• News
  • Celebrities
  • Finance
  • Crypto
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Health
  • Others

Elite Smear Clashes with Tradition

It took one simple word for Sen. John McCain to rush forth images of Sen. Barack Obama as a man surrounded by gilded towers, someone far from the concerns of the common man. Standing before a town hall meeting earlier this week, McCain, a graduate of Annapolis and the son and grandson of admirals, presented himself as just one of the common folk. "My friends," he said, "we’re going to get on the bus and we want a lot of you to come with us and we’re going to travel all over the state of Pennsylvania, and we’re going to go to the small towns in Pennsylvania and I’m going to tell ‘em I don’t agree that they cling to their religion and the Constitution because they’re *bitter." *

By now, we’re all aware, McCain was referring to that Obama speech in San Francisco when he used that term "bitter" — and also, of course, the stinging outrage against Obama as an "elitist" that followed. But it is McCain’s (and, before, him Hillary Rodham Clinton’s) claim to a kind of authenticity, to blue collarness against all distractions, that very much strikes against who we are as a nation.

(Matt Mahurin)
(Matt Mahurin)

Why? Because such boasts and stances seem to run counter to the promise of the American Dream. People from modest upbringings (my own father left home to work after high school to put five brothers and sisters through college and beyond) do the jobs, perform the tasks they do to ensure that their children have a better life. To want something better, to advance in life—that’s what we’re supposed to want. We should want, like Obama, to rise from modest beginnings, get the best education possible and afford a life to provide the best for own children. We should want to be the elite, not loathe them.

Elite in America has always been a fluid notion, in any case. We are not a landed society, with vast entailed properties, passed down through the generations. In the New World, immigrants, and then pioneers traveling West, could re-invent themselves, re-envision themselves. It was not about family or heritage, hard work and the benefits of education were all you really needed.

So this attack on Obama — who was not born to a political dynasty, or to great wealth or power; who did not spend his afternoons eating in the dining room of Marshall Field’s in Chicago or summering in Southampton — strikes not to his upbringing and wealth, but to his education. It is an attack on what the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, who has examined the lives of Theodore Roosevelt, John Adams and Harry S. Truman, calls the upward climb that is rooted in the very beginnings of our nation and what we once aspired to.

McCullough cited a telling letter by Adams. In trying to explain his exhaustive service to the cause of the American Revolution, our second president wrote, "I must study politics and war [he wrote] that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

"When Adams wrote that letter," said McCullough, on the phone from his study in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., "That is about as memorable, as succinct, and vivid expression of what many of the founders felt. What seems so ironic to me, so odd is that we use the word "elite" as a way of smearing someone, when, in fact, isn’t the desire for a fine education, the desire for knowledge, the desire to express oneself in an articulate way, something we want? All of that we believe in. And yet, when someone obtains it, or show they’ve obtained it, it becomes subject for ridicule. What do we really believe?

"It seems to me that the story of Barack Obama and his wife are exactly what the founders had in mind," McCullough continued, "The ideal has been symbolized, has been a living expression through these two people."

How then did we come to this point to where those who embody the ideals of the great men who devised the American Experiment became figures of mistrust? It certainly didn’t begin during the 18th-century Enlightenment — which Jefferson and Adams and Franklin were products of. For them, the emphasis on reading and education, on bettering oneself, seemed a universal ideal. It was one shared by those who didn’t share the same level of formal education, like George Washington and Nathanael Greene.

One could argue the repudiation of the founder’s vision of who should lead with Andrew Jackson, but history does not bare that out. It was, after all, the very privileged and very smart Teddy Roosevelt who helped lift a nation of workers struggling beneath the deplorable conditions of the robber barons of the early 20th century. And when it came time for a nation to be saved from the Great Depression, to be uplifted from its darkest depths, it was the equally erudite, educated man from the wealthy trappings of Hyde Park, N.Y., who took the mantle.

"Franklin Roosevelt never pretended to be anything other than what he was," said historian Rick Perlstein. "The very fact Franklin Roosevelt was so secure in his class position makes him superior to Democratic politicians today, who are so insecure about their economic elitist status." (It should be noted that Harry Truman, the man who took the reigns from the great FDR never went to college but was an avid reader of Latin).

One can–and Perlstein in his new book "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America" does–say that it began with Tricky Dick. Richard M. Nixon, in his rise, had managed to recast elitism as a matter of culture, not wealth. The cultural, intellectual elites were not the aspirational figures of the common people but their enemies. During the mid-1960s it was the college campuses that proved to be the battlegrounds against everything traditionally conservative and deeply religious people stood against, helping Nixon’s improbable political resurrection.

Nixon’s victory of the everyman over those who aspire to the life of the mind, culminating with his presidential victories in 1968 and 1972, only provided the opening tear and a terrible paradox. We want our leaders to be smart, but not too smart. We want them to speak with great eloquence, but have an accent that comes out of a Chevy truck commercial. We expect them to go to good schools, but not to do that well. Perhaps when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the last true scholar who enjoyed great political success, passed, he took the last remnants of the founder’s ideals with him.

"Candidates can’t be themselves anymore because they have to put on so many faces to be successful." says Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown and author of "The Populist Persuasion: An American History." "This kind of authenticity is itself a pose, because, of course, you have to be brainy and smart — but you have to be hanging out with regular folks. One of these has to be an act. You can’t be a Rhodes Scholar on policy and a great bowler and beer drinker….not at the same time."

Indeed it seems that we have betrayed our own ideals for excellence in leaders and in ourselves by craving the very ordinary.

"I love commencements," McCullough noted. "I don’t know how many commencement talks I’ve given. We have very little ceremony left in American life — and here’s one that’s commemorated every year by millions of people. It is a festival, a celebration. And what are they celebrating? Achievement in learning. Achievement in education. That is a very consistent and powerful American theme and we must never lose that.

"When people from abroad want to come here, what do they want to come here for?" McCullough continued. "It’s that as much as anything. Opportunity isn’t just financial, isn’t just in forms of security. It’s also this potential to go beyond your own experience and those who proceeded you intellectually. But that’s too fancy a word."

Discussion & Comments (0)

    Recent Articles

    • Things You Should Know about North America

      Things You Should Know about North America

      Get to know more about North America.

    • Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Paula Seling's experience on the Eurovision stage led her to declare that "Eurovision is an unpredictable contest". Which may explain the success of the young Lena from Germany, about whom the predictions before the event did not offer much chances for victory.

    • VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      Have you ever contemplated creating a user-friendly site dedicated to sports-related free live streaming channels?

    • Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia users are able to watch thousands of videos and other contents online. XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia New is a piece of software that enables people to watch videos online without having to pay for memberships. On a graphics card, the XNXubd also provides some of the best gaming and virtual reality experiences.

    • Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      A new edition of the Video Editor Apk for xVideostudio.Video Studio has all the latest features, including support for multiple video download formats in HD, FHD, and even 4K resolutions.

    • 9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      Masturbation is a common activity for men and women. It's a natural and risk-free way to explore your body, experience pleasure, and release sexual tension.

    • Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Without having to sign up or pay anything, you can watch movies online for free with SFlix. It has more than 10,000 movies and television shows.

    • Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Collins (born May 11, 1997) is a rapper from the United States. Leray started publishing songs to SoundCloud in 2014, and in 2018 she released her breakthrough track "Huddy" as well as her first mixtape, Everythingcoz.

    • Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Are you in a bind and looking for a place to obtain free mp3 songs? Never again will you need to bother, since this article has everything necessary to obtain your solution. Download free music from MyfreeMP3.com, one of the world's most popular websites.