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In Defense Of Elitism

Jonah Goldberg defends Obama. Well, OK, not really. But he does defend elitism:

In his telling Pennsylvania was once Belgium on the Susquehanna -- cheese parties, Sam Harris book clubs etc -- and it can be again if only these people get good enough jobs to lay down their guns and bibles. As just about everyone has observed by now, this is a fundamentally Marxist way of looking at the world and Obama deserves to be called on it.

But it's not elitist, not really. It's clearly snobbish. It's certainly myopic and arrogant. And it's absolutely wrong. But I don't think it's elitist. Maybe I'm biased because I don't have any pressing problem with elitism, rightly understood. Elite derives from the Latin for elect and in our elections we decide who will be our (political) elite. Jefferson believed in a democratic elite which rose up on merit. I do too. We're all elitists in one way or another (Show of hands: Who wants an elite surgeon to perform their heart-lung transplant and who wants a really average surgeon to do it? If you answer that you want the surgeon from the really meaty part of the bell curve, I will concede you are no elitist).

What's offensive about Obama's comment isn't its elitism per se, but the arrogance of assuming that those who see the world through a different prism or who are relatively immune to his charms are somehow embittered and confused and therefore less equipped to decide who should be our elected elite.

I don't think that I've complained about "elitism" in my numerous posts on Obama (though I could be wrong), because I agree. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with being elite, and being elite is something to which we should in fact aspire, though it should be a goal reached through hard work, and not simply the luck of birth (other than perhaps genetically endowed talent).

"Elitism" is one of those words, like "judgmental" and "discriminating," that have gotten an unfairly bad wrap. During the Wright imbroglio, one of my anonymous Obamamaniacal commenters amusingly (and idiotically) told me to stop being so judgmental, as though there's something wrong with having, and exercising, judgment. And what is selecting a better job candidate over a worse one, if not "discrimination"? There is nothing wrong with judging or discriminating. What becomes a problem is when the judging and discriminating occur on an irrational basis (e.g., skin color alone--though even there there could sometimes be a reasonable basis).

As an example, I was recently discussing the possibility of doing some consulting for a firm to help with some regulatory issues in the UK. The person I was speaking with thought that I (and my business associates) had excellent credentials for the task, except for one problem--we (due, no doubt to a misspent youth spent largely in the US) had American accents. He didn't think that we could be as effective with Whitehall and Parliament as someone who spoke like most in The City, and we couldn't disagree with him. This was discrimination, but it was hardly unreasonable. He was, in fact, exercising good judgment, and perhaps even being justifiably elitist, in that he wanted the best people for the job.

In any event, I tend to discriminate against people who view the world through a Marxist lens, and can be very judgmental about them, particularly when they are vying for the most powerful position in the world. So sue me.

[Evening update]

Obama keeps digging deeper:

What happened to the people clinging to their guns?

Were they "mangled" by insertion? Or have they now been mangled out of existence, now to be discarded? Why is there not a word about them?

(Sorry, but "hunting" is not the same. Don't call me a "hunter," because I don't hunt.)

Has the Second Amendment become a secondary wedge issue now that Obama has thought it over? Or has gun-clinging behavior been subsumed into anti-gay, and anti-immigrant "sentiments" which people don't really feel honestly, but only imagine they do because of exploitative prodding by their leaders?

The disturbing implication, of course, is that under the right, uh, leadership, uh, the negative thinking (all that gun-clinging, and all that bigotry) will be made to disappear.

I'm feeling plenty marginalized by this. It's bad enough to be told that as a gun owner I don't really think what I think, but I have been led into it by others.

But now I'm told that my guns are not the issue because they might as well be bigoted sentiments against gays and immigrants! But that if I harbor these sentiments (which I don't), they are no more mine than my gun-clinging behavior was.

I think that this is more evidence that he does a lot better with a teleprompter than impromptu. It also continues to be a window into what he really thinks about us.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Heh. I like this comment:

Obama's antics remind me of Barry Goldwater's comments about Richard Nixon during Watergate.

"Well, first he shot himself in the foot, and then he shot himself in the other foot, and then he shot himself in the ass."

Given Obama's great propensity to shoot himself in various places, I can understand why he might not like guns.


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Bill White wrote:

Rand, if you actually believe Barack Obama sees the world through a Marxian lens, I want some of what you've been drinking because it must be quite powerful stuff.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Bill, that says more about your ignorance of Marxism than it does about what I imbibe.

FC wrote:

Only the bourgeois are "Marxian." Real socialists are Marxists.

Bill White wrote:

"Bitter-gate" polling suggests Obama is not being hurt by it:

A new national study among 843 self-reported Democrats, Republicans and independents, indicated that Senator Obama’s explanation for his recent controversial remarks, successfully addressed criticism, especially among Democrats and independents.

Those opposed to Obama all along and those who believe Obama is a closet-Marxist will become more opposed to him, and OUTRAGED, because of Bitter-gate. Everyone else? Eh, Bitter-gate ain't no big deal.

Poor Hillary. Her preferred mode of personal self actualization (becoming POTUS) looks less and less likely every day.

rjschwarz wrote:

I think when most people talk of elitism they don't mean that they are bothered by people that are perhaps their betters, they are bothered by those people looking down their nose at others. Pretty much nobody likes that.

Anonymous wrote:

It's remarkable how much Mr. Simberg and his common people can deduce from a couple of sentences spoken by the elite containing the words cling and bitter.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Yet another anonymous moron wrote:

It's remarkable how much Mr. Simberg and his common people can deduce from a couple of sentences spoken by the elite containing the words cling and bitter.

Not really. All it means is that we're actually a lot smarter than "the elite" (or at least not the dumb rubes they think we are), and anonymous commenters.

Once again, I'll note that if I wrote such idiotic things as the anonymous morons do, I'd be anonymous, too. But then, I'm a lot smarter than they are. Just what it is they fear about using their real names, one wonders?

Anonymous wrote:

So why are Obama's national poll numbers going up? Could it be that there are now more of the elite than the common Simberg-folk out there? Could it be that Hillary-Simberg has now insulted the elite?

Rand Simberg wrote:

So why are Obama's national poll numbers going up?

So why is it you continue to beat your wife, anonymous moron?

Bill Maron wrote:

Well Bill, when a candidate or their spouse on the stump tells me they are going to make me do something, I worry about two isms and neither is acceptable. That would be another sign of elitist behavior.

Leland wrote:

Again I say BW, encourage Obama to take his statement on the campaign trail and make it a stump speech. Let us know how it goes.

Max wrote:

I don't have any pressing problem with elitism, rightly understood. Elite derives from the Latin for elect and in our elections we decide who will be our elite.

Josh Reiter wrote:

i R l337 haX0r

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on April 15, 2008 11:06 AM.

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