Sunday, January 22, 2012

I do not think that word means what you think it means

Snooty eliteWe’re having a fairly lazy sports-filled Sunday (Illinois basketball and then football playoffs) after a busy Saturday. We went out to eat with Shane and Matt, then headed over for a show at the Morris Center (a Vegas show, The Rat Pack, made its way to South Bend, and it was fantastic), and had a nightcap with them at South Bend Chocolate Cafe. Good times!

While all this was going on, Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team was in the process of defeating the #1 team (20-0 Syracuse), a game that we had tickets to but sold so we could go see The Rat Pack show. Argh! I never wished so much that I had a clone! We were both a little bummed that we weren’t there for the big game, but we enjoyed our evening out and have no regrets.

Newt Gingrich was also busy beating the pants off his opponents (try not to dwell on that image too long) in South Carolina. I’m rather delighted by this outcome, because it means that the Republicans are in complete disarray, and currently many in the base are breaking for Gingrich. Newt Gingrich. It just boggles my mind. Apparently his debate performance Thursday night garnered him a whole bunch of last-minute support from the evangelical base in SC, which also boggles my mind. In discussions with some of my like-minded friends, we speculated that they are digging his belligerence because they think he can really put President Obama “in his place” (which I happens to think is in the White House) in a debate. I guess that whole electability thing doesn’t worry them too much, or Newt’s extremely negative favorability rating, or that he was forced out as Speaker of the House, or that he paid a $300,000 ethics fine, or...well, you get the idea. The guy’s got baggage the size of a small country. No, they just want to see a smackdown in a debate between Gingrich and the President. My mind is still boggled.

[Sidenote: Newt, shut up about your stupid “Lincoln-Douglas style debates” already. If, by some bizarre chance, you end up being the nominee, you’ll get your chance to debate the President, but you don’t get to dictate the terms. The thought of listening to this bloviating garbanzo bean (as columnist Frank Bruni famously called him) ramble on for hours makes my head hurt and my stomach churn. He’s like the hangover of the Republican party...without the previous night’s fun.]

Newt fired them up at the debate with his attack-dog response to moderator John King’s question about his marital woes, and his second wife’s assertion that he asked her for an open marriage. (I won’t go into details, but you can watch the clip here if you haven’t heard about it.) How DARE anyone ask him such a question?! (It reminded me of Will Ferrell yelling “You don’t talk to me like that!” to his family in a skit. I wonder if Newt drives a Dodge Stratus?) You know why John King dared to ask it, Newt? Because you pretended to be some sort of highly moral person when you were leading the impeachment effort against President Clinton, all the while in the midst of a long term affair with a congressional staffer. It’s your hypocrisy that we hate most. Because of that, it was a legitimate question. The way he turned the outrage around and made himself a victim was a sight to behold. The arrogance and self-righteous indignation just oozed out of him.

Anyway, in Newt’s blistering attack on King, he scolded the entire “elite media” for engaging in such tactics, and accused them of protecting President Obama by attacking conservatives. I think that is absurd, but what I want to focus on here is the constant use lately of the word “elite.”

Elite media, liberal elite, east coast elites, Hollywood name it, they’re tossing around the word left and right (so to speak!). I think it goes without saying that this is a insulting term for them. It seems to be a code word for “not like us.” In other words, all those elites look down on you and think you’re stupid, but hey, I’m not an elite, I’m just like you! (Kindly ignore that part about Newt’s PhD in history, and his million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s, okay? Thanks.)

best of the bestI am bothered that this has become a bad word to a certain portion of the population. The Free Dictionary defines ‘elite’ as:

1. a. A group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status: "In addition to notions of social equality there was much emphasis on the role of elites and of heroes within them" (Times Literary Supplement).
b. The best or most skilled members of a group: the football team's elite.

This is not a derogatory term, folks. I would hope that anyone who has a job would strive to be among the elites of their profession; this seems a desirable thing to me, rather than a scornful epithet. In my daily dealings, I would love to be able to encounter the elite of those providing service to me, whether it’s a grocery store clerk, a mechanic, or the radiologist reading my mammogram. Elites are good, by their very definition: they are good at what they do. The right wing seems to be portraying them as some sort of foppish dandies who look down their noses at the common people. A clever bit of spin, but highly inaccurate.

Personally, I would like my politicians to be more than a little elite. Not in a monetary sense, but I definitely want the best and brightest leading our country and drafting our laws and deciding our court cases. The next time someone calls you an “elite,” I suggest thanking them for the compliment and for their high regard of you. Maybe it will make them go home and look the word up so they understand exactly what it means and why you didn’t take it as an insult.


  1. Hmmm. That whole elite thing is why I voted for Obama. I have this silly idea that I want my president to be more intelligent/intellectual than I.

  2. is classic double-speak the way that the Right has infused so much negativity to a word that once held so much inspiration in its use...

    ... I also am at a loss as why and how did Newt gain the level of acceptance in the conservative community... his character and general unsavory nature should cancel out his electability but it goes to show how big a role the psychology of racism and privilege play in society and it moral conscious...

  3. Absolutely we want intellectual elites in office, but it just does not attract our smartest. Sigh...

  4. He made SUCH an ass of himself! HOW ON MOTHER EARTH can he talk about gays "destroying the sanctity of marriage" while he is screwing around on his second wife!? I want to ask him "How freaking sanctimonious is THAT, you scum sucking moron!" I would call him "santorum" but that slur isn't vile enough to describe filth like Newt! CNN had every right to ask him that question, because their viewers want to know the answer!

  5. Beth, great post. And I am with you, my mind is really boggling that Newt Gingrich - NEWT GINGRICH??? - is now the front-runner for the GOP nomination. I am amazed and yet it is a good sign for President Obama that the GOP can't seem to settle on one candidate yet. I also agree about the elite thing - as Jon Stewart has said, I WANT my president to be better than me!

  6. Spot on again. It's just another in a long line of words that Repugs convert to slurs by the innuendo they intend when they use it. Reagan did it with Liberal, using it as a slur against the Democrats who didn't agree with him. Then it was "left" and now "elite" has been added to the mix of derogatory terms. The real hypocrisy is that they use those to divide the nation into the "us vs. them" camps as you suggest, while at the same time complaining that those Liberals are dividing the nation, creating a class war, pushing their own agenda for their own nefarious purposes, and not speaking for the average person. All of those things are exactly what the Conservative movement seeks to do. But, of course, only the elite can see the hypocrisy in them, and when we call them on it, we're being divisive and mean-spirited. It really does boggle the mind, even the minds of the elite.

  7. I get nervous when folks start disparaging the elite from all points on the compass, but especially when they take aim on the educated and the accomplished. It starts to smack of the Bolshevik Revolution or China's Cultural Revolution of the sixties. Then it just gets stupid when the ultracons say, "Our elitist can beat your elitist just 'cause he's a pit bull. Th'ow some words on 'im, Newt! Sic 'em, boy!"


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