Thursday, August 14, 2008

POPULISM WITHOUT POPULARITY. The perfectly sensible point that the rich, well-born John McCain has got at least as many elitism points as Obama reaches perfectly mad Victor Davis Hanson, who responds:
Even adroit spinners and handlers can't manufacture elitism; it is not necessarily connected with wealth. The very wealthy Bush no doubt was brought up in greater splendor than was Kerry; but fairly or unfairly, he was more at home at NASCAR and Texas than wind-surfing. And the people sensed that even without Karl Rove's ads. John McCain in a wet suit seems unimaginable.
J. Pierpont Morgan is also unimaginable in a wet suit. But if he were living today and had a set of image-handlers, they would teach him to drop his g's and dress him in cheap windbreakers, and tell plain folks how much more old J.P. has in common with them than has that too-skinny glamour boy, Tom Joad. This would not, of course, change Morgan's business and political interests, though it would make them harder to see. Elitism isn't body language, but a way of looking at the world.
Liberals and progressives are far more vulnerable to charges of elitism, since they are prone to the additional charge of hypocrisy. Right-wingers, as the catastrophic election of 2006 showed, are more easily exposed as hypocrites when they preach family values and are caught in Rev. Haggard-like positions, or abuse drugs and drink. But liberals, 'two-nations' men and women of the people, who rail against the unfairness of an uncaring system and the perniciousness of wealth and privilege, far more readily suffer charges of elitism when their populist rhetoric is contrasted to private jets, 30,000 sq ft. homes, or 11 mansions.
The problem here, of course, is that both candidates engage in "populist rhetoric." When John McCain visits a kitchen cabinet factory and promises to "keep jobs here at home and create new ones," or goes to a biker rally and says he prefers the "roar of 5,000 Harleys" to the cheers Obama received in Berlin, or talks about "lobbyists and special pleaders" and comes out against lavish CEO salaries, he might as well be Huey Long. McCain's own campaign advisor calls him a "populist." This is categorically different from conservatives making fulsome "values voter" pitches and sermonizing on sexed-up Democrats while fucking prostitutes and harrassing teenagers on their cell phones. The latter is hypocrisy, the former is parity.

Personally I think it's a good thing that people are pointing out that both candidates are rich. It's a good first step toward some real populism.

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