The Obama campaign has sought to counter the "elitist" argument by sending out Michelle Obama as a surrogate. This, of course, is sort of like sending out Bill Clinton to say you're not a womanizer.
Predictably, the same spouse who famously said she was finally proud of America promptly reinforced the notion that she is, in fact, out of touch, when this video surfaced:
"Barack’s a lawyer, I’m a lawyer, everybody we know are lawyers. I’m sure half the people in this audience are lawyers ...”
... Yeah. They're "average" alright.
Of course, we expect the Obamas to attempt to extricate themselves from this mess, which, after all quite possibly did in John Kerry (Windsurfer-MA).
More troubling, perhaps, is that it has become vogue for intellectual writers and pundits to actually buy into this argument. After all, the inherent problem with attacking someone for being an elitist is that you tend to step on the toes of the elitists who report the news in the first place ...
Recently, some have argued that in order to have the means to run for president in the modern age, you, by definition, are an elitist. I would offer that there is a distinction between being "elite" and being an "elitist," inasmuch as an elitist is someone who believes they are better than the masses. A great number of highly intelligent men and women do not believe they are wiser than "we the people."
Others argue that elitism is actually a good thing. After all, they ask, don't we want someone better than us as president? For those of us who love liberty, the real problem with taking the elitism argument to its conclusion is that dictators are the ultimate elitists. After all, if a leader believes that he is wiser than everyone else, then why trouble with all the messyness of democracy?
It's also true that there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides of this issue. Liberals who are angered at Dick Cheney for answering:"so?" when asked if he cares what the American people think of Iraq -- are the same folks arguing we should elect people smarter than us (they would argue that Cheney isn't smarter than us, but the inherent problem is: who decides who is smarter than whom?).
Conservatives who accuse Obama of elitism may view Cheney's remarks as merely an example of strong leadership. After all, they may reason, we don't have a direct democracy. And aren't elected officials elected precisely in order to be representatives of the people?
Intelligence does not necessarily indicate whether or not someone will be a good leader. Jimmy Carter, a very bright man who graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis and was a nuclear submariner was a miserable president. Meanwhile, a "C" student from Eureka College was the greatest president of my lifetime. And wasn't it all those "pointy-headed intellectuals who got us into Vietnam (assuming you believe that war was a mistake ...).
Of course, the other extreme is no more preferable. The populist demagogues who use overblown rhetoric -- and attack the "elites" in business, etc. -- can be equally as dangerous -- and as dictatorial.
This all reminds me a bit of a line from the movie Rushmore:
I know you probably think I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I'm no elitist. I think you've got some great facilities, and I'm really looking forward to making the best of it here at Grover Cleveland.
Well said, Max Fisher. Perhaps Obama might borrow it?