Saturday, November 08, 2008

perils of 'populist chic'

Back in September on MPR I heard a conservative talking about what reform was necessary within the Republican party to make it a winning party. He said that in the 70s, the greatest indicator of affiliation with the Republican party was a college degree. Not so now.

I tried to find a link to this WSJ article by Mark Lilla online but I guess they only have it available for subscribers. But here are a few quotes from the article:

"Over the next 25 years there grew up a new generation of conservative writers who cultivated none of their elders' intellectual virtues--indeed, who saw themselves as counter-intellectuals. Most are well-educated and many have attended Ivy League universities [...] But their function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes [...] And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them." [...]

"What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Every culture has elite; those considered to be the best in their field because of talent, charisma, education, power or wealth. We elect the elite to lead our government and they oversee the infrastructure of our society.

"To educate and ennoble a populist political tendency" is a good and desirable thing to do as I understand the phrase and that is what I expect from my political leaders.

It may be that some conservative writers are playing to "...a large popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites" but it is also true that during the past presidential campaign we heard over and over again from many liberal commentators that certain "uneducated" groups would vote conservative. If I was unfamiliar with this country I would have understood that all conservatives were uneducated, religious people. These same pundits did not mention that vast numbers of poor, black people voting for Obama were
uneducated and religious. Perhaps it is the left that has perpetrated the "...monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes" image and uses it to denigrate the politically conservative.

Obama's "...guns and religion..." comment was a revealing indication of his accepting the stereotyping of groups of citizens and thereby promulgating the current polarizing trend in our country.
That is why I view Obama as elitist.

I agree that "...elites acquire their positions through talent and experience and that they be educated to serve the public good." And I also agree that "They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward."

We need the elite but elitism will only separate and antagonize .

...mum

Ave said...

That is a good point about the media not mentioning the poor religious people who would vote based on race. I hadn't thought of that.