Judging by the number of op-eds by (ironically) elite (i.e., very rich, very educated, very isolated from the unwashed masses) writers, there’s a consensus forming around the notion of elitism: it’s bad. Some argue that elitism is insulting; some argue that it could seem insulting; some use it to explain the Gore having "lost" the 2000 election. By contrast, folksyism–the "wanna have a beer with" seems to be the true test of a presidential candidate. The only people, oddly, who think this kind of nonsense are the members of the "elite" media.
Today George Will, who makes untold thousands to give lectures to prominent law firms (Dear law firms: I’ll do it for one eighth of the price and I promise most of what I say will be true, coherent, and well established by argument) finds this elitism–I mean, liberal elitism, a bad thing.
Barack Obama may be exactly what his supporters suppose him to be. Not, however, for reasons most Americans will celebrate.
Obama may be the fulfillment of modern liberalism. Explaining why many
working-class voters are "bitter," he said they "cling" to guns,
religion and "antipathy to people who aren’t like them" because of
"frustrations." His implication was that their primitivism,
superstition and bigotry are balm for resentments they feel because of
America’s grinding injustice.
By so speaking, Obama does fulfill liberalism’s transformation since Franklin Roosevelt.
What had been under FDR a celebration of America and the values of its
working people has become a doctrine of condescension toward those
people and the supposedly coarse and vulgar country that pleases them.
"His implication" is a bit of a stretch, but let’s grant that some may reasonably be taken aback by those words. That kind of stuff happens–and after nearly eight years of President Bush (and VP Cheney) Americans ought to be used to being offended. But hey, we’re not going to draw any large, unjustified inferences from Bush’s malapropisms or Cheney’s meanness. But George Will won’t can’t help himself:
The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who died in 1970 but whose spirit still permeated that school when Obama matriculated there
in 1981. Hofstadter pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has
revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims — the
indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss
rather than refute those with whom you disagree.
You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s exactly what Will is up to hear.
Obama’s dismissal is: Americans, especially working-class
conservatives, are unable, because of their false consciousness, to
deconstruct their social context and embrace the liberal program. Today
that program is to elect Obama, thereby making his wife at long last
proud of America.
Hofstadter dismissed conservatives as victims of character flaws and
psychological disorders — a "paranoid style" of politics rooted in
"status anxiety," etc. Conservatism rose on a tide of votes cast by
people irritated by the liberalism of condescension.
Obama voiced such liberalism with his "bitterness" remarks to an audience of affluent San Franciscans. Perfect.
Here is what Will is trying to say: Liberals (spit spit) dismiss people as crazy rather than as merely being in the wrong. Here’s what Will ends up saying: I dismiss liberals because they’re effete snobs (San Francicso, San Francisco) who look down on other people.