Thursday, June 18, 2009

Popu-elitism



The line between the informed intellectual (or the “wonk,” if you will) and the rabble-rousing populist is finer than it seems. For one, both have advanceable policy positions. Barack Obama, who might rightly be described as a wonk (if not an outright egghead) has the same objective of mobilizing enough public support to advance his agenda as Limbaugh, although Rush, who is not an elected official, clearly is less constrained by mainstream ethics. But at the end of the day, while Rush is out pushing homophobia to his conservative base, Obama is forced to employ the same populist methodologies, if not the message, to reach his own liberal supporters.

It’s clear that even eggheads such as myself, my esteemed colleague, and Barack Obama, have to draw certain appeal from the mainstream. The trick to successful egghead propagandizing, of course, is to make the mainstream believe that they are not the mainstream. By the by, this is related to my theory about why Republicans consistently win the subarban middle-class, but that’s a topic for a different post. While the rabble-rousing populist actively tries to distance herself from the intellectual, the intellectual politician must necessarily adopt populist tendencies.

Before we continue, let us clarify something. As any fan of William Safire will tell you, words carry a weight well in excess of the initial message your neurons fire into your central cortex. Come again? In a nutshell, it is important to make sure you agree on the meaning of a word before you begin to argue over the implications. In this case, we need to take a look at the word populist.

If you were too lazy to follow that link, then you’re going to be out in the cold from this point on. Sorry, lazy-ass. We’re going to skip the first definition. While applicable here, it’s a little too partisan for my tastes. I consider myself more of an independent than a member of a political party, and as such I’m not a big fan of the association. Fortunately, there’s a second definition (for all of you unrepentant lazy-asses out there: “a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people”).

The point here (what I’m arguing in fact) is that there is not set definition for the “common people.” People generally see Obamanites as essentially well-educated individuals. The implication that follows is that he is an elitest, whereas in reality well-educated individuals make up a huge (and growing) portion of the electorate (and that god for that). See my point, then? While conservatives such as Sarah Palin would love to have you believe that they are proud to be outside of the educated elite, Barack Obama would have you believe that your educated ass is actually part of the elite.

Let's take a look at the definition of the word "elite" together:

Elite: The socially superior part of society.

Nuff said, right? Of course, if we were going to continue down this entomological road we’d next be analyzing “superior” and “society,” which would be interesting, but tedious. Anyways, the point is that whether you see yourself as a gun-toting Joe six-pack (by the way, does six-pack refer to his abs or to his beer? I was never sure on that one) or a Palm-Pre toting egghead, you’re probably going to join one of two "elite" camps… but in the end you’re going to end up just another peon in the ranks of the “common people.” Is that a bad thing? Depends on your point of view, I suppose.

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