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Blogs > Cliopatria > Polishing Turds

Sep 19, 2011

Polishing Turds




Joan Didion has described politics as "an agreement to overlook the observable." This may be the very last thing that anyone needs to say about the subject, but let's apply it to some current examples.

Maureen I'm Sorry Every Time I Bother to Notice Her Existence Dowd frames the coming presidential election as a choice between "Eggheads and Blockheads." Traveling up the same road from the opposite direction, Kathleen Parker disgorges a column titled, "Smart money betting on stupid politicians." Shared premise: Democrats are book smart intellectuals who feel comfortable on campus, which makes them unlike Republicans.

Dowd thinks this is a good thing, and informs us that the young Texas A&M student Rick Perry "stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another." He not smart, he dum! Dum bad, dum Republican! Democrat is inuhlekshul! Dowd's own newspaper has written about a recent Democratic presidential candidate who racked up his share of similarly dreadful grades, but never mind. The premise requires a cleaner picture, and Dowd is enormously gifted at creating precisely that kind of very clean comparison.

Parker thinks it's a bad thing that Democrats is all like book smart and stuff, ignoring (like Dowd) the reporting of her own newspaper, and she reminds us about good old-fashioned Republican common sense: "Republicans, despite having a few brainiacs in their midst, have taken the opposite approach, emphasizing instead the value of being just regular folk. In GOP circles, being an ordinary American is viewed as superior to being one of those egg-headed elitists."

Republicans hate elites, and prefer to elevate ordinary people. That's why the last president they chose was the grandson of a senator, the son of a president, a Yale grad, and a member of Skull and Bones. That's why some of the most prominent names among middle-aged conservative pundits are Podhoretz, Kristol, Goldberg, and Kagan. Self-made men from humble backgrounds, you see. Frederick Kagan's father is believed to have spent his life riding the rails and eating stew out of a hubcap.

Their ideas come from the same humble origins. Neoconservative ideology came from some reg'lar folk on down yonder at the country store near a dirt crossroads, standin' around the pickle barrel and a-chewin' on some sweet blades of fine Kentucky grass. Irving and William Kristol -- did those dudes even graduate from high school? And this David Petraeus character that the Bush administration held up as a God: aside from his Princeton PhD, did he have any education at all?

The absolute falseness of a narrative in which the intellectual class stands united against the common folk -- either as paragons of correct thinking, standing up to unlettered red state ignorance, or as a dissolute elite who don't feel the real America in their bones -- doesn't prevent its insistent repetition. We routinely discuss things that are not, in any form, factually correct. 

Al Gore was a D student, and William Kristol has a PhD from Harvard. What does that tell us?

Reader, it tells us nothing.



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