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What's so wrong with being an elitist?

 
 
Thomas
 
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:37 pm
It seems that on every American TV channel these days, commentators are discussing whether Obama's remarks about rural Pennsylvanians are elitist, and whether Obama himself is an elitist politician. Clinton supporters and Republicans affirm the accusation with a vengance. Obama and his surrogates eagerly deny it.

But why? The one question no talking head seams to be asking is, what's so wrong with being an elitist? I cannot find a reason myself, at least not through introspection. To the extent that I myself want to be governed at all -- a very small extent, but that's a different discussion -- I emphatically don't want to be governed by average rulers. I want to be governed by the most competent, most honest, most courageous personalities we can possibly elect. These people are an elite by definition, and my wish for them to govern me clearly makes me an elitist.

I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way. Indeed, wouldn't most people prefer the best possible rulers to mediocre ones? My impression from asking around is that they would.

So what, to repeat the question, is so wrong with being an elitist? I'm not getting it.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 6,332 • Replies: 106
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Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:40 pm
wow....name a single politician in Wash DC that is NOT an elitist.

Wait..is it because he's black AND an elitist? Is that his sin here?
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:43 pm
Ragman wrote:
wow....name a single politician in Wash DC that is NOT an elitist.

Well, good for them. Now, name me a single politician in Washington DC that would admit to being an elitist. I predict you'll find that pretty hard. Why is that?
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DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:45 pm
Any label that you can stick on a politician makes him or her vulnerable.

I think the association they are trying to convey is discrimination and/or a lack of caring for the working class.

(Think Marie-Antoinette and "let them eat cake.")
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:45 pm
What's wrong is that your definition is not how it's commonly used in politics these days (though I agree with your definition).

I'd define elitism as usually used politically as something like:

    1. The state of being unelectable. (See "wimp.") 2. An appeal to latte-drinkers and Prius-drivers at the expense of salt-of-the-earth working class folk.


OK there's more but I gotta go and that probably gives a flavor...

I agree that in its proper definition --yours anyway -- we SHOULD be electing elite politicians.
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Ramafuchs
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:49 pm
All elitiasts are not commercial dancing dolls
but some coporate sponsored are.
Education is nothing to do with intellectual faculties.
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DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:51 pm
sozobe wrote:
2. An appeal to latte-drinkers and Prius-drivers at the expense of salt-of-the-earth working class folk.

Larry David for President!
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:53 pm
My strong impression is that the long-term search for Plato's philosopher kings hasn't yielded much. I'm surprised to see this suggestion from Thomas that it may yet bear fruit.

I suppose there might be a point here, as long as one is willing to accept the proposition that those who identify themselves as members of this or that elite are themselves truly deserving of the status they evidently seek. However, I believe the fact that this so flies in the face of human experience and common sense is what explains why we see it suggested so infrequently.

The history of nations, institutions, movements, business, armies and all facets of human endeavor are littered with the stories of the ruin and destruction brought on by leaders who were sure they (alone) had the right answer; knew what was really good for those whom they led; and had the wisdom to see it through a host of difficulties.

A most remarkable assertion. However, I am reassured by the belief that Thomas isn't really serious about it.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 03:55 pm
Re: What's so wrong with being an elitist?
Thomas wrote:
But why? The one question no talking head seams to be asking is, what's so wrong with being an elitist? I cannot find a reason myself, at least not through introspection. To the extent that I myself want to be governed at all -- a very small extent, but that's a different discussion -- I emphatically don't want to be governed by average rulers. I want to be governed by the most competent, most honest, most courageous personalities we can possibly elect. These people are an elite by definition, and my wish for them to govern me clearly makes me an elitist.


It may very well make you an elistist - but you aren't running. Wink

There is a distinction between a person who the general population sees as elite and a person who the general population couldn't care less about telling that population that they are elite.

You are labeling others as elite here - not yourself.

Quote:

So what, to repeat the question, is so wrong with being an elitist? I'm not getting it.


A synonym for "elitism" is "snobbery". I have no problem with voting for someone who is elite. They had better prove it though. An "I'm elite! Vote for me!" isn't going to get anywhere.
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DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:00 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
The history of nations, institutions, movements, business, armies and all facets of human endeavor are littered with the stories of the ruin and destruction brought on by leaders who were sure they (alone) had the right answer; knew what was really good for those whom they led; and had the wisdom to see it through a host of difficulties.

That isn't elitism. That's malignant narcissism.

Big difference.
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Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:03 pm
But, do people really claim elitism?

No; it is used as a slur, an attempt to distance the candidate from the 'common man.' Now, most intelligent people would respond, as people have above, and state that none of the politicians who run for office have much to do with the common man.

But, the elitist slur isn't aimed towards the intelligent, it is directly pointed at the stupid and uninformed. Nothing makes these people angrier then reminding them that they are, in fact, not as able to run a country as other people would be. It highlights their deficiencies. That's why Bush did so goddamned well; he convinced the morons that they, too, could be president some day. The phrase used to express this is 'have a beer with him,' but what it really means is that his intelligence is exceedingly average and other folks in that situation find that comforting.

I find the fact that a whole crop of politicians, along with the media personalities, who all have net worth in the millions, can get off calling anyone 'elitist,' to be ridiculous. It's the height of irony.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:05 pm
Cycloptichorn wrote:
But, do people really claim elitism?

Cycloptichorn


Yes they do .... usually indirectly in the way they presume to speak for others of (it is implied) lesser insight and intelligence.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:08 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
Cycloptichorn wrote:
But, do people really claim elitism?

Cycloptichorn


Yes they do .... usually indirectly in the way they presume to speak for others of (it is implied) lesser insight and intelligence.


Sort of a judgment call on the part of the listener, then, wouldn't you say?

Would you say that every time McCain says "America wants to win this war in Iraq, Americans don't want to leave," that he's being an elitist?

Cycloptichorn
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DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:08 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
Yes they do .... usually indirectly in the way they presume to speak for others of (it is implied) lesser insight and intelligence.

You can't really mean that....
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:13 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
My strong impression is that the long-term search for Plato's philosopher kings hasn't yielded much. I'm surprised to see this suggestion from Thomas that it may yet bear fruit.

I'm not looking for philosopher kings. Indeed, I said I want to be governed to only a very limited extent at all. But to think there's a rationale for government at all, and not to think that the government should be run by good rather than average people, that's what doesn't make sense to me. And I stand by that.
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DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:14 pm
Thomas wrote:
I'm not looking for philosopher kings. Indeed, I said I want to be governed to only a very limited extent at all. But to think there's a rationale for government at all, and not to think that the government should be run by good rather than average people, that's what doesn't make sense to me. And I stand by that.

I have a feeling the founding fathers shared your views.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:16 pm
Thanks, Drew Dad. I take that as a compliment.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:23 pm
Re: What's so wrong with being an elitist?
What's so wrong with being an elitist?

You could be wrong. Whether your elitism is to think that you are among the elite (for intellect, physical skill, artistic talent or appreciation), or whether your elitism identifies any certain group as superior--you could be wrong, may well be wrong, and therefore have a flawed basis for judgment.

Thomas wrote:
But why? The one question no talking head seams to be asking is, what's so wrong with being an elitist? I cannot find a reason myself, at least not through introspection. To the extent that I myself want to be governed at all -- a very small extent, but that's a different discussion -- I emphatically don't want to be governed by average rulers. I want to be governed by the most competent, most honest, most courageous personalities we can possibly elect. These people are an elite by definition, and my wish for them to govern me clearly makes me an elitist.

I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way. Indeed, wouldn't most people prefer the best possible rulers to mediocre ones? My impression from asking around is that they would.

So what, to repeat the question, is so wrong with being an elitist? I'm not getting it.


It is unlikely that you will get any but "average" rulers. Suppose that someone's background is in law--the best of the lawyers will be making the big bucks with a prestigious firm, or on retainer to a generous individual or corporation. If someone's background is in business, they would most likely go into politics either because they're not making it in business as they hoped, and think to find advantage in politics, or have made their pile, and think to manipulate government in the ways they always longed for when sitting at the head of the boardroom table, frustrated by what they saw as the inadequacies or injustices of government.

You are hardly likely to find the most honest people going in for a political career. In the first place, political careers (at least in the United States) are not financially remunerative unless one can get advantages for oneself or one's cronies from political participation. Even those with honest motives often fall afoul of the casual (and i suspect "head-turning") experience of hobnobbing with the rich and famous--witness John McBush . . . er, i mean McCain, someone whom i genuinely think is basically honest, but who nonetheless got involved with Keating, and was censured by the Senate for it.

Albert Sidney Johnston, while visiting Washington in the 1830s, attended the Senate one day, while luminaries such as Daniel Webster and John Calhoun were speaking. Johnston wrote to his father-in-law that he thought politics would be a good career for a third or fourth son who didn't show much ambition and lacked any talents or skills. I wouldn't necessarily go that far, but politics does tend to attract either those who are ambitious for power (and therefore likely easily to be corrupted and become venal, if not venal at the outset) or those who lack the skills to compete effectively in their chosen profession.

I think you are living in the clouds with that one, Thomas.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:24 pm
sozobe wrote:
What's wrong is that your definition is not how it's commonly used in politics these days (though I agree with your definition).

Could be. Sounds plausible. I often feel that Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary are more popular with foreigners than with Americans -- American politicians anyway.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2008 04:25 pm
DrewDad wrote:
Thomas wrote:
I'm not looking for philosopher kings. Indeed, I said I want to be governed to only a very limited extent at all. But to think there's a rationale for government at all, and not to think that the government should be run by good rather than average people, that's what doesn't make sense to me. And I stand by that.

I have a feeling the founding fathers shared your views.


I doubt that. Upon what evidence to you allege that this were the case? What about the Constitution, for example, mitigates in against mediocrity in government?
0 Replies
 
 

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