In their opinions on policy and politicians ranging from President Barack Obama to Sarah Palin, elites in Washington have a strikingly divergent outlook from the rest of the nation, according to a new POLITICO poll released Monday.
Obama is far more popular while Palin, the former Alaska governor, is considerably less so. To the vast majority of D.C. elites, the tea party movement is a fad. The rest of the nation is less certain, however, with many viewing it as a potentially viable third party in the future.
The survey also reveals to a surprising degree how those involved in the policymaking and the political process tend to have a much rosier view of the economy than does the rest of the nation — and, in some cases, dramatically different impressions of leading officeholders, political forces and priorities for governing.
In the New York Times, Ross Douthat cites a study showing that college admissions officers may tend to discriminate against applicants who have engaged in such "red-state" groups as Future Farmers or ROTC.
This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.
This breeds paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike. Among the white working class, increasingly the most reliable Republican constituency, alienation from the American meritocracy fuels the kind of racially tinged conspiracy theories that Beck and others have exploited — that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants, and so forth.
Among the highly educated and liberal, meanwhile, the lack of contact with rural, working-class America generates all sorts of wild anxieties about what’s being plotted in the heartland. In the Bush years, liberals fretted about a looming evangelical theocracy. In the age of the Tea Parties, they see crypto-Klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs everywhere they look.
Nothing has set the country class apart, defined it, made it conscious of itself, given it whatever coherence it has, so much as the ruling class's insistence that people other than themselves are intellectually and hence otherwise humanly inferior. Persons who were brought up to believe themselves as worthy as anyone, who manage their own lives to their own satisfaction, naturally resent politicians of both parties who say that the issues of modern life are too complex for any but themselves. Most are insulted by the ruling class's dismissal of opposition as mere "anger and frustration" -- an imputation of stupidity -- while others just scoff at the claim that the ruling class's bureaucratic language demonstrates superior intelligence. A few ask the fundamental question: Since when and by what right does intelligence trump human equality? Moreover, if the politicians are so smart, why have they made life worse?And no politician better voices the "country class" point of view than Sarah Palin. From her 2008 acceptance speech:
Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involved.
I guess -- I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.
I might add that, in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they're listening and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.
No, we tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.