don't remember, look it up in a dictionary. And remember, there's nothing wrong with having a superior intellect.

4 comments:

Mommy Bee said...

Everytiem she said "I'm a joe sixpack" Dave and i both had responses along the lines of "Well I'm not" and "is that supposed to make me like you more or less?!"

JorgenMan said...

I completely agree that there exists a contempt for "the elite" that is completely ridiculous. However, I think Brooks is kidding himself if he really thinks it's just a Republican problem.

Politicians (from both parties) try to stroke egos, whether it's claiming superiority by virtue of not being "elite", telling blue-collar workers that they're more noble, hard-working, and productive than anyone else, claiming someone wouldn't make a good president because they went to Harvard, or decrying those mean old lenders who expect loans to be repaid. The one that drove me nuts was the idea that everyone who doesn't have money deserves it, and that everyone who has money deserves to have it taken away.

For all the times Palin let me down, I appreciated her comments in the debate with Joe Biden: "we need also to not get ourselves in debt. Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card. Don't live outside of our means." This type of thinking is needed in government, but nobody wants to say it. Even Palin didn't spend much time repeating that advice, instead playing to the crowd like everyone else.

Sorry my comments are always so long. I guess if you want shorter comments, you could post about things I don't care about. ;)

Tim said...

Thanks for the comments.
JorgenMan:
I agree that it's a problem on both sides. Judging from who the President and VP candidates were, and what education they had, I feel that I can safely say that it's a bigger problem for Republicans.
Both Obama and Biden graduated from stellar law schools. Obama performed extraordinary well in school, Biden not so much.
Compare that, however, to the education of the Republican candidates...
Palin especially, on a very frequent basis, attacked the elite.
I agree that we shouldn't take money from the poor and give it to the rich. At the same time, I see the need for the poor to get a safe living environment, better education (including learning how to better manage finance), a place to sleep, healthy food, and health care (especially preventative health care). I think not providing these things to the poor costs us more than providing them would. Prison costs, police costs, and health care costs would probably go down, and productivity and thus the amount of tax money the government collects would go up.

JorgenMan said...

Yeah, I'm not arguing about redistribution of wealth so much as the sense of entitlement and victimization that politicians market to the working class - that the working class does all the hard work in this country, but "big business" ends up with all the money, so, obviously we should tax big businesses to subsidize U.S. manufacturing and industrial jobs.