Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Elitists

Eric Alterman writes in The Nation that the right wing has made a lot of noise — and money — by labeling liberals as “elitists” without bothering to notice that when it comes to being elitists, the Republicans have no peer.

In observing the members of the conservative elite denouncing “elitists,” it can be difficult to tell your players without the proverbial scorecard. For instance, radio talk-show host and former conservative cable host Laura Ingraham has written an entire book about the dangers posed by liberal elites, Shut Up and Sing: How Elites From Hollywood, Politics, and the Media Are Subverting America. In it, this daughter of a Connecticut lawyer, a graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School who now lives in an expensive home in Washington, DC, distinguishes between liberal elitists and those she terms “true Americans.” She begins her treatise by explaining who these “elite Americans” are and what they think: “They think we’re stupid. They think our patriotism is stupid. They think our churchgoing is stupid. They think our flag-flying is stupid. They think having big families is stupid. They think where we live–anywhere but near or in a few major cities–is stupid. They think our SUVs are stupid. They think owning a gun is stupid. They think our abiding belief in the goodness of America and its founding principles is stupid.”

[…]

In red-state America, explains the slumming blue stater David Brooks, “the self is small”; whereas in blue-state America, “the self is more commonly large.” Unlike the citizens of the states that voted for Al Gore, according to Andrew Sullivan, they can even be trusted not to betray their country on behalf of Islamic terrorists. Yet while unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan or David Brooks would ever choose to live.

Of course, this glaring hypocrisy never got in the way of exploiting the red-staters for their votes, their money, or their sons and daughters in the military.

Read the whole thing; there’s a lot more, including an excellent analysis about the way the Republicans have managed to make the word “elite” mean whatever they want, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. What Mr. Alterman makes clear is that so far the Democrats have failed miserably at calling out the GOP on this blatant charade, letting them get away with it at every turn. Perhaps it’s because it seemed so preposterous that anyone could take them seriously, that the sham would be so glaringly obvious that even P.T. Barnum wouldn’t try it; but then, we’re talking about an electorate that bought the idea that an Andover-Yale-Harvard educated scion of a patrician Connecticut family was the anti-elitist.