What IS it with conservatives and their pejorative use of "liberal elites"? I hear this term being bandied about in reference to coastal city-dwellers and academics, mostly. The claim is a textbook straw man argument, but let's play along for just a moment. "Liberal elites" are supposedly "openly contemptuous of traditional American virtues such as faith in God, patriotism, and self-reliance which they are intent on destroying."
(Incidentally -- I've scoured the web looking for a widely-agreed upon definition of precisely what constitutes a "liberal elite", and not surprisingly, have found none save for the above. Conservatives could just as easily use the term "polka-dotted bloisybonks" for all the evidence provided that they exist.)
These allegations are pure bullshit. The primary opposition liberals have to "traditional American virtues" is the insistence that the right wing define everyone's values, as a matter of law, no less. "Faith in God" is shared by liberals and conservatives alike, the difference being that conservatives want to define God for everyone, too. The only "patriotism" liberals tend to abhor is the rabid flag-waving kind that's more jingoistic than noble. "Self-reliance" is just as attractive to liberals as it is to conservatives, except that liberals believe how we treat the least of us is a measure of who we are as a nation (conservatives apparently prefer the "Fuck 'em if they're unemployed" approach). And unless liberals are willing to just roll over and let the "traditional values" crowd reconstruct culture and law in one fell swoop, they're apparently "intent on destroying" America. Um.... yeah, ok. Could this argument BE any more sophomoric? My imagination doesn't travel such a pedestrian path, so it's hard for me to say.
As to the supposed purveyors of "liberal elitism" (city folks and the Professor set), I have a few questions of conservatives:
Since when is being educated something to sneer at? Is it the big words that make you nervous? Are you suggesting that the Hamburger Helper approach to socio-political critique is somehow superior? Watch Fox, add Tradition and let simmer for 10 minutes? How is it that we value college educations, insist that all of our children get them, and then piss and moan when the college educated then question the status quo? Don't we send our kids to college precisely to develop critical thinking skills? Then why do conservatives then bitch and moan when those skills are put into practice?
Indoctrination and stubborn adherence to the "way it's always been" is the purview of organized religion, not academia. Academics challenge absolutes, question established norms, and broaden understanding in the process. That's their job. It should then come as no surprise that there's a dearth of conservatives in universities. Folks that venerate the status quo are typically disinterested in new perspectives, progressive change and discovery. This is what makes them conservatives by default, and conversely, the very thing that defines liberals. That universities are stuffed to the gills with liberal professors should surprise no one except dimmest among us.
And why is it that the political opinions of people living in densely populated, ethnically rich communities are somehow "less American" than those of the average mid-west rural resident? City folks have critically valuable contributions to the political process, for obvious reasons: they have to live with and thrive amongst diversity every day. They don't have the luxury of an insular existence in which every neighbor shares their every perspective. They don't get to rest on the laurels of a WASPy worldview, because a walk down any city block will put them face-to-face with a multitude of races and nationalities, each with its own value set and ethical framework. As a result, successful metro living demands tolerance and cooperation. Nevertheless, conservatives would have us believe that the Bible-belt worldview is somehow "better". Ok, well, let's take a snap shot of one of these communities:
Wide-Spot-In-The-Road, Oklahoma: Population 957. Ethic mix - 98% white, 2% latino. Religious mix - 80% Protestant, 10% Catholic, 10% vaguely Lutheran. Only one stop light on Main street. Dry county, replete with blue laws and Bingo night at the Elk's lodge every Saturday. Most of the town attends church on Sundays, and everyone goes on major holidays. Unemployment rates are about average, and the bulk of residents are farmers or factory workers. Crime rates are low, most folks don't even bother to lock their doors at night. Virtually all are members of traditional nuclear families, with relatives living close by. All in all, a very Rockwellian existence. It sounds kind of nice, actually, if you're into a quiet life. I have nothing against these people, nor do I think their views are any less valuable to our political landscape than their hustle & bustle city-dwelling cousins. Hell, I LIVE in one of these small towns (after having spent most of my life in Los Angeles) and understand their appeal.
But according to right-wing pundits, we're to believe that the value set born of these communities should form the exclusive underpinning of our laws, customs and policies? That it's reasonable to expect that this group is wholly qualified to address racial tensions? Gun control laws? Religious tolerance? Homosexual rights? Public school curriculum? Welfare policy? Reproductive rights?
This is an incredibly obtuse view. Our legal system did away with white-male-only juries because of their incapacity to act as peers to defendants. How is it that this same incapacity isn't recognized when glorifying the value set of one community over all others? Folks from the Bible-belt often literally cannot conceive of the issues faced by their metropolitan cousins, and making their perspective the benchmark is bound to result in de facto discriminatory policy. You simply cannot speak to what you do not know.
I'm going to give far more credence to the definition of "tolerance" as espoused by a New York City resident than I would of one made by a Cedar Rapids local. I'll defer to the concerns of a Stonewall riots veteran before I'll listen to the World According to Reverend Phelps when it comes to discrimination against homosexuals. And I'm going to be far more inclined to take the advice of a Detroit social worker regarding welfare reform long before I listen to the virtues of funding cuts exalted by a Salt Lake City dilettante.
Perspective, people, perspective. Recognizing the inadequacy of a homogeneous worldview does not constitute elitism, moral relativism, or secular humanism. Instead, it acknowledges the impossibility of satisfying a population of 295 million people with pedantic morals, customs and laws. And if conservatives want to criticize liberals for taking a condescending view of people that fundamentally don't grasp this fact, then fine. Insisting that we can force the 21st century genie back into the bottle and legislate a return to 18th century culture is pure stupidity on the face of it, and advocates of such a notion deserve to be called the fools they are.