Does Middle America distrust intellectuals and why?

I am more or less defining “Middle America” as your typical white, conservative, middle income, small town or suburban American who tends to vote Republican and is scared by Democrats and Liberals.

What I’ve observed is a tendency to distrust “book learnin” over “trustin your gut” or “common sense”. And I’ve seen this in a number of different areas including politics and business.

For example, their support of candidates like George W Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin who either went to second rate schools or when they did go to top colleges, they performed poorly. In contrast, they tend not to vote for high academic achievers like Barack Obama or Al Gore.

In business, I have seen time and time again where higly educated consultants would go into a company, their suggestions would be ignored and then the company would complain that the consultants weren’t helpful. Although sometimes, admittedly, we aren’t helpful, there just seems to be an attitude of “who are you to tell me how to do my job”. Well, unlike you, I haven’t been at your job for 20 years and might be able to provide you with a different perspective.

Even in New York City, you constantly see tourists who are clearly from out of state choosing to visit the Times Square versions of the restaurants and stores they are familiar with, instead of taking advantage of some of the better (and equivalently priced) restaurants and stores.

So does Middle America have a natural aversion to things it percieves as “intellectual” or “elitist” and if so, why?

What does this have to do with anti-intellectualism?

I don’t think that’s got anything to do with anti-elitism, I think that’s just a triumph of marketing. I remember the last time I was in Times Square looking for a bite to eat, and seeming to see only a bunch of chain restaurants such as T.G.I.Friday’s and the like, and remarking to my companion, “You know what our problem is here? We’re trapped in a mall.”

I think out-of-towners would be happy to visit more local, individual stores and restaurants. But the big chains have done a really good job of making themselves look much more noticeable and “user-friendly”. The path of least resistance is paved with familiar sights and sounds, and that’s a temptation that it’s often hard for tired tourists to resist (especially if they’re traveling with kids).

Yeah, maybe they could walk another eight blocks or so and stumble across a little hole-in-the-wall trattoria that will serve them a pasta e fagioli that they’ll still be talking about when they plan their next trip to New York…but suppose they don’t find one…and it’s a nuisance to stand there poring over restaurant guides and maps trying to guess where would be a good place to go…and they’re really hungry…and Friday’s is right there…oh well, just a quick bite. That’s not anti-elitism, that’s just succumbing to the carefully crafted marketing strategy.

Being very intelligent doesn’t make you more reliable, personally, or professionally. You don’t need to be really intelligent to figure this out. Folks who are really intelligent frequently do not apply that intelligence to their own attitudes, and habits, both personal, and professional. Yet so many of the evaluations made of people are based on the supposed level of their intelligence.

Logical flaw.

What you know is only important if it is very closely associated with what you do.


P. S. This situation can be almost perfectly paralleled by inserting moral for intelligent, and believe for know.

I meet some of your definition of “middle America.” I personally don’t think the White House should be a set-aside for Ivy League alumni. Have the last 20 years convinced anybody otherwise?

I would attribute it to the demonization of the so called “intellectual elite” by guys like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. Nothing pisses me off more than this. It is a bullshit way to manufacture divisions between the populous as a way to shore up the base by creating a boogieman where there is none. To brand those that have pursued their education past high school as being the self-professed elite class does nothing at all for anyone. Are they really trying to make someone feel guilty for educating themselves?

Maybe you aren’t aware that GWB actually had higher GPA than both Gore and Kerry.

We’re talking about intellectualism, not intelligence. While most intellectuals are intelligent, it is not the case that most intelligent people are intellectual.

I think this is as good a place as any to toss in a Bill Hicks quote:

It turns out people do not like to be wrong. Worse, people when presented with evidence that they are wrong are more likely to continue on that they are right to begin with. This effect is notably more pronounced in those with conservative views than liberal views although both do it. Unfortunately my Google-Fu is failing me as is the restrictive search here (was noted somewhere around here a month or two ago). I’ll keep looking for the study but it was rather alarming. As such though it would then stand to reason that a conservative would not like an intellectual. They do not want their preconceived notions challenged and react poorly to those who suggest they might be wrong (which intellectuals tend to do).

In my searching I did come across the following which also supports this notion and answers the restaurant question as well I think:

I think this is a symptom of the disease. GWB didnt run as the educated, intellectual, top of his class candidate (which would have been freaking hilarious, but if wishes were fishes…). He ran as the good-ole boy, still cutting brush on the ranch when he isn’t fighting terrorists or landing on aircraft carriers.

Would the far right have backed him if he ran on a more intellectual platform? Or would the GOP have found a guy that pulled off the good ole boy act better?

The under-educated far right is terrified of the well educated. Colleges have been painted as atheistic, socialist training camps. Why wouldn’t they fear that?

Before the cocaine. And he certainly could have found someone to write his papers for him.

But the real point is, W was of the elite to the bone. He just knew how to play hick.

Never mind.

All these tourist are from middle America? Look at it from their perspective. They’re in a strange city and they’re unfamiliar with most of the local eateries. They can go to some place they’ve never heard of and have no idea of the costs or they can go to someplace they’re familiar with and have a good idea of how much it will cost. When it comes to food a lot of people will choose the familiar over the unfamiliar. I’m not sure it has anything to do with being middle American, uneducated, or afraid of Democrats.

Where are you from? You clearly have no experience in “Middle America” as you snidely put it.

The fact is, all over America, in every state, in every country in the world, there are people who are stupid. There are also people who go with their gut, and do well with decision making. There are also snotty jerks who are completely unwilling to look at anything outside their immediate circle without a sneer.

Do you have any idea how many major universities you have just dismissed? Or how many hometowns of major intellectuals? Or how many R&D labs, both scientific and psychiatric?

What would you say if I posted your exact post, but replaced “Middle America” with “Black Ghetto”, or “Mexican Barrio”? I would be branded as a racist, and rightly so. Certainly, that attitude exists there, because it exists everywhere. But to brush a entire portion of the continent with a single brush is unfair and incorrect.

I would urge you to rethink your position. After all, you’re the intellectual, right? You should be able to see the flaw in your own argument.

I don’t think it’s necessarily “anti-intellectualism,” but if you travel to say, Japan, and only eat at KFC and McDonald’s, I would say you’re probably not the best-cultured… Something the “Middle Americans” group the OP defined could also be defined as. It’s the sense of America unquestioningly being #1 and anything else inferior. Of course, this relates to several other things… Take all the Obama-bashers who claim he’s a Muslim and is going to swear into office on the Qur’an. Ask them why they’d be so terrified even if he’s a Muslim and they’ll go into some rhetoric of equating all Muslims to terrorists. The point is the definition given by the OP would also include “uncultured” or at least “ignorant (and often proud of it) of other cultures.”

Not significantly; they all seem to have been in the C to C+ range. But this is a classic example of the anti-elitist bait-and-switch approach. They profess disdain for the milieu and achievements of the “intellectual elite”, and try to make it seem as though high social position or academic success at a prestigious university is something to be distrusted—witness Bush’s careful polishing of his “brush-clearing good old boy from Crawford, TX” image instead of “Ivy-educated scion of wealthy East Coast political dynasty”.

But they have no scruples about claiming the prestige of “elite” status if they think it looks advantageous, and never mind the inconsistency. It’s amazing the number of Bush supporters who sneered at his “Ivy League” opponents and then turned right around to boast “Bush is the only President who graduated from Yale and Harvard!”

Conservatives* have asked the question “Who would you rather sit down and have a beer with?” when deciding the presidency. Cite: http://

The guys I drink with have no business being dog catchers, let alone POTUS. What does this say about which traits either side values in their candidates? Why would the ability to chit chat with someone EVER factor into the equation in deciding the merits of a particular candidate?

  • Obviously not ALL conservatives use this rubric. I’m sure there’s a couple who haven’t used this to determine their vote for Bush or McCain. Hopefully.

Well said…please forward this to Sarah Palin regarding her remarks on the “Real America”. Those of us living in “fake America” want back in.

They vote for them because they vote Republican. That one is easy.

Certainly not a trait limited to your definition of middle Americans. People don’t like people like us who are consultants for various reasons. How many gigs have you been on where you were treated as a second class citizen if you were lucky, simply because you weren’t an employee?

I’ve consulted at a lot of places, in varying locales and business types. One thing that is usually guaranteed is the fact that people wont like me because it infers that THEY were unable to get the job done without some outsiders. That thought permeates through the ranks and is manifested by fear, intolerance, and often outright rejection of the ideas and proposals that we present.

There is a certain mistrust of our kind who have never “settled down” and got a real job. I think that, more than any middle American stereotype is often at work in your analogy.

NYC is as much to blame as the tourists. What is force fed to everyone outside of NYC is Times Square, The NY Yankees, Broadway, and the Statue of Liberty. Every gritty crime drama produced is set in NYC, complete with bad traffic, murders rapes etc. on every block, which influences the people who choose to visit. When they see a familiar face, or in this case, place to eat, it offers them some sort of comfort. So they flock to it.

The first line of the OP makes it clear that, in this thread, “middle America” is not synonymous with the midwest. Nice knee-jerk, though.