Posted by: jeanne | October 30, 2010

the cancer in politics today

this is why the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.  following is from a longer article in the economist, but the ending sums it up.

The idea, it seems to me, is that the culture of right-leaning, religious, white people—the culture of “real America”—is somehow under siege. By whom? The elite! Who are they? Mr Murray seems to posit that the elite are the chi-chi snots who do not partake of the red-blooded culture of “Red America”, but who, rather outrageously, proudly espouse a competing culture. These are the left-leaning, less-religious people—mostly city-dwelling and still mostly white—without whom the wholesome beliefs and values of suburban Kansas would reign from the Castro to Williamsburg. Why are editorial interns at the Weekly Standard part of the elite? Because, despite their conservative politics, they live like secular urban liberals, like “ignorant and isolated” deracinated strangers in their own homeland, like people who have never read “Left Behind”. And why isn’t, say, MIT-educated Charles Koch part of Mr Murray’s elite. Because, despite his billions, he’s a god-fearing denizen of Wichita, I suppose.

Polls show that, in addition to being predominantly white and Republican, tea-partiers are wealthier and better-educated than the typical American. The proletariat they are not. Andrew Gelman’s terrific book “Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State,” documents the stark partisan division within the American upper class, which I think helps us understand what’s really going on. Very roughly, churchgoing non-coastal rich people are Republicans, while the more secular coastal rich are Democrats. What we are now seeing is not a showdown between the vast non-ideological middle-class and some rising Acai-swilling, assortatively-mating bobo aristocracy, but a standoff between rival elites. The tea party is a movement of relatively well-to-do, relatively religious citizens aroused by the conservative identity politics of a handful of elite right-wing opinion-makers who seek to unseat their liberal counterparts.

It is a neat trick. Conservative elites pretend to be part of a marginalised cultural force while at the same time orchestrating an electoral bloodbath led by America’s least marginalised people. The fact that this is working so well tells us a lot about who the elites really are and where the power really lies.


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