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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cream of the Crop - "Elite" as an Epithet

There is a fascinating article over at Slate about the growing use of the word "elite" used as a term of abuse hurled around by the Republican party. He has a particularly telling segment in which he describes an interview during the 2008 campaign when both John McCain and Sarah Palin were asked the question "Who is a member of the elite?" While McCain went off about those rowdy academician, good ole Palin was a bit more to the point:
Palin responded first. "I guess just people who think that they're better than everyone else," she said.
That's one good lookin' Objectivist
The article goes on to point out how most of her own campaign staff would qualify as "elite" under that definition, according to her own memoir. But the whole article definitely made me think about the charge of elitism in a different light. In this light really; the emotional root of a political slur boiled down the feeling of rejection of a math-phobic kid in Algebra.

I mean, it's always seemed a strange thing to boil out. I mean, most of those republican guys seem to sure like the ole capitalism, don't they, and the whole idea behind capitalism (at least according to known cult-leader and snappy dresser Ayn Rand) is one of a meritocracy. Isn't the "elite" by definition, the best? Isn't the elite to what we all aspire? The elite group of athletes who get to represent their countries in the Olympic games, the elite group of writers whose work outlasts their careers, etc.

If the people are going to reject politicians because they're being too elite, then perhaps we deserve leaders like this. But don't listen to me. Go read the original article. It makes a much more interesting point.

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