General Question

EmpressPixie's avatar

What are your thoughts on the continuing rhetoric of this election?

Asked by EmpressPixie (14760points) September 5th, 2008

I’m specifically interested in your thoughts on the idea that intellectualism is equal to elitism. In an AP article this morning, it pointed out that the republicans are using very strong rhetoric to sound like “good ol’ boys (and girls)” while equating higher education with horrible things. How is it even possible that we, as a nation, have come to care so little for education? (Please, tell me I’m wrong!)

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27 Answers

rawpixels's avatar

I sure hope you’re wrong. I used to consider myself a Republican until Bush and the spend-happy Republicans in Congress changed my ways. I am from NYC and I definitely don’t fit into the Red State mold. I’m a graphic designer, I drink coffee from Starbucks, I enjoy wine and fine food, and I consider myself somewhat of an intellectual. As for my political views, I favor limited government, freedom of choice (abortion, smoking, school choice, etc). Personally, I think both major parties are hypocrites and do most anything in order to get elected. While, Obama impresses me on many levels, I don’t agree with him on certain issues. I may just stay home on election day.

Anyway, when the GOP wakes up and starts to resemble Ron Paul’s philosophy, I’ll be happy to come back into the fold.

wundayatta's avatar

I think you’re right about what the Republicans are doing. It is a crass, cynical approach (since they are the elitist party, the ones who have made the richest people even more filthy rich, while hurting the rest of us economically—which is ironic since they make a huge stink about lowering taxes, never mind that they do it in such a way as to hurt the most people).

In any case, in politics, winning becomes paramount to a greater or lesser degree. So any tactic that might help is deemed worth trying. Swift boat, for example. Now the elitism attack because Obama is a black who actually speaks like an educated white person. It’s a subtle form of racism, in the end. Again, Republican are very good at using symbols for things like racism and religion and Americanism, and fooling people into believing they mean it, despite the fact that their policies gut these ideals.

Most people recognize that political campaigns are full of false promises. That’s why so few trust any politician at all. But the name of the game is getting elected. It’s not about integrity, per se; it’s about the appearance of integrity.

Republicans seem to be better than Democrats at being good ‘ol boys (folks like us). It is highly ironic, of course. But they manipulate certain symbols: family, country, faith better than the Dems do. Dems know this, but don’t appear to know what to do about it. It was only Clinton (Bill) that could carry it off. I wonder if his wife could have carried it off?

Most people don’t trust higher education because, in my opinion, it teaches us to look at the full complexity of problems. Complexity can not be conveyed in the sound bites that political rhetoric requires. You say something with nuance, and the opposition will take one clause, and make it sound like what you were saying, and make you look like an idiot.

Most people don’t make time for politics and serious discussion. So most people make decisions on issues like character and looks and sound bites. So if you can project a strong, wise, down-home image, you can win. If you talk about nuance, you lose, I think. You look like you are prevaricating (or as they call it: flip-flopping).

And, of course, higher education is associated with liberalism (education leads to nuanced understandings), and atheism (once again—nuanced understandings, and also: scientific method). Everyone knows this whether they check the numbers or not (try the general social survey, eg).

Ah well. Cynicism! Where would we be without it!

Harp's avatar

Unfortunately, I share your misgivings. The anti-intellectual current is certainly not new in American politics, but I don’t know that it has ever been more energized.

America is fertile ground for anti-intellectualism. We have a national mythos that enshrines “common sense”, gut instinct, and action. Religious faith is still considered a defining American value.

Religious fundamentalists (fully 1/4 of the US population) are, I think, feeling increasingly besieged by what they see as secular intellectualism in the press, in science, and in academia. There seem to be few domains of intellectual pursuit in American culture that bolster the cause of fundamentalism, so intellectualism itself is seen as the enemy.

In the secular domain, there is a long-standing tension between intellectualism and authoritarian politics. Authoritarianism relies on emotional appeal, appeals to fear, “patriotism”, pride, loyalty, hatred. Many, if not most, of these appeals simply don’t stand up to much clear, rational thought. So historically, whenever authoritarianism is on the ascendancy, intellectuals have been painted as unpatriotic, enemies of national values. In times of conflict, such as the present, this kind of rhetoric has special potency.

No one will ever self-identify as “anti-intellectual”, of course. Everyone likes to believe that reason is on their side. The use of the word “elitist” is a way of side-stepping the awkwardness of semantically placing oneself in opposition to intellect. It appeals to the ideal of egalitarianism in America, saying that just because someone has a higher level of education than someone else doesn’t make him better. Certainly from the perspective of the law that is the case, but I wonder whether most people would feel that this logic carries over to the surgeon, the attorney, the engineer…yet somehow, the commander in chief of the most powerful army in the world gets a special exemption.

I understand the appeal of having someone that you can understand, “relate to”, as your leader. But there are issues that are certainly beyond my ability to understand facing the world today, and I think most of us feel that way. I wouldn’t take any comfort in knowing that my leaders have no better grasp of the complexities of the world situation than I do.

tWrex's avatar


EmpressPixie's avatar

@tWrex – only if you support the direction your state is already going! If it’s a swing state, you should really buckle down, check ‘em both out, and vote for the one you think is better. Because write-in votes make a nice statement, but ultimately pull support from one of the two candidates.

EmpressPixie's avatar

of course if your second choice is McCain…

rawpixels's avatar


I agree 100%

JackAdams's avatar

I’m greatly disappointed by the folks (lexicographers?) who create dictionaries, for not listing “rhetoric” as a synonym for bullshit.

Apologies to those who are offended by my use of the word “lexicographers.”

September 5, 2008, 11:47 AM EDT

wundayatta's avatar

But Jack, would you really be happy when they take your statement above as example A, illustrating the use of the term?

JackAdams's avatar

I have no problem with that, as long as the residual checks reach me in a timely manner.

September 5, 2008, 2:43 PM EDT

wundayatta's avatar

Residual checks are on their way! hmmm, what is 0.5% of nothing?

JackAdams's avatar


September 5, 2008, 2:49 PM EDT

wundayatta's avatar

Oh. Silly me. Right you are! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.

JackAdams's avatar

Because you’re not as….

Never mind.

September 5, 2008, 3:09 PM EDT

Babo's avatar

Politics give Babo a headache.

JackAdams's avatar

That’s why you should not vote.

It only encourages them.

Just remember the following quote, from the 1960s:

“If voting could REALLY change thinngs for the better in America, IT WOULD NOT BE LEGAL!”

September 5, 2008, 3:22 PM EDT

marinelife's avatar

Elitism seems to be a weird code word in this election. All of a sudden, if you are not blue collar, you are just no good. It was hilarious watching Hillary do shots with union guys. Come on. Ms. Yale Law.

The thing is that the Republicans who are attempting to try this crap on are the worst elitists there are. If you are not in their tax bracket, they have nothing for you.

I could not afford one outfit in Cindy McCain’s 11 closets. John McCain wears thousand dollar shoes!

wundayatta's avatar

@Marina, the odd thing, is that blue collar folks buy into this. The wealthy guy who wants more tax breaks for the rich is actually the savior of the working people. Go figure!

I am constantly amazed at this, and at a loss to explain it. I guess, working folks spend less time understanding policies, and are more concerned with “character” and “independence.” They make choices based on who makes them feel good, more often than more educated folk. I don’t know.

tWrex's avatar

@EmpressPixie Well, I’m actually not from a swing state. I live in Illinois. I can’t imagine who will take this state. I will be casting an actual vote, but it wont mean anything anyways.

I find it re-assuring that there are a lot more Ron Paul supporters than I imagined. He had a plan man. He coulda done it too. It’s weird because one of his strongest bases were college kids and he’s older than McCain!

tWrex's avatar

Well any Ron Paul supporters should read this I call shenanigans!

rawpixels's avatar

Tax cuts are always a good idea, whether they target the “wealthy”, the “middle class,” or any other group. When you take more money away from people who are in the upper brackets, you take money out of the hands of others. A rising tide surely does lift all boats. Unfortunately, modern “conservatives” have adopted the big government philosophy of the left. This is a prime reason why I no longer consider myself a Republican. I have no problem being taxed for essentials that government can only provide, but I’m smart and capable enough to take care of the rest by myself.

wundayatta's avatar

And of course, it doesn’t affect anyone competent at all, if others are not smart or capable enough to take care of themselves. You can, for sure, effectively isolate yourselves from feeling anything negative as a result of that.

I don’t know what world libertarians think they live in, but it certainly isn’t the world I know.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@tWrex: In that case, carry on. also, he was on Colbert Report, did you see?

tWrex's avatar

@EmpressPixie I did see that, although a bit too late so I had to watch it on crappy youtube. does anyone else hate youtube as much as me? I hate that damn place I joined the campaign for liberty and just reserved his book at the Borders by me today just got a gift card for there so now I can get it!. =)

Join the Revolution

EmpressPixie's avatar

@tWrex: You can watch full episodes of Daily Show and Colbert on their own websites. Like, two minutes of commercials, but the quality is nice.

tWrex's avatar

@EmpressPixie Sweet! Thanks for the tipsy! I’ve been watching both for years now and never knew that!

galileogirl's avatar

As far as campaign rhetoric goes, just pay attention to who is hurling insults and who is addressing issues. Unfortunately I think one of the candidates is going to talk about unpopular truths and the American people will support the guy hurling insults; ie 1) we have lived beyond our means for over 7 years and know we have to pay for it with interest, 2) if things aren’t going our way in the world, we can’t go in with guns blazing. We have to act like grown ups and use diplomacy and sanctions. 3) If we want to remain a world power we have to get back to basics as spelled out in the Preamble to the Constitution incloding a strong union, justice, peace at home, a good defense, a decent life for all and personal freedom.

I’m afraid we will elect the folks who call those ideas unpatriotic, unreasonable and elitist.

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