We report, you decide.
I’m trying not to let my exasperation get the better of me, so let me explain what I think she is missing. Attacking the Ivy League is a very old, very recognizable shorthand in American political discourse. What Applebaum is doing is reading these statements literally, and painfully so.
(She is also asserting that Ivy League simply means the smartest and the best, as if there was no plausible case that the Ivy League’s reputation is any way overblown or underserved. She has to do this to make her case that conservatives don’t believe in educational excellence, because the only “proof” she has are a few statements attacking such schools.)
The problem is that when conservatives zing the Ivy League or the educational elite, they are no more offering an omnibus indictment of educational excellence than liberals are denouncing all Texans when they take potshots at George W. Bush’s Texan roots. Similarly, when Yalie George H. W. Bush stuck it to Michael Dukakis for his views borrowed from “Harvard Yard,” he was not offering a plenary indictment of academic excellence generally. Rather, he was speaking idiomatically about certain types of people who tend to hail from the Ivy Leagues.
As Jonah explains, when conservatives attack “elites,” they do not mean to indict all members of such elites. They only mean to indict such members as disagree with them. Populist resentment in the service of an unstated ideology: What could be more straightforward or honest than that?