Point Me

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fear the Demos

Ugh. So I just read this article on "The New Elite", the latest enemy being touted by the the Tea Party as the core of our political woes. Basically the "new elite" are the rising young professionals that went to exclusive private schools and work as leaders in the jobs of the future. This ambitious class are seen as a danger to America because 1. They choose to work in a societal bubble, eschewing the managerial work of the everyman in favor of working in more elite professions, and 2. The great power and wealth they have obtained alienates them from the typical American experience. Though they may become the world leaders of tomorrow, they are completely out of touch with what normal Americans do.

You can see the effects of this weird populism spreading across politics already. How many incumbents have been branded as "out of touch with what America really thinks." As the article points out, Christine O'Donnell was absolutely thrilled to announce that she didn't go to Yale in her famous "I'm not a witch commercial." Which by the way, only makes me think of this:

I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!

It's like today's politicians are falling all over themselves to let us know that they're not the best and brightest, and that's supposed to make me want them to be my leader. Say What?

Here are my problems with the above article:

1. Why are you calling these people the "new elite?" The article explicitly says that these Ivy League hipsters secure their advantage in life primarily through the wealth of their parents. Wouldn't wealthy parents passing down their standard of living to their children qualify them as the same old elite that we've been disparaging for the last 200 years?

2. The fact that these individuals go to elite schools and then move on into elite professions is nothing new, and I don't understand why anybody would act shocked by this. I'm pretty sure that most people pay the $50,000 a year for the powerful networking opportunities a school like this affords. If you were paying this much for your undergrad degree, wouldn't you want to secure the highest paying job possible, and not an entry level managers position? Is their desire to use their capital to secure their future not the free market at work? hmmm?

3. The reasons cited for why the "new elite" are out of touch with the average American are trivial and petty. Namely, they like cycling or skiing, not real American sports like Nascar or the MMA. And they only watch Mad Men, not a down to earth show like Oprah. And hey, they'll never take a cruise vacation, they'd rather backpack in the Sierra Nevadas.

Now, I'm not going to deny that people can be snobbish in the preferences for things, but that doesn't make them any less American. I'm sick of this argument that some people are "real Americans" while others are not. Yes, these private school powerhouses may not ever go to Six Flags, but that doesn't mean that the life they experienced isn't valid.

I also won't argue that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country isn't a discouraging and kind of scary thing. The inequities of our system have become particularly pronounced over these past 4 years. However, I don't think its right for politicians to aim for mediocrity and ignorance as the gold standard of the American experience. By putting the wants and desires of under informed voter as the most important aspect of government, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Its a hard issue to resolve, the vilifying of our best and brightest. While these hipsters may be isolated with their micro-brews and organic co-ops, the tea partiers are just as confined in their religious beliefs and limited exposures of small town life. They believe they are the only true Americans, because maybe they've never met a gay person, or an atheist, or a Muslim. And while you can't totally discount the opinions of these people, it's hard to educate them when its perceived as unholy indoctrination. Now I know how Plato felt:

"Dictatorship naturally rises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty"

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