16 September, 2008

We Are All Elitists Now

David Brooks has a great column today for the questions it raises, if not for the answers it provides:

Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said.

But, especially in America, there has always been a separate, populist, strain. For those in this school, book knowledge is suspect but practical knowledge is respected. The city is corrupting and the universities are kindergartens for overeducated fools.

[...]

The idea that “the people” will take on and destroy “the establishment” is a utopian fantasy that corrupted the left before it corrupted the right. Surely the response to the current crisis of authority is not to throw away standards of experience and prudence, but to select leaders who have those qualities but not the smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Palin nomination in the first place.

3 comments:

Cassady said...

Actually, I agree to an extent with his final analysis of Palin. I agree with all but his first conclusion, that if one wanted a leader to destroy a corrupt status quo, she'd be the one.

I think I'm well within the bounds of reason to say that her own establishment has thus far been corrupt within the context of Alaskan politics.

Every other point, the bullet points discounting her ability to actually and successfully govern, I agree with. She would really be a detriment to the offices of the Executive branch if elected.

Elliot said...

Oh David Brooks. I find so much to be smugly condescending about in this article.

In no particular order.

1) "The feminists declare that she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t hew to their rigid categories. People who’ve never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany."

Literally no one thinks this.

2) What "smug condescension" against Palin is he referring to, exactly? What is he referring to other than our smugly asking what qualifications Palin has to be president (and I have observed almost no condescension related to ovaries, small town values, etc but much related to lack of experience, extreme right wingery and corruption)? Didn't he just write his entire article about how we should be asking about experience?

3) Most annoyingly, Brooks repeats the conservative red herring that the problem with Bush was his inexperience. (He was "inept") Conservatives like to push the discussion in this direction since the actual problem with Bush was not his youth but his fundamentally flawed conservative ideology. Bush was actually very ept at pushing his disastrous agenda.

4) As a side note, I don't think the adoption of term limits had much to do with redeeming out politicians' "character". It had more to do with breaking the control of entrenched political bosses, and a recognition that we should take away the incentive for those in power to use their power to stay in power indefinitely. Though I guess thats a less moralistic way of saying the same thing.

spencer said...

Despite Elliot's quibbles, which are inevitable with any Brooks piece, I think the broader point he makes is a good one: The mantle of populism has shifted in many ways from the Democrats to the Republicans, especially over the last eight years.