04.17.08

I won’t be having dinner with the president

Posted in Society at 7:20 by RjZ

So, um, Clinton and McCain are calling Obama elitist “Will ‘elitist’ label stick to Obama?” – CNN.com. It brings up two points I thought I could write about here. First, I should mention I still haven’t decided whom I’m likely to vote for. After all, the Libertarian party convention hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know who that candidate is, but I can tell you one person I am not likely to vote for: Hilary Clinton.

Alright, so the primary reason I have is ridiculous and unfounded, and I am a little embarrassed about it, but somehow this seems so reasonable. Let’s face it, we’ve had a Bush or Clinton in office for over twenty years and that’s just wrong. One of the greatest American presidents, George Washington, can be recognized not for something he did, but something he didn’t do. When asked to stay in office for a third term he didn’t accept the almost assured coronation; he said no and returned to his farm. The peaceful transfer of power from one ruler to another was a rare event indeed in those days, and it set the stage for modern democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere. Having a steady stream of Washington insiders is certainly the way things have been done in the last several decades, but a ruling family (or two) strikes me as just un-American. Competent or not, we wouldn’t even be talking about Hilary if her last name weren’t Clinton.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s ridiculous that Clinton and McCain are calling Obama elitist given their loooooong standing positions of power. Are we supposed to believe that they’ve somehow remained just plain folk after their years in the senate or after all those presidential dinners which Hilary claims gives her experience to run a country. (If I sleep with a surgeon for long enough, does that mean I can perform brain surgery? Because that seems like more fun than medical school!)

According to Oxford Dictionary, an elitist “believes that a system or society should be ruled or dominated by an elite.” That sounds unpleasant, of course, but why wouldn’t we want an elitist president? For some strange reason Americans seem to want a leader who is just like them. Don’t we really want the best our society has to offer? This is the de facto leader of the free world! I want the smartest person we can find! I want charisma, composure, guts, strength, endurance, and intelligence. I want an over-achiever who doesn’t have time to wash the car let alone watch ‘American Idol’. I don’t have to like our next leader, because, even if invited, I don’t think that I have enough room for all the secret service over, when my dinner invitation is accepted.

Haven’t we had enough of a down-home good ol’ boy? Haven’t we seen that emotional, uninformed, decisions brought us to a war we did not sufficiently prepare for? Haven’t we seen decay of our position in the world due to unprincipled decisions such as presuming torture is OK if the stakes are high enough?

Obama, McCain, Hilary, are all elitists. Hopefully the libertarian, green and all the rest of the candidates will be too. Why would we want to vote for anything less?

8 Comments »

  1. Aaron said,

    April 19, 2008 at 5:00

    There’s a difference between
    being elite and being elitest.

    I would hope
    that everybody
    would agree with your feelings
    about having the smartest,
    most talented person
    as president.

    (Although as I remember
    many understandably bitter
    Midwesterners clinging
    to guns and religion
    voted for Bush because
    he’s the type of guy
    you could drink a beer –
    not someone with whom
    you probably couldn’t.)

    Showing favoritism toward
    only the intelligensia
    might not be the best idea.

    (Although I can’t think
    of a time when that’s
    really happened politically
    on a large scale,
    so maybe it’s time
    to give it a try.)

    One things for sure though-
    I feel more like having a beer
    with Obama more after
    reading his “elitest” remarks.

  2. RjZ said,

    April 19, 2008 at 17:40

    I don’t know, here’s the Oxford definition of ‘Elitist’: noun
    a person who believes that a system or society should be ruled or dominated by an elite.
    • a person who believes that they belong to an elite : designers are a bunch of elitists who don’t live in the real world.

    ‘Elite’: noun
    1 a group of people considered to be the best in a particular society or category, esp. because of their power, talent, or wealth : China’s educated elite | [as adj. ] an elite combat force.

    I don’t know about the ‘wealth’ part, but um, doesn’t seem all that bad to be elitist or elite, nor do I see a huge difference.

  3. Aaron said,

    April 20, 2008 at 5:56

    Fair enough,
    I thought elitism meant favoring the smart, talented, rich, etc.
    in everything, not just positions of power.

    I guess the difference
    was only in my mind

    I also remembered today
    that Thailand is ruled by an elite(st).

    They love the guy,
    (and he seems like a decent and capable guy)
    but I’m not sure it always works so well.

    Maybe when the people trust an elite(st)
    leader too much they run the risk
    of letting the leader do everything
    and don’t take enough personal responsibility.

  4. Tim R. said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:55

    I don’t know about your argument against voting for Hillary based on the fact we have had 20 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush, so adding another Clinton to that cycle would amount making the U.S. a nation captive to dynasties among its political elites. That argument seems irrelevant to your primary concern, which is who is the best qualified, smartest and most likely to exhibit real leadership when it comes to dealing with the state of the country today. I think that may have been what you had in mind when you mentioned that you were embarrassed by your reasoning about the elites.

    My own reservations about Hillary stem more from the fact that she will not face the mathematical reality that she cannot reasonably expect to win the pledged delegate count and hence must believe she might get close enough to win big among the superdelegate, unelected party-insider delegates. I don’t know about you, but I want a president who can exhibit leadership by doing the math and then facing the music in the open, whether that math is the facts about the economy, the cost of the Iraqi war, the realities of how CO2 emissions and other pollutants impact the environment, or how people have voted. If she can’t face the difficult math and then step aside, how can I trust her to do the difficult math and lead the country in the right direction?

    As for the general election though, suppose Obama stumbles somehow–say so badly he just withdraws– and she does get the nomination in a more fair fashion. Then listen to what she says and what McCain says. I may like how honestly McCain says some things, but the fact remains that I differ with him on almost every major policy issue, from his view that we might need to stay in Iraq 100 years before we “win”, to his rabidly anti-choice social policies, to his views on who good Supreme court nominees would be, and to his repeated insistence that “economics is not his strong suit” when asked for his views on how we should deal with the current economic malaise. I suspect you might be closer to his position on some of these matters, but in the end shouldn’t the choice come down whether you generally agree with what the candidates and their advisors say about the most important issues?

    In short, what worries me about McCain is not his ability to face facts, it is his inability to grasp them in the first place.

  5. RjZ said,

    April 22, 2008 at 10:16

    I was not embarrassed by my reasoning about the elites. That’s the point of this post, that it seems silly to want anything less. I am embarrassed that a real deal-breaker of a reason against Hilary is her last name. At first blush it seems silly not to vote for the most competent person, even if that person has already been in office for two terms, or is the spouse or son or daughter of someone who has. Competency seems the most important measure for this job and neglecting that simply because they’ve been in Washington politics too long seems a bit short-sighted to me.

    Except, as we’ve seen in this cycle we have pretty damn competent people running and not the usual shortage of them. Suddenly it’s not an example of rejecting someone simply based on her family affiliation and potentially corrupting experience, but rather just giving someone else a chance to play for a change. New ideas, new styles of leadership. Who’s to say that maybe having other countries like us for once isn’t such a bad idea after all? Or maybe it’s not worth it, and we’re the strongest country in the world (for now) so the others can just tough it. I can’t say, but fortunately our system allows us a four year experiment with change. We tried this last one and I am as shocked by the damage he’s cause as I am by the lack of it. This [the Bush administration], too, shall pass.

    I am no more concerned about McCain’s anti-abortion stance than I was of the Catholic John Kerry’s (who is personally against abortion). McCain is unlikely to act on this issue as it’s not significant enough to him; a problem that gets him in no shortage of hot water with his conservative base. It’s not a good thing, but I also don’t expect to agree with everything a president thinks either. (Abortion rights are the most common single issue/deal-breaker issue for many U.S. Americans. I struggle not to let it be a single issue for me too.) His 100 year Iraq strategy is also likely hyperbole, but at least it’s honest. More honest, frankly, than the we’ll just leave rhetoric from Clinton and Obama. It’s not so easy as that, and they know it. I am not supporting McCain here either, but I think his track record is more mixed than the ‘rabidly anti-choice social policies’ you claim.

  6. Tim R. said,

    April 23, 2008 at 6:15

    I think you are naive to defend McCain on abortion/social policy. His record is not mixed at all; he has voted against contraception education and anti-teen pregnancy outreach; supports repealing Roe v. Wade; he has voted at every turn to support the anti-abortion movement, including voting to ban abortion procedures at military bases, for onerous parental notification laws, et al ad nauseam. The only hot water he ever gets into with the conservative base on anti-choice issues is when he makes an exception for incest and rape victims and when he deviates from the pro-life–but not the anti-abortion–line by voting for more stem cell research.

    If you think this issue isn’t still central to whatever choice one will have come November, consider who McCain would nominate to the Supreme Court should he become president. Presidents might change every 4 years, assuredly in 8, but bad Supreme Court Justices are a life sentence for all of us.

    Also: I don’t what alternate media reality you’ve been living in, but characterizing Obama and Clinton’s position on Iraq as “we’ll just leave” rhetoric is astonishingly ignorant. In reality, both of them explicitly call for measured withdrawals, albeit with quite different milestones. See here and here.

    And, unlike McCain, at least they both can see that the occupation of Iraq has been–and will continue to be==a dismal failure that will break the back of our smaller high-tech, all-volunteer military. Frankly, the occupation isn’t winnable without a massive build-up (300-500%) of US ground troops in Iraq, and that would require a draft, and not even McCain is willing to face that music. Empire doesn’t come without a price tag.

    As for your poor reasoning re elites, why don’t you finish it? You admit you oppose Hillary because of her last name, state you are embarrassed by that fact, question whether that alone constitutes anti-elitism, indulge in droll character assassination by belittling Hillary’s long and substantial record of crafting policy as no more than “sleeping with the President,” then go on to defend a choice among elites as the best thing for us. But you never return to the issue that is central–who is actually better qualified to lead among the elites the system is coughing up this year? Or perhaps you’d rather become a Fox-news pundit, proclaiming merit as the decisive factor and then letting your own spin and clever misdirection take the place of an honest assessment of merit.

    One last point: Hillary spells her name with two L’s.

  7. RjZ said,

    April 23, 2008 at 9:14

    First, thanks for the spirited comments. I concede that McCain is not pro choice and further, aside from his small government stance, I see little in him but more business as usual from Washington.
    we can debate what I don’t like about Hillary, but really my only intention on this post was to point out that elitism truly shouldn’t be a detriment to a candidate. I, for one haven’t made my decision yet.
    I look forward to more spirited exchanges once I do! As far as defending his record, I included a link to his voting record. From it it’s clear he’s no liberal, but I suggest he’s no Bush-esque fundamentalist either.
    Hillary is definitely qualified, I just find her ‘I’ve already been in the whitehouse so I’m ready’ argument a bit weak.

  8. Tim R. said,

    April 24, 2008 at 6:49

    Ok. In the future I look forward to a fairer discussion of Hillary’s merits, if she should by some strange turn of events become the Democratic nominee. It appears she has new, if still mathematically absurd, hope sprung from her 10 point win in PA. Sigh. I would agree though that McCain is looking like the stronger candidate against whichever Democratic candidate emerges from a nomination battle that seems to be splitting the Democratic base down the middle.

    I also look forward to hearing about the Libertarian nominee, as you will be one of my primary sources on that front.

    On the subject of elitism, I wonder if the media has just been using “anti-elitism” as a synonym for racism rather than for “populist”. I think this term is less about “We want a candidate who is just like us…” than “We want a candidate who is one of us, and not one of them…”

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