What exactly is 'elitism'? (Not a rhetorical question.)

This may be more apropos for GQ or IMHO since I’m actually seeking a definition, but since

1- I’m specifically asking about it in relation to Obama

2- It requires opinion and since it’s related to the election

3- I’m pro-Obama and progressively anti-Clinton and it’s a reason I’m curious

I’ll post it here.

I know the textbook definition, but how is it being used politically? It seems somewhat elusive and a generic insult. Technically it would seem to lend itself to “classist”, but I’m not sure what the class is in this case. If they’re saying it’s because he said that people who’ve lost faith in government become bitter and find faith in guns and religion, are they claiming he’s classist against gun owners and religionists in favor of non-gun-owners and non-religionists? (I don’t know if he owns a gun, but we damned sure know he’s been to church in the past few years.)

Are they calling him an intellectual snob? If so- I honestly couldn’t care less if he likes to do acrostics in classical Latin while sipping $85 per glass wine and listening to Chinese opera and bashing bluegrass- I don’t agree but couldn’t care less, and couldn’t care less if Hillary or McCain did either, it wouldn’t gain or lose them my vote. I really don’t see whoever the future president is ever being on my speed dial or I on his/her’s.

It surely can’t be socioeconomic snobbery and classism his opponents have accused him of since, while he’s rich as most people would define the term, he’s on food stamps compared to the Clintons and McCains. Nevertheless, he was called elitist again recently by Hillary when he disagreed with the (dumbass) federal gas tax freeze. If so then apparently most economists are elitists as well. Are they (and by they I mainly mean Hillary but also various pundits) saying that he doesn’t care about the have-nots and the fly-overs because he thinks that ‘a tax cut that at most would save people about $10 month but would cost billions to the government in a time of high deficit and debt is a bad idea’?

It seems like they’re trying to distinguish between him and and the “just plain folks” candidates (Hillary “Maw Homespun” Clinton or John “Ol’ Paw” McCain) and I honestly am not sure what they’re implying. So, while I’ve editorialized it’s not a rhetorical question- what exactly is the definition of elitism in regards to the current race?

I’d explain, but you wouldn’t understand.

As near as I can tell, they are trying to attack Obama’s greatest strength, his oratory skills, by making it seem that he’s some “ivory tower intellectual” out of touch with the common man. Essentially they are creating a dichotomy between common sense and willful ignorance. The best way I’ve heard this described, in some other thread here although I forget the exact poster, was that this election was America’s IQ test: if Obama is elected, we’re all right. If either of the other two are, Americans are willful dolts and we’re truly screwed.

Just my WAG:

My guess is HRC is trying to paint Obama as an Ivory Tower intellectual. His high minded notions are all well and fine debated over cognac those notions are out of touch with and ignore the practicalities of the common man.

While I find Obama’s notions well considered and actually more thoughtful of the impact a given policy would have on the common person they usually require a level of critical thinking many people just are not able or willing to apply. No gas tax just sounds good. Some high falutin discussions on the economics of why it is bad is just too much work. Save me $10 and don’t tell me why the government should keep it.

Obama trying to explain all that becomes the Ivory Tower Intellectual…aka elitist.

I’m really tired. The first time I read that I thought “What an arrogant prick!” and then of course went :stuck_out_tongue: cause I realized that’s like the point and stuff… I’m going to bed now

Jeebus, we elected Bush twice, what further proof do you need?

I think that for Hillary as for Bush, they use elitist to mean anyone who appears educated and doesn’t want to pander to the mob. HRC and GWB actually have more in common every day.

Politically, it’s used for its expedience. In other words, if you can’t bowl you are elitist, but if I can’t make coffee or pump gas I am not.

Under certain circumstances, (Kerry, Obama), I think it’s used to marginalize your opponent’s arguments when (s)he has the upper hand with regards to rational arguments. It’s a tactical ad hominem when combating an intellectual strength. “Don’t listen to my opponent.”

Under others (such as the false story about Bush I being unfamiliar with a grocery scanner), it seems more of a ploy to make it seem as if your opponent’s agenda has nothing to do with the proverbial you—that his/her choices are limited to the interests of a very small group of people.

There is a lot of overlap, but I have a bottle of 25 year old Scotch and a bucket of pork rinds to get to…

But, but Hillary’s papa showed her how to shoot when she was a young’in??? Doesn’t that make her one of us?

As opposed to -

Hillary is on television telling people in Pennsylvania that her father taught her how to shoot a gun 48 years ago - and that is supposed to make me think she understands what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. Sorry, I still don’t think she knows what a Raman noodle tastes like.

[channeling Hillary]

When I was a little girl growing up in the dust bowl during the Depression, we would have thought any kind of noodle was a delicacy — Roman, Greek, or what-have-you.

[/channeling Hillary]

:smiley: Excellent.

As usual, cartoonists, leadeth the way to understanding.

The flap over “elitism” goes way beyond Obama.

There seems to be a worsening hostility in general towards education and professional skills in America. One prominent example involves health care, where many people are rejecting the scientific/medical community in favor of testimonials from Concerned Mommies (i.e. the current controversy over vaccine safety).

A poster in the Forking Hillary thread noted this Clinton quote from her appearance on ABC’s This Week, when she was asked to cite one economist who supported her gas tax holiday proposal:

*“I’m not going to put in my lot with economists,” (Hillary) said…A few moments later, she added, “Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantages the vast majority of Americans.” *

I find it amazing that a politician who’s running on the basis of “experience”, derides that qualification when it applies to professionals in other lines of work.

There’s always been some resentment in this country towards educated people who are seen as high and mighty (“If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich? Haw haw!”) and there’ve been occasions when the “best and brightest” have gotten us into trouble (Vietnam, Iraq). But to have our supposed leaders argue that people who are tops in their fields of endeavor should be rejected out of hand as “elite” is a highly disturbing form of pandering.

Nice cartoon :slight_smile:

Well, first of all, I think we have to say right off the bat that Obama is one of the American elite. He’s Ivy-league educated with a graduate degree, he has written two well-selling books, he’s a United States Senator and he’s running for President.

If that isn’t elite, then that word has no real meaning.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this, mind, especially since Obama got where he is largely by his own talents. But we live, ostensibly, in a classless society, and while this is somewhat of a fiction so far as economic classes go it is an ethic that seems to be rigorously enforced when it comes to things like popular culture. People who reject this popular culture for a higher culture are often seen as elitist by others.

So is Obama an elitist in this sense? Frankly, I really don’t know. I do know he has made statements that have caused people to ask that question, like asking Iowa farmers if they’d seen the price of arugula at Whole Foods lately, or the infamous “bitter” statement. These kinds of statements just play poorly anyway, and cumulatively they give an opponent in a primary or general election plenty of glue to make that “elitism” charge stick.

I know Obama came from a rather humble background. Frankly, I don’t think that means much by itself - the biggest snobs I know are the ones who had the least growing up. By that I’m not saying Obama is a snob - just that a humble childhood can hardly be offered as a defense for this sort of thing.

I think the issue is more who is leveling the claim of elitism.

HRC is a graduate of Yale Law School (as is Bill) and reported a net worth of $34.9 million in 2007. (cite)

By comparison Obama reported a net worth of between $456,000 and $1.1 million and reported $567,000 in royalties for his two books. (cite)

And as you noted there is the issue in their backgrounds and how they were raised.

Seems a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black to me.

I sort of agreed with you up until here. Modest beginings I would think lend to people knowing and understanding the value of a dollar or of a good education. I grew up in the middle class. I went to college, grad-school and beyond. My wife - same thing - we both have advanced degrees and live a good life. I do however understand the value of a buck and what a good education means - however, I’m not a snob - perhaps it’s because I live in an area where my house is nice, but down the road there are 5-million dollar mansions. I live in a “millionaire next door” neighborhood. Meaning you would not know it by looking at their house or posessions. I think Obama does understand what people go through and how people hack out a living…I think the other two are “more elitist” than Obama is. A sussessful Lawyer, Wal-mart board, first lady…and an airforce pilot, POW, Senator…Does they not sound elitist?

I agree with Whack-a-mole

It seems to me you’re sapping meaning from the word, Mr. Moto. If every person who has beaten the odds to better himself is elitist, then the term applies to a lot of people who would be very surprised to learn they are elite.

Obama eventually made it to Harvard, yes. But not as the son of privilege that gave him an automatic berth. He started out in a two-year school in Los Angeles before finishing his BA in New York. It wasn’t until five years later that he entered Harvard Law School, where he worked extremely hard to graduate magna cum laude. The elite students were riding around in the Aston Martin their daddy’s bought them, having frat parties, and going to Europe on spring break.

His whole career has been public service. Not the elitist kind Hillary has enjoyed, with governer’s mansions and White Houses, but the nitty gritty eat dirt kind. He can make a cup of coffee and pump his own gas, which she cannot do. It’s not just his childhood. It’s who he has always been.

Sorry. Maybe I wasn’t clear. I was trying to draw distinctions.

I think whether someone is in the American elite or not can be pretty objectively stated - and I don’t think we have had too many successful presidential candidates who weren’t in the elite class.

Elitism is an attitude, and that can be harder to measure. I think, personally, that Hillary Clinton is plenty elitist, even as she tries to obscure this by doing shots with mill workers. Remember where her and Bill bought their homes - they aren’t rubbing elbows with common folk in Chappaqua and Georgetown.

I don’t think Obama is elitist, at least not to the degree that Clinton is, yet he can more easily be tarred as such by some unfortunate statements that he has made.

Clinton doesn’t broadcast her elitism because she knows she would be trown above Obama in that right. Obama has said somethings that make him appear elitist, but even a rudimentary understanding of the word would lead most folks to see Clinton is much more elitist than Obama. Problem is the msm is touting it the other way.