Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Offering Examples of Liberal Condescension

Clive Crook writes in the Financial Times, “If only the Democrats could contain their sense of entitlement to govern in a rational world, and their consequent distaste for wide swathes of the US electorate, they might gain the unshakeable grip on power they feel they deserve. . . . But the fathomless cultural complacency of the metropolitan liberal rules this out.” Crook’s blogging colleague at Atlantic.com, Ta-Nehisi Coates, replies that “whenever I hear these charges of liberal condescension they’re almost always accompanied by what I would very generously call a sprinkling of examples.”

Mr. Coates, here is some raw material to consider:

1. Arthur Schlesinger, a Harvard man, had limitless praise for liberal Democratic presidents who were also Harvard men, such as FDR and JFK. He barely bothered to hide his contempt for the Democrat who served for nearly 8 of the 15 years between them, Harry Truman, the only 20th century president who did not graduate from college. Schlesinger called Truman “a man of mediocre and limited capacity” who “has managed to surround himself with his intellectual equals.” According to the historian Fred Siegel, “the political and cultural snobbery” that Schlesinger did so little to conceal, “has proved the undoing of American liberalism.” Schlesinger’s attitudes, Siegel writes, “live on in the aristocratic snobbery of professional liberals, in both senses of the term, who expect, given their putative expertise, to be obeyed.”

2. After the 1980 Republican convention The Nation published an article by the novelist E.L. Doctorow, which derided Ronald Reagan’s upbringing in such small downstate Illinois towns as “Galesburg, Monmouth and Dixon – just the sorts of places responsible for one of the raging themes of American literature, the soul-murdering complacency of our provinces . . . . The best and brightest fled all our Galesburgs and Dixons, if they could, but the candidate was not among them.” For good measure, Doctorow described Reagan’s education at Eureka College as the journey of “a third-rate student at a fifth-rate college.”

3. A 1997 cover story in Time magazine, about educated professionals moving to small towns for a better quality of life, described the tensions when some of those same professionals decide that Mayberry would be greatly improved if it were made more like the Upper West Side. It recounts the story of Marcy Hawley who moved to Wilmington, Ohio. She and other newcomers created the school system’s “Multicultural Advisory Board,” where they advocated “racial-sensitivity training and a minority-hiring program.” The locals ignored the committee’s recommendations and eventually disbanded it. “After a rancorous school-board meeting,” one board member “took Hawley aside. ‘You folks are getting a reputation,’ he said. ‘You’re always trying to enlighten us.’" Ms. Hawley’s congenial reply was, "‘Then I guess we’re not succeeding.’”

4. The Inside Higher Ed blogger, UD, reacting to Sarah Palin’s nomination, wrote, “A lot of Americans don’t seem to like highly educated people, and they don’t want them running the country.” That being the case, “We need to encourage everyone to be in college for as many years as they possibly can, in the hope that somewhere along the line they might get some exposure to the world outside their town, and to moral ideas not exclusively derived from their parents’ religion. If they don’t get this in college, they’re not going to get it anywhere else.”

5. Finally, The New Republic’s John Judis came upon a delegate to the 2008 GOP convention, who turned out to be the Arizona Superintendent of Schools, killing a little time by playing Bach, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin on a hotel piano. “I asked him how a person who played the piano so well . . . could be a Republican.”

The prosecution rests.

Discussions - 26 Comments

It's not higher education that offends people. It is the attitude that higher education makes you a better person. Having spent some years in college, working on my drinking scholarship, meeting strippers, and reading the odd book, I formed the opinion that most of the people with whom I graduated (and I did graduate with a couple of degrees) were not people I would, if given a choice, drink with. Being able to handle an academic load is no proof of an individual's humanity. Just look at what the 'intellectuals' of MSM are trying to do to Sarah Palin. Now I don't know Ms. Palin, but I'll lay big odds that she'd be someone I'd go out of my way to have a beer with. Ironically, Bill Clinton would probably make a good drinking buddy, provided you declined his cigars of course.

Are you the Bill Voegli who grew up in Atlanta and, I believe ran track?

If so, I know you.

Some of the quotes by Mr. Voegli illustrate one of the essential problems of higher ed. Under the guise of eliminating prejudice the academics seek to substitute prejudices of their own. Academics, as addled and provincial as the denizens of the smallest town, simply defend their own prejudices as "learning" or "science," especially science of the social kind.

I would reply, but any response using big words would be condemned as elitist, any response longer than 5 minutes would be 'bloviating,' and any refutation involving polysyllabic utterances would be dismissed as snobbery and liberal condescension. Conservative anti-intellectualism fresh from Claremont and the Limbaugh institute for advanced conservative studies.

Dear Ren,
Thanks for adding a #6 to Mr. Voegeli's piece in true liberal style - no facts, but plenty of sardonic attitude.

Voegeli's #4 was quoting an anonymous blogger, not exactly a fact. But no attitude there.

No, WWWebb, that's another Bill Voegeli, probably the only other one in America. I grew up around Chicago and, to quote Marion Barry's evaluation of Jesse Jackson, another Chicagoan, have never run anything but my mouth.

There's also the 1994 comment by Peter Jennings. After the GOP won Congress, he said that the American people "had a temper tantrum."

Pretty much any comment which "ren" has ever made here would fall neatly into the category of liberal condescension.

After one such sneer, mocking Palin for not having an Ivy League education, I mentioned the more than passing similarity between 21st century American liberals and 18th century French aristocrats.

If anything, the French aristocrats had the higher opinion of their fellow man.

I suspect that the list of examples of this could fill a large book. Here are two more off the top of my head.

A few years back there was a Republican running for (I believe) a House seat in Colorado. At some stage in his life he had worked as an airline steward. The Democrats hammered him for this. Can you imagine, an airline steward running for Congress? To Democrats, the job was synonomous with "menial, stupid, inferior". People like that have their place of course, but Congress ain't it, in liberalisms eyes.

The other example is Tom DeLay, who had (gasp!) owned his own pest exterminating company before getting elected. Can you imagine such a thing? Clearly, such a person was not "one of our sort"!

It's not much of an overstatement to say that, in order to be a true liberal, you must never have worked in any of the mundane but neccessary jobs which society depends on for its existence. You must never have done any manual labor. Having done that sort of work marks you out as a member of the serf class. True members of the over-class, if they must work at all, work as lawyers or as "community organisers".

Of course that retarded liberal moron, Karl Rove, has the same mentality. But this is predominantly a Democratic disease, they being the more liberal party.

How, how, did I forget to mention Adlai Stevenson? There's the famous story of an admirer gushing to him during the 1952 campaign that all thinking people were for him. "Yes," Stevenson said, "but I need to win a majority." After the election, another fan praised him for educating the people through his campaign. "But a lot of people flunked the course," said Stevenson. Democratic presidential candidates have gotten better about keeping their disdain under wraps. Obama's comments about bitter people in small towns who cling to guns and religions were not delivered in a speech or an interview, but at a fund-raising event in San Francisco. He was, in Crook's words, speaking the idiom of his audience, and didn't expect his anthropological assessment of his fellow citizens to be made public.


You say the 'prosecution rests', but this is more like an idiot's parlor game than serious legal reasoning. Ok, you list some condescending remarks by conservatives, and I will list some condescending remarks by liberals. Then liberal readers will prematurely conclude that all conservatives are condescending, and conservatives will conclude that it is inherent in liberalism to be condescending. It is like an electronic game of 'cornhole'. Cas Balicki even brings the beer. What is the point?

While examples of upper middle class liberal condescension go back to at least the 1950s (conservatives are not without guilt either), it only became a real political problem in the 1970s when working class voters got the feeling that wealthy and educated liberals were using their superior social status to dismiss the concerns of working class voters. I remember reading an article about a McGovern supporter who argued that even though working class voters might disagree with the Democratic platform on social and foreign policy issues, the working class would come around based on pocket book issues.

This demostrates a common attitude of many elite liberals to working class social attitutes. These liberals seem to assume that socially conservative but economically populist voters are reqiured to abandon their social conservatism in order to obtain liberal economic policies. When working class voters do not comply with that convenient (for elite liberals) scenario, the elite liberals pitch a fit.

The work of Thoma Frank is a case in point. He has built a career on arguing that the working class has been distracted from its true (read: economic) interest by social issues like abortion, guns and gay marriage. Yet it never occurs to Frank that social liberals should abandanon their own social liberalism in order to form an alliance with the economically populist working class. If the social issues were such a distraction, you would think that elite liberals would abandon them in pursuit of the more important goal of economic egalitarianism. But of course when elite liberals mean that the social issues are a distraction, they mean that socially conservative working class voters should ignore those issues, not elite social liberals. Social liberals think that issues like abortion, gay marriage and such are deep moral issues. They would rather lose an election than abandon their principles. Good for them. But they do not extend working class social conservatives the right to have deeply held moral principles. They expect, no demand, that social conservatives ignore their principles on social issues in return for a stronger welfare state and stronger unions. Why would anyone find that attitude condescending?

Neocons said I harbored terrorists when I questioned the President's views, and evangelicals told me I was going to hell or would be left behind at the rapture. Their entire world-views are built on condescension. But Voegeli quotes an article from the Nation in 1980.

Neocons said I harbored terrorists when I questioned the President's views, and evangelicals told me I was going to hell or would be left behind at the rapture. Their entire world-views are built on condescension.

You might want to look up the meaning of the word condescension in a dictionary, since the things you mention are not examples of it.

Yes, my comment was an example of it.

you're right, those aren't examples of condescension. they're more like intimidation, which seems to me the conservatives general MO these days. that seems a lot worse than somebody questioning whether or not an exterminator would make a good elected official. anyway, i think we all know how that exterminator worked out, don't we?

they're more like intimidation,

Why are they "more like intimidation" and not like what they are - disagreement about policy in one case and about religion in the other?

I have trouble believing that you liberals are really as emotionally fragile as you depict yourselves here. I'm sure that if you wanted to, you could hear a contrary view without going to pieces or being "intimidated".


What I'm not sure about is whether you can disagree with your opponents without depicting them as "lower class" in some way. The evidence says that you can't. Read the comments from liberals just on this blog.

i think we all know how that exterminator worked out, don't we?

Yes, we do. A partisan hack of a Democratic prosecutor indicted him on trumped up charges which were never going to proved and have not been. But the hatchet job worked and got him out of Congress, and "justice" has never been a concept you liberals have understood or worried about. I'm sure that in your own rancid mind you are delighted with that particular case.

I'm never delighted to find out representatives elected by the people of the U.S.A. are corrupt, regardless of political affiliation. Tom Delay is just another scumbag to add to the list.

Then you ought to be "delighted" to find out that Delay has not been found to be corrupt, right?


Or are the mere facts not important to your precious narrative?

Don't bother to answer, we both already know your response. In your putrid mind, Delay IS corrupt regardless of whether any jury says so.

Your Nifong close of a prosecutor is the one who is corrupt here. Needless to say, no comments from you about that "scumbag".

alright. my "putrid" mind is still waiting for your proof. as far as i know, we're all still waiting on the delay case to go to trial...

I'm a liberal, and I see the condescension in these examples. I hardly see how any of these people could be said to be speaking for all Democrats.

While I don't think having gone to a top-ranked school makes you automatically qualified to be president or hold another office, I don't think it disqualifies you, same as going to Eureka College. For any candidate, college happened a long time before they got to the presidential race.

As to John's Comment 10, I've seen unfortunate examples of this attitude, too, and the ones you cite are definitely maddening. But this attitude is not by any means shared by all liberals. Plenty of us either do or have done plenty of manual labor.

I'm curious, though. Why are the Republicans seen as so respectful of working people? What have their policies done to benefit working people?

Judging by the amount of attention its getting from the libs here, this post really hit a sore spot.

as far as i know, we're all still waiting on the delay case to go to trial...

You don't know much then, do you? Many pf the charges have already been dropped, pre-trial. Your hack prosecutors indictment will never result in a trial, and was never intended to do so. It's already had its intended political effect - giving cover for scum like yourself to bleat ignorantly about "corrupt" Republicans.


As to John's Comment 10, I've seen unfortunate examples of this attitude, too, and the ones you cite are definitely maddening. But this attitude is not by any means shared by all liberals.

I never said it was. I even admitted that it was shared by some Republicans. I said that it was mostly found in the Democratic party, because it is.

Why are the Republicans seen as so respectful of working people? What have their policies done to benefit working people?

Working people seem to think that the GOP does something for them, judging by their votes. The Republicans offer them freedom and opportunity. What can the Democrats counter with? Dependency?

what's with the name calling?

Well if that is your case, it'll probably get you laughed out of court.

You had to resort to decades old examples, unnamed nobodies, a novelist and a blogger to make your case.

And not only are your examples weak they seem designed to undermine your case.

The Blogger UD also prominently dismisses far greater condescension of the AEI Fellow Charles Murray on that same subject.

And in case of The New Republic’s John Judis you left out the part "and read The New Republic Significantly altering the statement. People can easily see that asking a reader of the admitted left leaning New Republic why he is a republican is far from disparaging him.

If this is the best case you could make I'd say that you just proved Ta-Nehisi Coates point.

what's with the name calling?

What's with your determined refusal to admit the truth? Your hack prosecutor indicted a man on trumped up charges, just like Nifong did, for the sole reason of allowing cretins like yourself to bay about "corrupt Republicans". And you willingly allow yourself to conned. Because the lies are what you want to believe.

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