Elitism or Elite? Quelle Difference!

As a kid, I aspired to part of some group labelled elite.  Part of that is because you really do–at some point–want to sit at the kewl kids lunch table.  The other is because when you hear things like “elite team” of marines or “elite” group of astronauts, you think wow, to be THAT outstanding must be something!  I’ve always aspired to achieve.  That type of elite should not be spit out of one’s mouth like we’re talking about the Bourbon aristocracy in revolutionary France.

Elitism, however, is a different critter.  That implies that just because you think you’re good at something or you manage to wind up at the kewl kid’s table, every one else is obviously inferior. You get your ‘Mean Girls’ act on.  That’s the true dirty word and it popped up again as a headline today at the NYT from Peter Baker.  That would be ‘ Elitism: The Charge That Obama Can’t Shake’.  Time and again we do hear reports that POTUS may be thinking us little folks just don’t get him and if he just articulates that POTUS knows best, we will  suddenly throng to the polls on Tuesday and pull the Democratic Lever.

In the Boston-area home of a wealthy hospital executive one Saturday evening this month, President Obama departed from his usual campaign stump speech and offered an explanation as to why Democrats were seemingly doing so poorly this election season. Voters, he said, just aren’t thinking straight.

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” he told a roomful of doctors who chipped in at least $15,200 each to Democratic coffers. “And the country is scared, and they have good reason to be.”

The notion that voters would reject Democrats only because they don’t understand the facts prompted a round of recriminations — “Obama the snob,” read the headline on a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — and fueled the underlying argument of the campaign that ends Tuesday. For all the discussion of health care and spending and jobs, at the core of the nation’s debate this fall has been the battle of elitism.

Well, I would expect that charge to come from a Dubya speech writer.  Afterall, the Republicans have made a national sport of making fun of ‘cultural’ elites, ‘hollywood’ elites, and ‘ivory tower’ elites.  Hey, what happened to aspiring to being more than you can be?  Let’s not confuse the talented  and bright in our society with the folks that peer down their noses and go ‘tut, tut’.  They’re two distinct groups.

We need more innovators and elites to move the country forward.  We do no need lectures from effete snobs, however.  How can we tell the difference before they land in office and better yet, how do we get every one to make a distinction between out right snobbery and the pursuit of a higher state of existence?  How can we stop every one from hijacking lexicon?

That being said, Obama does not project any kind of empathy along the lines of  “I feel your pain” or speaking out to even a “silent majority”.  Evidently, even Democratic strategists are discussing the tin ear issue.  But c’mon, how touchy feeling does Mitch McConnell strike you?  Would you want to share a lunch table with that guy?

“The elitism argument is kind of a false one because the president talks about people’s economic interests and middle-class families,” said Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist who advises Mr. Obama. “And those who are supporting Republican candidates right now — because they think they’ll look out for their interests — are going to be very surprised when they find out what the corporate sponsorship of that party is buying.”

But Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist, said Mr. Obama had not connected with popular discontent. “A lot of people have never been to Washington or New York, and they feel people there are so out of touch,” he said. “When you’re unemployed and you’re sitting in your living room and you hear the president say, ‘You don’t understand what the problems really are — you’re just scared,’ that makes people really, really angry.”

For a party of bankers, the Republicans sure have the ability to boil the words down to a populist message these days.   The Democrats are the ones  that come off as supremely out of touch.   I still remember the old George Bush looking flummoxed by the grocery store experience.  How silver spoon Dubya turned into a comic book rancher is still a mystery to me.  But, this new breed of Democratic progressives have lost the common touch, the common message, and the search for the common good.  No doubt about it.  Obama is symptomatic of that.  Funny how they all think it’s just the inability to market themselves in the most resonant way rather than looking at the sincerity of their messages.  It’s difficult to fake sincerity.  People with common sense can smell it a mile away.

And, I think at the heart of it all is that most of the people in the beltway right now have no idea what it means to be middle class these days.  It’s like American is searching for ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and political consultants are still watching ‘Wag the Dog’.  Why can’t we get some combination of common sense Harry Truman and definitely elite FDR who truly set forward an agenda to expand the American Dream to every one?

What is wrong with our political process that it seems to create the very thing we love to hate?  Does reaching the membership in a society of elites automatically lead one to be an elitist?  If so, that doesn’t say much for the character-building nature of striving to reach the top of one’s field of endeavor; whatever it may be.

Sunday Festivities

Happy Halloween!!!

The Scarecrew for Meet the Press: John Brennan, Tim Kaine, Haley Barbour, Charlie Cook, Mark Halperin, Tom Brokaw, Michelle Norris, Chuck Todd

The ghouls and zombies on Candy Crowely’s State of the Union:
Michael Steele, Dick Durbin, Bob Kerry, Bill Bennet

The spooks This week with Christiane Amanpour.

Cokie Roberts, George Will, John Cornyn, Robert Menedez, Donna Brazile, Jonathan Karl, Dick Armey.


The Audacity of Anger

It’s only been two rotations ’round the sun–a gnat’s life in the grand scheme of things–since the Obama surge swept over the District beltway.  Two years represent eons in political schemes.  The election isn’t until Tuesday, but the obits have already been written. 

Can you honestly say that you’ll be happy with fewer feminist women in Washington and a Speaker of the House Boehner?  (Also implying the first woman in that position was ill-suited?)  This is a much bigger mess than even we conceived.

I read the latest issue of The Economist like one read’s an obit or the day-after-the game analysis.  It correctly identified the root source of a lot of the anger; the economy.  It also listed some good decisions  like appointing Hillary Clinton SOS and quieting some of the cowboy foreign policy swagger.  It also lists mistakes and rightly quantifies some of the major mishaps; like mismanaging expectations of economic recovery.

So what went wrong? The answer is a series of smaller things—rhetoric, details, execution, even an aloof vagueness—that have cumulatively undermined his presidency. He has made enemies of the businessmen who are needed to drive forward America’s recovery, haranguing them as fat cats and speculators. He has even, as we report here, forfeited the goodwill of America’s most dynamic and entrepreneurial asset. Silicon Valley, which once saw Mr Obama as a promising start-up, now sees him as a bad investment.

His decision to leave details to others has also cost him dearly. By choosing to subcontract the stimulus, health reform and finance reform to the Democratic leadership, he ended up with shoddy bills that Republicans could safely vote against and that many Democrats are now anxious to distance themselves from. A more accomplished president would have controlled that process better, and found ways to make the Republicans offers that they could not refuse.

Now this is where I begin to part ways.  First, the problem has not been Obama’s ‘anti-business’ stand, it’s been his selective pre-occupation with the financial sector and disinterest in other areas of commerce; including what creates jobs.  Second, it’s pretty obvious that there’s only a handful of Republicans that will go along with ANYthing.  They’ve gotten a lot of Republican policy and they’ve continually said no. 

Krugman’s last NYT op-ed ‘Divided We Lose’ did an excellent job showing exactly how little we can expect after the election.  We didn’t get change recently and we sure won’t get change now.

Another recent interview by National Journal, this one with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has received a lot of attention thanks to a headline-grabbing quote: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

If you read the full interview, what Mr. McConnell was saying was that, in 1995, Republicans erred by focusing too much on their policy agenda and not enough on destroying the president: “We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives.” So this time around, he implied, they’ll stay focused on bringing down Mr. Obama.

True, Mr. McConnell did say that he might be willing to work with Mr. Obama in certain circumstances — namely, if he’s willing to do a “Clintonian back flip,” taking positions that would find more support among Republicans than in his own party. Of course, this would actually hurt Mr. Obama’s chances of re-election — but that’s the point.

We might add that should any Republicans in Congress find themselves considering the possibility of acting in a statesmanlike, bipartisan manner, they’ll surely reconsider after looking over their shoulder at the Tea Party-types, who will jump on them if they show any signs of being reasonable. The role of the Tea Party is one reason smart observers expect another government shutdown, probably as early as next spring.


 Plus, and this is my third beef, there’s been no course correction or accountability demanded for many of the worst Bush Administration excesses.  There’s been no attempts to address the horrid war crimes and civil liberties abuses.  The only glimpses we’ve seen have come from Wikileaks and whistle blowers.

It’s hard to say this, but I’m even less optimistic than I was two years ago.  The economy is not good. No politician seems able to understand the issues facing the middle class. It’s just going to be more political in-fighting and I don’t see how that’s really going to move us forwards. Let’s just say I know who the losers will be already too.


In the continuing battle for ratings at the cost of journalistic integrity, ABC joins the latest news gang trend of adding meme-spewing hacks to its line up for election coverage.  This is from Media Matters.

Media Matters has confirmed that noted propagandist Andrew Breitbart will provide analysis for ABC News during their election night coverage.

After Breitbart’s BigJournalism.com website reported that Breitbart would “be bringing analysis live from Arizona” for ABC, Media Matters confirmed his participation in a town hall meeting anchored by ABC’s David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg that will be featured in the network’s coverage.

Asked about Breitbart’s history of unethical behavior and misinformation, ABC News’ David Ford told Media Matters: “He will be one of many voices on our air, including Bill Adair of Politifact. If Andrew Breitbart says something that is incorrect, we have other voices to call him on it.”

Media figures and outlets from across the board rejected Breitbart’s race-baiting lies after he smeared former USDA official Shirley Sherrod as a “racist,” using as “proof” a heavily edited video of comments she made during a March NAACP event that he posted on his site BigGovernment.com.

If all it takes to get a prime time news gig these days is a crazy mad following on the web, may we suggest dramatic-look prairie dog every time an incumbant loses?

Saturday Reads

Good Morning !

The Reason blog hit & run has a fun post up today that highlights attack ads by pols circa 1800s. There’s a youtube up there but the historical sources are even better. Well, we really don’t have to go that far back to wallow in it, however.  Check out Plum Line at Wapo. I’m not doing the youtube for this one.

The spot shows Angle running away from reporters. The claim that she’s “pathological” is a reference to Nevada journalist Jon Ralston’s tireless efforts to document what he describes as her “pathological” tendency to rewrite history and pretend she never said what she plainly did say.

Has any campaign ever been quite this direct in claiming that their opponent is, well, a complete whack-job? The Reid team has completely emptied the thesaurus.

If that’s not bad enough, how about being told by your employer that you need to vote Republican because your pay and benefits might be impacted in the future?

… with their recent paychecks, employees received a pamphlet from their employer on company letter head that stated “as the election season is here, we wanted you to know which candidates will help our business grow in the future.” While pointing out that the vote is the employee’s “personal decision,” the pamphlet explicitly states, “if the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not

That was from a Think Progress quote given at Crooks and Liars.  They have  the note left in the employee’s pay envelopes posted there.  The franchise owner did apologize but still it’s creepy. I’m ready for Tuesday to be over.

[MABlue here] I read this fascinating story in the hardcover of Der Spiegel this week. Luckily, they uploaded in on their international site. Just check it out:

An American Child May Hold Secrets to Aging

Brooke Greenberg is almost 18, but she has remained mentally and physically at the level of a toddler. An American physician is trying to uncover the child’s secret, because he wants to give mankind the gift of eternal life.


She has no hormonal problems, and her chromosomes seem normal. But her development is proceeding “extremely slowly,” says Walker. If scientists can figure out what is causing the disorder, it might be possible to unlock the mysteries of aging itself. “Then we’ve got the golden ring,” says Walker. He hopes to simply eliminate age-related diseases like cancer, dementia and diabetes. People who no longer age will no longer get sick, he reasons. But he also thinks eternal life is conceivable. “Biological immortality is possible,” says Walker. “If you don’t get hit by a car or by lightning, you could live at least 1,000 years.”

Do we even want to live that long?

Ezra Klein has post a list of

Six things Obama has done wrong

1) The tax cut that failed: The administration likes to brag that the stimulus was comprised substantially of tax cuts. Look how bipartisan! Only the tax cut they included was the Making Work Pay tax cut from the campaign.


2) Neglecting the Federal Reserve: Matthew Yglesias has made this critique better than I could’ve, so I’ll outsource it to him. “A party whose leaders realized that economic results were the most important driver of public opinion wouldn’t have renominated a conservative Republican to head the Federal Reserve. Even more astoundingly, having given Ben Bernanke a second term in office, the Obama administration didn’t get around to nominating anyone to fill the other vacant posts on the Federal Reserve Board until April 2010.” [Oh noes! Somebody keep Matt Yglesias away fron Kat…ed]

3) The Fiscal Commission: I’ve come to see the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” as a major error on at least a few levels. Remember, first, that it’s a powerless executive body created after Republicans filibustered a bill that would’ve created a similar, but more powerful, commission in Congress.


4) The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: I struggle with this one. The stimulus included measures designed to create jobs and help the economy immediately and measures designed to make investments and strengthen the economy over the longer-term. As a matter of policy, I fully support that.


5) The size and sale of the stimulus: By now, this is a familiar critique. Christina Romer thought we needed $1.2 trillion in stimulus. Then the recession turned out to be larger than we’d calculated. Then we got just $787 billion — and not all of that was stimulus.


6) It’s the procedure, stupid: Here are four words we’ve really not heard out of the Obama administration: “Up-or-down vote.” Obama has spoken occasionally about the filibuster, but the relentless perversion of the legislative process has not been made into a sufficient issue. […]

So, what do you think and what would you add to that list?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today