Let’s Stop Celebrating Stupidity

October 13th, 2010 at 10:18 am | 80 Comments |

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Jonah Goldberg of the National Review has responded at some length to the column I wrote on Tuesday about meritocracy. His response made me think that there is still more to say on this subject.   Goldberg seems to think the anti-elitist rhetoric which is in wide use at the moment (the subject of my column) is acceptable because it is aimed at a particular elite: the liberals, the Obamas, “a very specific and self-styled elite.” He should listen harder, because in fact the rhetoric is far more sweeping than that, encompassing not only liberals but anyone with higher education.  Sarah Palin told O’Reilly that Americans are seeking to rid themselves of “spineless” people with an “Ivy League Education.”  Glenn Beck has mocked “the Ivy League” and people with degrees at great length. Christine O’Donnell’s political ad (the one which begins “I didn’t go to Yale…”) doesn’t attack “liberals who went to Yale.”  It attacks anyone who went to Yale.

What interests me is the fact that this backlash has come now, precisely when the Ivy League’s long campaign to make itself less exclusive has finally borne fruit. We can argue about the merits of that campaign, or the merits of the Ivy League. But clearly, our black President and our black First Lady would not have graduated from Harvard Law School in the 1950s. The fact that they did do so in the 1980s explains, in part, where they are today. There may be many things wrong with it, but Harvard Law School is no longer “elitist’ in the traditional, landed-gentry sense of the term. Whatever else it may be, Harvard Law School has become an engine of upward mobility. It seems odd that conservatives are attacking institutions that can create opportunities for people not born into wealth or privilege – particularly since conservatives support, at the same time, the elimination of the estate tax. If privilege is the enemy, why not tax estates at 100%?

Perhaps it’s not surprising that this issue has tied conservative intellectuals in knots, particularly those at the National Review (a magazine whose masthead used to feature my husband, and for which I used to occasionally write).  On the one hand, the magazine was founded by an old-style elitist, William F. Buckley, and plenty of Ivy Leaguers have written for its pages. On the other hand, the editors feel obligated to support Sarah Palin and Ginni Thomas’s inarticulate and wide ranging broadsides against “the elite” – all of the elite, which by definition includes themselves. So anxious is Goldberg to dismiss the idea that a part of the Right is “anti-education” that he actually attributes arguments to me that I never made. I never mention envy, for example, but he attacks my “theory of envy” as “not merely wrong but actually silly.” He also goes on, nonsensically, about liberals who are “bossing people around.” What, conservatives never boss anyone around? They never think they know best?   Nor does he seem to realize what the consequences of this burst of anti-elitist rhetoric are likely to be.  A generation ago, the Republican Party had the lead among educated voters.  George Bush senior easily defeated Michael Dukakis among college graduates.  In a remarkably short period of time, that advantage has nearly vanished.  Doesn’t the Republican party want them back again?


Cross-posted at the Washington Post’s PostPartisan blog.

Recent Posts by Anne Applebaum



80 Comments so far ↓

  • Oldskool

    It’s similar to the way Fox attacks and blames “the media” for the various things they dislaike. And by default they exclude themselves from “the media” and I myself couldn’t agree more.

  • ProfNickD

    Let’s Stop Celebrating Stupidity

    Sure thing — can we start with national health care, Keynesian economics, anthropogenic global warming, and the hope for a Palestinian state before we get too absorbed with Sarah Palin?

  • roesch

    The post is too rational and critical demonstrating all the signs of “intellectualism” and perhaps an education at an elite school. What we want is Palin sense as our guiding principle.

  • anniemargret

    Great job, Anne Applabaum!

    Here’s the side story. If the Tea Party were to suddenly find a candidate who can both speak without people wincing in embarrassment, or find a candidate who doesn’t have to hide their background, and found instead a candidate that has real education, intelligence, articulation and a winning personality…they would embrace this ‘elite’ if they graduated from Harvard, Yale, or Georgetown.

    The truth is that this entire ‘elite’ nonsense is an obvious fit of jealous puerile outrage from the right. Imagine…they got a half black, progressive thinking liberal who rose from the depths of an inner city from a broken family to a great height, became a college professor, can speak articulately, is well educated, classy, a devoted father and husband, and he’s a Democrat! How dare he!

    Outrage! The only way they had to combat all this, which really is a the true American rags to riches story, is to call out Obama as an ‘elite.’ Their modus operandi was, from the get-go, to destroy his presidency.

    Of course George Bush who graduated from Yale had a blue-blood upbringing, silver-plated all the way down to his ‘gentleman farmer’ persona, despite his homey aw-shucks means of talking.

    There was an explosion of hate that emanated from the Right as soon as they knew Obama was going to be president. That’s why his character has been attacked, his color has been attacked, and his religious feelings have been attacked. Then they had to work on his educational background. Nothing was sacred to these people.

    Not enough…now they have to attack Michelle Obama too, because after all she had a similar background to Obama’s…. She is a well educated well spoken person in her own right, classy, beautiful, and good mother and wife.

    They have no one that is remotely similar. So the ‘elitist’ meme is left out dangling. See how quickly that meme will disappear once they find their own ‘elitist’ to counteract the bumbling fear-laden, prejudicial buffoons they got now speaking for the GOP.

  • MelonTarge

    Isn’t a basic tenet of Capitalism that you reward people for excellence and in doing so give everyone incentive to push them selves not just for everyone’s sake but for their own sake? How can people rail against socialism and then vilify at people who strive to excel and not see the incongruence of their arguments?

  • PracticalGirl

    Hey, Anniemargaret…

    “If the Tea Party were to suddenly find a candidate who can both speak without people wincing in embarrassment, or find a candidate who doesn’t have to hide their background, and found instead a candidate that has real education, intelligence, articulation and a winning personality…”

    The Tea Party already found the candidate you described, and funneled millions into his campaign from all over the country. Of course once they got Scott Brown elected and he, well, began to represent his constituency instead of their lunatic fringe-iness, he became just another “elite” to many of them and earned the RINO label from the rest.

  • Carney

    anniemargaret, there’s quite lot of fatuous nonsense in your post, but let me zero in on just one thing.

    Michelle Obama is not beautiful. She’s got a weak chin combined with huge, wide jaw stuffed with eNORmous teeth that dominate her face. Overall, her features are not delicate, feminine, or pretty; instead they are as blunt and plain as a hammer. This is not a matter of taste. Everyone sees it, and knows it.

    There’s an “Emperor Has No Clothes” thing going on with her here. Many fall over themselves to gush about her supposed attractiveness, when every single person doing so knows perfectly well it is not true, including the fashion magazines that engaged in a bizarre, aggressive effort to force-feed her to us as a glamour figure in late 2008/early 2009.

    It’s excruciatingly awkward and embarrassing for anyone with taste and decorum. Why not praise her, if you must, for other qualities? Why falsely fawn over this woman’s unfortunate looks?

    To flaunt one’s own racial virtue. The louder and longer one goes on about this, the more virtuous one is than one’s peers. And the real hope is to have someone clear his throat and contradict you, so you can savor the thrill of rounding on him and denouncing him harshly as a “racist”.

    And yet there are plenty of attractive black women around, and not just those with known or visible white ancestry such as Halle Berry or Beyoncé Knowles. Anita Hill, for example, is dark and with features traditionally associated with black African ancestry.

    Let’s stop the hysterical posturing and drop the fakery. Michelle Obama is not beautiful. At all. And we all know it. I wouldn’t have said it if you hadn’t.

  • Slide

    Carney…. you truly are a wackjob.

  • Madeline

    Michelle Obama is not beautiful. At all. And we all know it. I wouldn’t have said it if you hadn’t.

    There’s not really an objective standard, though.

    A lot of people apparently think Nicole Kidman is beautiful. I find that baffling.

    One of SO’s friends doesn’t think Halle Berry is attractive at all. I would consider that grounds for questioning his heterosexuality.

    I think Michelle Obama is very pretty. Some people don’t. C’est la vie.

    Either way, it’s irrelevant.

  • Slide

    Carney // Oct 13, 2010 at 11:21 am And yet there are plenty of attractive black women around, and not just those with known or visible white ancestry.

    Rather revealing comment I would say.

  • NRA Liberal

    The title of this post sums up the problem.

    It’s not an issue of “stupidity”, it’s an issue of education and elite institutions.

    I can see why people who have a problem with the Ivy League and its arrogant eggheads would take exception to being called “stupid”.

  • rectonoverso

    Completely agree with the “Stop Celebrating Stupidity” pledge. Where I diverge from your path is when you take people such as Jonah Goldberg seriously. In his way he is just as stupid as Palin. A kind of stupidity only college graduates can achieve.

  • CD-Host

    First off I agree with the attacks on the elite and this is coming from someone with lots of education. So we are on the opposite side of this issue but…

    To date, I’ve seen not one instance of Tea Partiers denouncing engineers, physicists, cardiologists, accountants, biologist, archeologists or a thousand other professions who’ve emerged from elite schools. Because those people aren’t bossing anybody around.

    And actually that is entirely wrong.
    Republicans are ignoring the army core of engineers and their assessments of our infrastructure.
    Jenny McCarthy et. al. have launched a broadside against the FDA which is aimed at doctors.
    Biology has been under attack for a generation especially regarding evolution.
    Geology and Ergodic systems has recently been under attack as regards global warming.
    Archeology has been under conservative attack for 200 years, since the work on history of religions.

    And he didn’t mention this but the arts have been heavily attack by conservatives for generations, since about the 18th century.

    This is absolutely broad based. It covers essentially all of academia and all of the knowledge workers. I may disagree with you about whether this attack is justified but we are in complete agreement about its scope.

  • balconesfault

    Anniemargaret: The truth is that this entire ‘elite’ nonsense is an obvious fit of jealous puerile outrage from the right.

    It’s not even jealousy. It’s simply cynical manipulation.

    I still go with Jon Stewart’s take during the 2008 election:

    You know what, candidates? I know elite is a bad word in politics. You want to go bowling and throw back a few beers. But the job you’re applying for, if you get it and it goes well, they might carve your head into a mountain! If you don’t actually think you’re better than us, then what the [expletive] are you doing?

  • xyzzy

    I think that the word “elite” — as used in the article — is really defined too narrowly. Hence the bewilderment and confusion.

    This reminds me of the old saying: “If you ask the wrong question you will get the wrong answer”.

    I can’t speak for others but for me it refers to politicians who are out of touch — usually with the working class.

    Elites transcend political parties.

    Why are they out of touch? They have a very small set of intersecting values and life’s experience.

    How do elites get into this position? How do you become an elite? A combination of the following:

    * You have never, or only briefly, held a job in the private sector (e.g. you went to college, then to law school, then into government work; you have never started a small business).

    * You have been born into wealth and privilege (e.g. you have never been poor, you have never lived eating hand-to-mouth, you have never hunted for small game to supplement your living, you have never grown a garden to supplement your living, you have never had to really struggle to get what you want financially, you have never experienced financial hardship).

    * You do not share common religious values (i.e. you are an atheist or antitheist).

    * You have not spent a significant amount of time in your life physically interacting with “them” through work or social circumstance (e.g. hanging out with them and having a beer while watching football in a sports bar).

    * You think that you know what is best for “them” — since they are too uneducated and uninformed (e.g. you will craft and pass laws and rulings that “you know” is in their best interest).

  • balconesfault

    cdhost Geology and Ergodic has recently been under attack as regards global warming

    Not to mention the Bush Department of Interior adding “Young Earth” tomes to the bookstore at the Grand Canyon, with their viewpoint that all those geologists who talk about the Laramide Orogeny 65 million years ago are wrong … and that it is rather the work of the Biblical Great Flood sometime in the last 6,000 years.

  • PracticalGirl

    This is not just an issue of stupidity, it’s one of vast influence of people who are taking advantage of a “mood” and tailoring their messages to it.

    We live in a country where 1 in 3 high school students never graduate, 30% of college freshmen drop out and only 50% of the remaining college students ever earn a degree. In our fear-soaked political culture, it’s been very easy to capitalize on this and turn it on its sick side: Elect folks that are more like YOU, and the voting base says “yeah!” because it makes them feel more comfortable about themselves.

    What we’re seeing is the rapid death of distinguished representation. While once political candidates used to have to first elevate themselves with accomplishments, we now have a large voting block that rejects the need for this. Chritine O’Donnell is a glaring example (her biggest accomplishment has been consistently losing elections), but it’s a trend with many of the newly-minted hero-candidates that are “just like us”.

    Anne, it would be great if you would acknowledge the role that conservatives played in this phenomenon. The idea of despising the “Liberal elites” was embraced by many of your most public personas and politicians, and many conservatives were all too happy to see the tide wash their way. That this has cracked back on educated, articulate conservatives is a creation of the right and not easily dissolved.

    The hate-and-blame-game of Liberal elites is something that is still clear to the politicians and propagandists who advance it. The problem? The base who is led by them has translated this silly message to a dangerous conclusion: Anybody educated and articulate is to be distrusted on his face. The irony of this, of course, is that while the base demands less and less of their candidates and rejects thsoe who are powerfully articulate, they are being led to this conclusion by extremely powerful, wealthy and articulate individuals. Bizarre phenomenon, but it’s one that the Conservatives courted all the way to the ballot boxes.

  • Jamie

    Jonah wrote in his initial response,

    “To date, I’ve seen not one instance of Tea Partiers denouncing engineers, physicists, cardiologists, accountants, biologist, archeologists or a thousand other professions who’ve emerged from elite schools…

    In other words, it is the agenda of a very specific and very self-styled elite, not the existence of an elite that is pissing so many people off. ”

    Basically, I think his point was that an education itself isn’t enough to warrant the label “elite”, but rather the acceptance of a set of principles and world-views that are manufactured and largely championed by the arts and social science departments in the vast majority of universities. I highly doubt that many at an Obama dinner party or staff meeting would diassagree with the idea that when “working-class voters” hit hard times, they “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or anti-pathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”. It is this narrative created by these “elites” (and not everyone with a six-figure education), that angers people so much. The sudden backlash (I haven’t been around long enough to determine if this is cyclical) appears largely a response to the dominance of this way of thinking in the current administration and not aimed at everyone with an Ivy League education.

  • xyzzy

    Jamie — i made a similar comment above.

  • balconesfault

    Jamie: Basically, I think his point was that an education itself isn’t enough to warrant the label “elite”, but rather the acceptance of a set of principles and world-views that are manufactured and largely championed by the arts and social science departments in the vast majority of universities.

    Actually, I think Jonah’s point is that elite politicians whose politics he disagrees with deserve the label “elite”.

    Ironic that you bring back the Obama quote. Enough said.

  • CD-Host

    Isn’t a basic tenet of Capitalism that you reward people for excellence and in doing so give everyone incentive to push them selves not just for everyone’s sake but for their own sake? How can people rail against socialism and then vilify at people who strive to excel and not see the incongruence of their arguments?

    It depends on the society one excels in. One of things both extremes are beginning to agree on is that this society is so rotten to the core that excelling in this society has very little to do with excellence and far more to do with a complete lack of ethics and luck. The elites are supporting this deep seated and ultimately destructive corruption.

    In her very first speech to the nation Sarah Palin brought back Westbrook Pegler and in the two years since has popularized his views and his techniques. Who can fail to see the American Liberty League in the Tea Party? Pegler’s attacks on Harold Ickes are mirror images of what is going on today.

  • MSheridan

    xyzzy,

    You listed five possible factors that might lead to someone being an “elite,” as you would define the word. As you are defining it in a subjective fashion, that is to say, what it means to you, I cannot argue with most of your listed items, even though my personal definition is very different. However, I can take issue with your last listed factor in elitism:* You think that you know what is best for “them” — since they are too uneducated and uninformed (e.g. you will craft and pass laws and rulings that “you know” is in their best interest). That’s just the nature of politics. What honest politicians make laws that they don’t consider to be in the public interest? Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, moderates–all these people try to work toward the public interest when in office. At least they do if they’re worth a damn. If your point is that they sometimes make decisions that would not be made by the people who voted for them, then I think I had best defer response to the father of modern conservative thought. Edmund Burke directly addressed this very point in his 1774 speech to the Electors of Bristol.

  • PracticalGirl

    CD-

    “The elites are supporting this deep seated and ultimately destructive corruption. ”

    Bingo. Conservative elites were gleeful in their leadership downward, right up until they realized that their message had been bastardized by their base to include-SHOCK-them. Frankly, I think the true elites (all of them) in our country are still happy with the general state of things. Keep the base off balance and looking at anything but the real truth- that this base has become one that champions not that which will help elevate it but things that mainly benefit the elites.

  • easton

    Again, a problem with this is that people choose to define a word in the way that they choose to define it instead of what the word actually means.
    elitism: 1. a. the belief that society should be governed by a select group of gifted and highly educated individuals
    b. such government
    2. pride in or awareness of being one of an elite group

    I don’t see “the acceptance of a set of principles and world-views that are manufactured and largely championed by the arts and social science departments in the vast majority of universities.”
    As part of this definition.

    I have to say I am shocked at how many similarities the tea party has with the Communist party of China during the Cultural revolution, same mindset, same hatred of advanced education, same idea of if you are not with us you are the enemy.

    xyzzy, isn’t Warren Buffet an elite even though he doesn’t meet any of your standards of being an elite? He came from humble beginnings and never went into government, yet he is assuredly an elite member of society, moreso, and elite member of the entire world.

    As to myself, I have no problem being in favor of a select group of gifted and highly educated individuals running the country. I don’t care if they are Conservative or Liberal, as long as they retain some semblance of humility and are willing to do what works. I don’t want nitwits running the government from either party.

  • easton

    Madeline, I agree it is irrelevant. Carney is not the ultimate arbiter of what is attractive or not. In my life I have had head over heel crushes on girls that I know other people might not find all that attractive.

  • balconesfault

    People Magazine named Michelle one of the 100 most beautiful women in the world.

    While I generally don’t actually put much stock in People Magazine, as an barometer of popular tastes I’d put them quantum levels above Carney.

  • CO Independent

    The last U.S. President who did not graduate from either Yale or Harvard was Ronald Reagan. The U.S. has now been governed by Ivy League grads for four consecutive Presidents, a total of 22 years. I believe this is unprecedented in U.S. history, but would have to do the research to confirm.

    In the 22 years of leadership by the graduates of these esteemed institutions the U.S. has seen its debt load explode while working people have watched real wages stagnate, inflation eating into earning capacity, and now suffer 10% U3 unemployment. The never-ending bank bailouts are the final extension of the middle finger by our elites to our working classes.

    Is anyone surprised that an anti-elitist movement has legs?

  • Rabiner

    Co Independent:

    “In the 22 years of leadership by the graduates of these esteemed institutions the U.S. has seen its debt load explode while working people have watched real wages stagnate, inflation eating into earning capacity, and now suffer 10% U3 unemployment. The never-ending bank bailouts are the final extension of the middle finger by our elites to our working classes. ”

    First off, Reagan exploded the national debt too. And real wages increased pretty nicely for Clinton. So really it comes down to Bush’s tenure as President where your paragraph is 100% correct. That’s it.

  • anniemargret

    If a ‘real American’ looks down their nose at me because I was born and raised in NYC, then that’s another form of ‘elitism’ isn’t it?

    Elitism to me is anyone that thinks that they’re a step above. It has nothing to do with what school you graduated from or didn’t. Many great minds did not have formal education, nor come from blue-blood, silver plated families.

    At the same time, the Kennedy’s were well known to support efforts of the poor. There are other families whose members never walked in the shoes of those who had more to suffer in life than others but at least made an attempt to stave off the sufferings of those who didn’t have what they had.

    The unfortunate thing is that the religious people were used by Karl Rove during the Bush years.

    What I see emanating is a rejection of American democracy actually. This rejection of ‘elites’ is not so much college education but a wish to return to a 50s America where most people were openly religious (christian of course), values did not include too much liberty for gays and minorities.

    The rise of Barack Obama threatens all this. He is half black. College, post college educated. Not Christian enough. The liberals that put him in office, and the independents were to be feared. That’s why there is so much of this nonsense about socialism and trying to make him look like a non-American, a non-religious person, ‘The Other.”

    But these people haven’t yet caught up to 21st century America. Much of what they fear about ‘elitism’ is actually fear…. they are driven by fear.

    As I said earlier, I truly think it has less to do with ivy school education than it does white christian middle class America, who are seeing their dominance taking less of a stranglehold on America’s politics.

    No one goes to college to get ‘brainwashed’ but they think so. Too bad. We need more educated and highly skilled students graduating from college to compete in this brave new world. China and India are doing leaps around us in science and math and technology while the Tea Party members are worried about religious and cultural issues. And yet gays and minorities have been and continue to give us brilliant scientists, teachers, business leaders, etc…

    And there’s the rub. And it’s why we will continue to take a back seat in the world’s power as long as we keep putting these ‘conservative’ fear-mongers in power.

    Carney: Michelle Obama is one beautiful woman. There is another word for “Beautiful” and that means inside and outside. She’s both.

  • CD-Host

    Bingo. Conservative elites were gleeful in their leadership downward, right up until they realized that their message had been bastardized by their base to include-SHOCK-them. Frankly, I think the true elites (all of them) in our country are still happy with the general state of things. Keep the base off balance and looking at anything but the real truth- that this base has become one that champions not that which will help elevate it but things that mainly benefit the elites.

    Or to quote the musical version of an earlier incarnation of Sarah Palin:

    The chorus girl hasn’t learned the lines you’d like to hear
    She won’t go scrambling over the backs of the poor to be accepted
    By making donations just large enough to the correct charity
    She won’t be president of your wonderful societies of philanthropy
    Even if you asked her to be
    As you should have asked her to be

    The actress hasn’t learned the lines you’d like to hear
    She won’t join your clubs, she won’t dance in your halls
    She won’t help the hungry once a month at your tombolas
    She’ll simply take control as you disappear

  • MSheridan

    CO Independent,

    In the interest of accuracy, I think it only fair to point out that the debt load didn’t start to explode after Reagan–the explosion started with Reagan (Eureka College). It continued with his former Vice President, Yalie G.H.W. Bush (the man who first called Reaganomics “voodoo economics”), who lost his bid for a second term in part because he’d promised more Reaganomics but then thought better of it (broke his pledge of “no new taxes” and raised the top rate to a whopping 31%). The deficit was fought largely to a standstill by Clinton (Georgetown, Oxford, Yale Law), who as a Democrat didn’t have the millstone of Reaganomics weighing him down, and then resumed exploding anew with G.W. Bush. But it wasn’t the younger Bush (Yale, Harvard Business), but instead his unusually powerful VP, Dick Cheney, who made the argument that “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Cheney flunked out of Yale after 3 semesters and got his degrees from the much less elite University of Wyoming.

    At the time that Obama took office, I cannot recall reading any prominent economists on the left, center, or right who argued that a stimulus (increased debt) was unnecessary to avert catastrophe. The only arguments I remember reading were on what size it should be and how much of it should be made up of tax cuts.

    If anyone is worried about the school a presidential candidate graduated from, I would argue that, rather than impugning Harvard and Yale, our history shows that future graduates of Eureka College and the University of Wyoming should be carefully vetted before the country chooses them for the top spot.

  • Watusie

    Good job Rabiner and MSeridan demolishing CO Independent’s woefully inaccurate post.

    In today’s Christianist Right, lying about having gone to a good school is OK (O’Donnell); going to a good school but not learning anything is OK (Bush); but going to a good school and excelling academically is terrible (Obama).

    Go figure.

  • sinz54

    It isn’t just the Right that is upset about “elites.”

    A search of http://www.commondreams.org (which has been a compendium of progressive thought for over a decade) returned quite a few hits. Among them:

    David Sirota:
    Robert Gibbs, so vociferously berated the progressive movement on the eve of Colorado’s primary, and why DNC powerbrokers moved so forcefully against Romanoff. He was the latest candidate to represent what those elites know to be an ascendant national progressive uprising inside the Democratic Party — one that keenly understands money’s corrosive effects on public policy and that, therefore, rejects the Beltway’s corporatist model.

    Seeing that this uprising threatens their power and their D.C. worldview, these elites are desperate to preserve Dark Helmet’s principle — so desperate, in fact, they have resorted to employing Obama’s presidential campaign infrastructure to prop up more conservative candidates against progressive challengers in intra-party battles.

    Bill Moyers:
    Not only do our governing elites act as if there’s no tomorrow, they behave as if there is no reality. Alas, they won’t be around to feel our grandchildren’s pain.

    Michael Hardt:
    Global elites must realize that US imperialism isn’t in their interest

    And so on.

    All of them proud to be called progressives–and all of them railing against “elites.”

    The Left had populist stirrings, just like the Tea Party does now. But they failed to create a truly broad-based populist movement.

    Because they refused to make common cause with the American middle class, whom they regard as “rubes,” “backward,” “superstitious,” “unsophisticated,” “uneducated,” “bigoted,” etc. They preferred to consort with college students, welfare recipients, gays, feminists, and illegal aliens. Such a motley crew could NEVER appeal to the vast majority of Americans.

    Instead, the American middle class responded to the Tea Party, a populist movement from the right.

    The failure of the Left to create a broad-based populist movement in the face of the worst financial collapse since the 1930s, represents a gigantic missed opportunity.

  • CD-Host

    What I see emanating is a rejection of American democracy actually. This rejection of ‘elites’ is not so much college education but a wish to return to a 50s America where most people were openly religious (christian of course)

    I’d argue American is substantially more religious today than it was in the 1950s. 1950s America was has a large social religious consensus and a small (but rapidly growing) fundamentalist movement. People saw Christianity as something you did, and as part of American culture like baseball. The culture wasn’t religious in the modern sense much at all.

    What you are describing is more like the 1830s not the 1950s religiously. Frankly 2000 may very well have been a high point for American religion; we were beating countries like Iran by most measures. There is a pretty good article on this at wikipedia Fourth Great Awakening.

    As for Karl Rove targeting the religious, yes that has been the Republican strategy since the civil rights act. The question has been can you pick the social conservative vote without adopting their economic positions? Social conservatives are: 56% liberal, 32% moderate, 12% conservative on economics; so the tension is obvious. What Karl Rove was dealing with holding the coalition together while Bush engaged in economic policies his social conservative wing hated.

  • CD-Host

    Sinz54 –

    Agreed. Liberals can’t generate a working class movement, they are much more successful in recruiting things like the officer class in more dysfunctional states than ours. Or they can organize disgruntled populations.

    Populist movements that don’t originate in a left working class pick up hardcore liberals after taking control or establishing substantial power with the right. So somewhere 2012 or later I would expect left populists to join in large numbers. That’s how a populist party moves from being a wing of a party to an independent party. Don’t know if the Tea Party has it in them to take the next step and a half. So far they’ve gone further than any populist revolt in America since 1896.

  • CO Independent

    @Msheridan,

    My post wasn’t partisan. It was an assessment of where governance by Ivy League elitists have taken this country. Ergo, Reagan is not included.

    Just for starters, here’s a list of 200 economists who argued that the stimulus was unnecessary to avert catastrophe. I can supply more if you wish.
    http://www.cato.org/special/stimulus09/cato_stimulus.pdf

    Greg Mankiw called Biden’s bluff on the same BS position that you espouse:
    http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2009/01/is-joe-biden-disingenuous-or.html

  • Rabiner

    CO Independent:

    “It was an assessment of where governance by Ivy League elitists have taken this country. Ergo, Reagan is not included.”

    Except your assessment was blatantly false and thus pointless. Reagan exploded the deficit and under Clinton real wages increased significantly. So basically both points you make are false.

    CD-Host:

    “Agreed. Liberals can’t generate a working class movement, they are much more successful in recruiting things like the officer class in more dysfunctional states than ours. Or they can organize disgruntled populations. ”

    Organizing disgruntled populations is the definition of what the Tea Party is.

    “I’d argue American is substantially more religious today than it was in the 1950s. 1950s America was has a large social religious consensus and a small (but rapidly growing) fundamentalist movement. People saw Christianity as something you did, and as part of American culture like baseball. The culture wasn’t religious in the modern sense much at all. ”

    I’d agree with you with context. 1950s America religion was more overtly ingrained in public life and society. However there was far less reactionary fundamentalism like there is today regarding religion. Evangelicals didn’t politically organize until the late 1970s/early 1980s.

  • pnumi2

    @Rabiner

    First off, Reagan exploded the national debt too

    If anyone fired the shot that caused the avalanche of debt this country now faces, it was Ronald Reagan. He came into the Oval Office singing Deficits Don’t Matter, like Ezio Pinza in “South Pacific,” singing ‘Some Enchanted Evening.’

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    Ms. Applebaum, you must between distinguish the culture/curriculum of the elite schools (which sneers at the notion that we can know the truth) and people who attend those schools. A good example of someone who appreciates that distinction is in fact Buckley himself. His book, GAMAY, is one long criticism of Yale’s subtle and not so subtle attack on religion and limited government. Conservatives who attended these top schools, like Joe Miller, are mature to know that their alma matres have significant problems recognizing that there is a world beyond their own noses.

  • CD-Host

    CD: “Agreed. Liberals can’t generate a working class movement, they are much more successful in recruiting things like the officer class in more dysfunctional states than ours. Or they can organize disgruntled populations. ”

    Rabiner: Organizing disgruntled populations is the definition of what the Tea Party is.

    The Tea Party isn’t a population. They are a political ideology. That’s the key point the left does better when the group exists outside of politics. Like a ethnic population or a class or… Those sorts of divisions don’t exist today, or at least not in large enough numbers. Though with Hispanics turning democrat: black + brown might start to become a disgruntled population for the future but right now they are disgruntled with each other quite often.

    Evangelicals didn’t politically organize until the late 1970s/early 1980s.

    I’d put it a little earlier, don’t forget they got an evangelical nominated for President in 1976. But my point is that evangelicals in the kinds of numbers they do today, just didn’t exist. You can’t organize what isn’t there.

  • MSheridan

    @CO Independent,

    I did not take your post as partisan. Although I strongly disagree with Reaganomics, I don’t see it as an automatic and unshakeable pillar of Republican policy. Before Reagan, it wasn’t. The elder Bush, however much I disagreed with him on many things, wasn’t an idiot. He not only knew how disastrous Reagan’s ideas would be to the budget, he pointed it out before he lost the 1980 primary. When I said that Clinton was able to succeed in part because he was a Democrat, I meant only that at that point in time, no Republican could have been elected who could have balanced the budget. It took Clinton two terms to come close and no Republican who did what he did would have been reelected. The elder Bush made a hesitant start and was crushed in ’92. Although in his budget policy Clinton governed in a fiscally responsible way that an older breed of Republicans would have been fine with, my point wasn’t that Democrats are better than Republicans, but that his Ivy League education hadn’t done anything to inhibit him. From my point of view, the most egregious mistakes made were made by men who graduated from less exalted institutions.

    I could happily vote for someone who graduated from a state university or a state college. I’m not awed by Harvard or Yale. As a general rule, the only schools that really impress me in a person’s resume are certain engineering schools, and I don’t know that good standing there would have the slightest relevance to statesmanship. But if anyone does want to make where someone went to school a criterion for public office, it makes no sense to me to push for less prestigious curricula vitae, rather than more.

    As for your second point, I accept the correction, with two caveats. First, if any of the people listed wrote in favor of temporary tax breaks, I believe that is covered in my original statement. Second, I am fairly sure I didn’t read any opinion pieces or editorials arguing against a stimulus of some kind. I’m not saying none were written, just that I don’t recall seeing any of them, despite a willingness to read far outside the safe havens for my personal political views.

  • JeninCT

    It’s not about the Ivy League education. It’s about what they chose to do with their education after their graduation, when they enter the world of public policy – they want to legislate lifestyle and redistribute wealth, because they think they know better than we do how to run our lives.
    Period.

  • anniemargret

    Sure, 50s America was religious. America has always been a religious nation. That is not the problem as I see it.

    The problem is that there is now a litmus test for the office. The problem is that there is a now a widespread overt effort on the part of the Right to break down the walls of separation of church and state. That should scare everyone’s pants off.

    As Andrew Sullivan so wisely put it yesterday: “…that the GOP is increasingly not a secular political party, but a fundamentalist religious organization seeking political power.”

    He’s absolutely correct. The entire populist movement is defined by Christian God-talk. It’s as if they don’t recognize, nor want to, that America is indeed a nation that shares its identity with many religious views, including those that don’t have any such as atheists or agnostics. That movement is trying desperately to squelch these other views, pretend they don’t exist or have any meaning as Americans themselves.

    The world and our nation is changing – and they are trying to put the change genie back into the bottle. They are not in step with the next generation who already is light years more advanced in their lack of prejudices and biases and who don’t rely on religious identity or political identity to divide them.

    Today’s GOp is much less about ‘fiscal conservatism’ (since they have no real solutions), but more about blanketing the nation with their view of a Christian-oriented government. And as a Christian myself, I find it deplorable….no, more than that, frightening.

    There are millions of white middle class Americans of all stripes and colors, of different religious persuasions who vote liberal. Because we see the country as an inclusive one, not exclusive. We see that an inclusive country makes us stronger, not weaker.

    Todays GOP does not represent America. In fact, I would say it is a microcosm in a much larger, more welcoming, more progressive America…one that they abhor, and dread.

  • Rabiner

    JeninCT:

    “It’s about what they chose to do with their education after their graduation, when they enter the world of public policy – they want to legislate lifestyle and redistribute wealth, because they think they know better than we do how to run our lives.”

    Says the woman who supports Paladino and Palin. You’d be more believable if the politicians you supported weren’t so willing to legislate lifestyle. You just don’t like paying taxes, which is fine, but don’t try to make it a larger issue about ‘redistributing wealth’ since I’m sure you support Social Security (the largest transfer of income in the economy).

  • Rabiner

    I should also note my father is the same way, preaching to me about how the government now does too much, people lost their sense of responsibility and are now lazy and don’t work hard. I just rebut him with the simple fact it was his generation that fucked over our national finances which shows how responsible ‘his generation’ really is.

  • CentristNYer

    JeninCT // Oct 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    “… they want to legislate lifestyle and redistribute wealth, because they think they know better than we do how to run our lives.”

    Ironic how that describes most of the GOP’s top tier candidates these days: the people who want to use government to control womens’ pregnancy decisions, keep gays from marrying or serving openly in the military, and give unfunded tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

    Elitism cuts both ways.

  • MSheridan

    JeninCT, every politician wants to “legislate lifestyle and redistribute wealth.” That’s not a slam–it’s just an observation that politicians don’t run or get elected on a message of “Everything’s perfect. Let’s change nothing.” Your objection is that some politicians want to make changes you disapprove of, or have already made such changes. Every political partisan has complaints like that about figures on the other side. I am fairly sure that whoever you vote for, if they win and take office you would be sorely disappointed if they fought for the temporary status quo.

  • anniemargret

    rabiner: I don’t get that either. All this ‘lazy’ stuff is so overblown. Every person I know, and most of them are middle class working Americans, are working very, very hard. Some are working two jobs at once.

    The ‘Greatest Generation”, my parents too, did not have to cope with two parents working outside the home as most has to do now, just to make ends meet. Or be forced to pay for childcare services.

    They had more of a sacrifice within them, but it was a simpler time too. They weren’t bombarded by too much information on TVs, the Net. They weren’t reading blogs like this!

    HCR was much needed, and while I wish it would have done more, it was essential to keep our nation from becoming a Third World country, where only the rich can keep their families covered. I am still amazed at the outward indifference that emanates from the GOP about this problem. Some “Christians.”

    And you are right about lifestyle. The speak with forked tongues. They would be quick to enforce laws that adhere to their own personal Christian views or ‘christianize the federal government’ as a fundamentalist friend once told me. They wouldn’t mind that all.

    Just refer to O’Donnell and her moralizing, or Paladino’s insults against gay people….it says a lot about what they want and who they are.

  • anniemargret

    rabiner; One more thought….the WWII generation is adamant about their Social Security and their Medicare.

    It’s a little silly to see any of them saying that ‘government’s is intrusive. I think they jumped on that Tea Party bandwagon…more out of a fear of change and rise of minorities to positions of power than any real concern that we are turning into a ‘socialist’ state.

  • JonF

    xyzzy:
    How many people even among the poor could hunt or farm for sustenace? Not too many: we are too urbanized.
    And your standards could ensnare a large fraction of the Middle Class, even the beter off portion of the working class. My dad was a truck driver, but I’ve never had to “struggle to survive”. Though I am certainly not rolling in the dough either. Does that make me an elite? I wouldn’t think so.
    Some of this anti-elite rhetoric reminds me of the old “When I was your age…” BS. A lot of the people who make the criticism, and many of those who lap it up, never really had it too hard either. Note that those who have it really hard (AKA the poor) seem unimpressed and they continue to vote for Democratic “elitists”.