Smell the fear

Just wanted to revisit the Brown campaign’s “elitist” line of attack against Elizabeth Warren. Gosh, I hope they keep it up; I hope they use that line every day and twice on Sundays.

Because when they bring it up, it prompts one to ask:

  1. What does “elitist” mean?
  2. Is Warren more or less “elitist” than Brown? and,
  3. Is it actually important who is more or less “elitist”?

The Brown campaign is blowing the Newt Gingrich/Howie Carr whistle for “elitism”. It is a cultural distinction, saying that this person isn’t like you and me, and that they want to tell you what to do. Gingrich popularized the “liberal elite” idea, in order to mask policies that keep wages down and profits up. Howie uses it to tell people that someone else, someone less deserving, is eating their tax-money lunch. Scott Brown’s camp raises money off of the fear of “insiders, celebrities, elites, occupiers, leftists” who support Warren. (He neglected to mention the opera singers. Wah!)

But when one tries to cleave the electorate, one should be certain that one will retain the bigger chunk.

(Remember this one?)

We, on the other hand, define elitism as economic: If you continue to favor policies that massively favor a rich minority over the interests of a vast majority, that’s elitist — or plutocratic, if you like.

When someone blows the elitist whistle, we ask immediately, reflexively — “Where’s the money?” Who’s asking? Says who? On whose behalf?

The Brown campaign’s “elitist” line is a tell, revealing several of their fears: They know that Elizabeth Warren’s middle-class bona-fides are sterling. Fighting for middle class interests against those who would exploit them for profit is her background, it’s her passion, it’s her life’s work, and her reason for running.

And they wish to change the subject from Brown’s multiple votes against the vast majority in favor of the wealthy:

Just read these remarks from Brown’s spokesman, and you’ll get an idea of the mentality at work:

“Senator Brown supports the federal funding for summer job programs as long as they are paid for in a fiscally responsible way, without adding to the trillions in national debt,’’ Donnelly wrote. “Senator Brown believes job creation starts at home, with neighbors helping neighbors, and that’s why he’s hosted three jobs fairs in Massachusetts.’’

Ah, I see. It was the kids’ summer jobs programs that’s responsible for the trillions in debt? Not two lousy wars and endless tax favoritism for those who have the most?

They are running scared. They are afraid that when Warren matches her record and agenda up against Scott Brown’s, particularly when it comes to helping the middle class get a fair shake, Brown will get spanked, and handily. They’re walking right into it.

So let’s hope that this election turns on the “elitism” issue — It’s about time!

Recommended by karenc.


70 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Howie and Warren

    I tend to agree with your analysis here, particularly when it comes to folks like Gingrich who popularized the term “liberal elite” or McCain who infamously compared Obama to Paris Hilton. They’re trying to make the point that the Democrats are “different” from regular people. Not really because they are rich but because they are “weird.” They don’t drink beer, hunt or share conservative “values” (you know, hating gays and black people). It’s a cultural thing.

    But Howie Carr’s attacks on Elizabeth Warren have been carefully focused on her personal wealth. And, most effectively, on her ineffectiveness so far in acknowledging her “success.” (both “Granny” Clampett and Warren are “utterly oblivious to how fabulously wealthy they are.”)

    Sadly, this seems to be close to truthful. Like many rich people, she seems to feel that “my parents were poor” is enough said. When, I think, most people would prefer something along the lines of “I am rich, I acknowledge that both effort and luck played a factor in this reality, and I join other rich Americans in calling on all of us to do more in support of the country and for those less fortunate.”

    Stewart and Colbert understand this. Obama is okay. But Deval Patrick is one of the best. In his recent book (A Reason to Believe), he said “After these many years, the poverty monkey is still on my back. I remain poor until we figure out why so few of us escape. By most measures, I am rich, successful. My poverty remains. My community and my country suffer until we apply what we have learned to end poverty.”

    Warren needs to work more on acknowledging her wealth. In her recent and vigorous defense of the Buffet rule, I didn’t really see even a mention of her own wealth. Doing so would have helped blunt the inevitable charges of hypocrisy. And made Carr’s “Granny Clampett” line of attack even more ridiculous.

    • Off the mark

      Responding thus would insulate charges of elitism from the left, which is not an issue for Warren.

      It would not insulate against the term as used by the Brown campaign, which is reasonably described above. It is a cultural thing, but dismissing it as “hating gays and black people” THOROUGHLY misses why this has been an effective weapon for so long.

      The reason that it is effective is the perception of sneering snobbery on the part of Democratic Party people toward the “working stiff” types that the Democratic Party is supposed to represent. Why Democratic candidates always look so lost at a NASCAR race or a football game, or eating some crazy fried thing (a Twinkie, maybe) at a county fair. There is a perception that the Democratic Party– the leadership of which is largely urban, and more importantly, urbane– looks down upon such people as rubes. There is a significant enough element of truth to this to make it stick, always.

      Warren is vulnerable on this because of the Harvard thing. No point in denying that.

      It is not the case that a liberal, by definition, cannot form a cultural connection with the non-urban, non-urbane, middle-American voter. Bruce Springteen has been doing it effectively for decades. But the Boss does not sneer at his fans just because they drink domestic beer, wear camoflage, or hunt. Democratic politicians have, and do.

      I think that it remains to be seen if Warren can overcome this. Being the advocate of an abstract “middle class” is nice, but may not be enough if she cannot establish a connection with voters in that “middle class” as people, rather than as an economic concept.

      • You are spot on centralmassdad

        I regularly take on friends who make “looking down on” comments. Elizabeth Warren is not of that ilk. Her Oklahoma upbringing won’t let her be! When people meet her, in person, this becomes clear. Her supporters would do well to follow her example. BTW, fried Twinkies suck, but fried pickles are delicious!

      • you have it exactly backwards...

        It is not the case that a liberal, by definition, cannot form a cultural connection with the non-urban, non-urbane, middle-American voter. Bruce Springteen has been doing it effectively for decades. But the Boss does not sneer at his fans just because they drink domestic beer, wear camoflage, or hunt. Democratic politicians have, and do.

        The Republican party is the party of victimhood. This is what they do. Scott Brown does it non pareil. And like many who play the victim they pre-empt the scorn they (secretly) feel they might deserve by projecting an attitude of scorn upon the other. They don’t fear Bill Maher because they think he’s elitist. They think he’s elitist because they fear he may be right. They can so easily play upon the fears of others because they share these fears. Scott Brown fears Elizabeth Warren solely because he doesn’t think he’d have passed her course.

        Democrats are not now ‘elitis’ and have not been, at least since 1948, in any measurable way ‘elitist’. In 1948 the party was riven between New Deal Democrats and the repugnant Dixiecrats, who were openly scornful of the Democrats utter unwillingness to be elitist in the most profound ways.

        The Dixiecrats left the part precisely and exactly because the refused to admit to new deal policies that were markedly more inclusive than anything heretofore. After the defeat of the Dixiecrats and the inability to hold their factions together, many of the more repugnant re-entered the political fold under the Republican banner.

        Furthermore, the two richest Dems ever to hold the office of President, FDR and JFK, did more on behalf of a larger section of the population than all the twentieth century Republican presidents combined. JFK’s brother, RFK, was one of the first politicians in the entire country to openly condemn the miserable conditions of poverty in which many southern whites and blacks lived. Of course, if it is elitist to point out the exact degree of shittiness with which you are treating your brother humans, then sign me up for that kind of elitism.

        The remainder of twentieth century Democratic presidents were all from poor backgrounds, some of the same backgrounds that today wear camo, hunt and attend NASCAR races….

        Woodrow Wilson, grandson of immigrants and son of a Virginia preacher
        Harry S. Truman, son of a Missouri farmer.
        Lyndon Johnson, son of a Texas farmer and state legislator
        James Carter, son of a Georgia businessman and a nurse mother.
        William Clinton, son of a travelling salesman (William Blythe), but raised by a car salesman (Roger Clinton).
        Barack Obama, son of a single mother, anthropologist.

        Of this list, if you squint sideways and hold your breath, Woodrow Wilson might be considered ‘elitist’ for his refusal to split infinitives and a desire, indeed willingness, to punish Germany for their aggressive conduct in WWI. Other than that… I’m not seeing any elitism.

        The Democrats are not elitist. We got rid of the elitists in 1948. We are the party of inclusion. We are the party that even lets Republicans tell lie after lie after lie, heaping falsehood upon victim status, digging in their heels, til they’re blue in the face, while we steadily try to move the country forward.

        We even want to help Republicans.

  2. Another cheap "elitist" attack by Brown campaign ....

    Hillary as usual. how long before Barnett changes his role in the campaign? The guy is unhinged.

  3. prediction?

    Charley – are you

    a. predicting that Brown will “get spanked” in the actual election


    b. just saying that his campaign is scared?

    • His campaign does act scared.

      And I’ll commit jokus interruptus here and say I don’t want to think about literal spanking might mean.

  4. Does anyone have an example...

    …of Democratic politicians looking down on anyone? I’m not looking for chapter and verse citations with links, but just some elaboration. I’ve always been baffled at this idea that we somehow look down on the very people that our policies benefit. I’m sure plenty of Democrats drink beer, enjoy football, etc. There’s nothing wrong with having different interests for passtimes, and personally I’d prefer people be honest about their interests and not be phony. Then again, I’ve also never understood the motive to vote for someone who is like them (sometimes refered to as “want to have a beer with”).

    • Excellent question

      We should offer a reward for actual examples.

    • Sarge and Kerry


      The only two “concrete” examples I’ve ever heard are Sargent Shriver’s “Make mine a Courvoisier!” request in a blue collar bar in Youngstown during his run for vice-president in 1972, and John Kerry’s purported faux pas of ordering a cheesesteak in Philly with Swiss cheese on it during the 2004 campaign (as opposed to Cheez Whiz).

      I don’t really remember ever hearing of any other examples, but boy do those two get flogged to death.

      • Dijon on the Presidential hamburger

        With the exception of the Courvoisier, these mostly seem like cases prosecuted by the Conformity Police.

        And yes, at least two or three times a year, RMG plays host to the Conformity Police. They all dress up in quaint hick costumes and scoff as adorably as possible. Think school play for adults.

        But what this is all very odd. In 2012, it is peculiarly American to want a different kind of cheese or condiment in one’s lunch. In the fifties, what Italian restaurants served counted as exotic . Now we’ve all tried sushi, know whether we prefer Thai food to Vietnamese, and have watched a cooking show or two on cable.

        • "Now we've all tried sushi"

          I really don’t think that this is true of the country at large. I do think that it is true near east and west coast cities, and larger inland cities and college towns).

          Locally, I am not sure that this is universally true west of I-495, and certainly not west of the Quabbin (Northampton/Amherst area excepted, of course).

          There is a lot of range in American culture, and we live in a very narrow slice of it. In this sense, liberals could stand to celebrate cultural diversity as well. This need not be an issue if a politician can relate to people by being his or herself in a genuine way.

          You need not know a thing about NASCAR if you can grin and say, “I don’t know a thing about NASCAR, but I sure did have a ball, and did you see that [whatever exciting thing happened at the NASCAR event]?” What not to do: ” My favorite is Manny Ortez.”

          You need not be an avid hunter to understand that an awful lot of people are. Don’t pretend to be a hunter when you are not. Say, “I don’t hunt, but I am going out on this hunting trip with my camera and hope to get a shot of a nice 10 point buck before this guy puts him over his mantel.”

          All that is required is treating people with respect. President Clinton excelled at this– relating to people outside of his out cultural circle without seeming to sneer. Gore and Kerry were dismally bad at this. Obama struggles with this, in my view.

          As for examples: much of this thread is QED. “The only reason you might think I am elitist is because you are ignorant and racist. But I am here to tell you what your concerns really are, and what you really should think is important. Please vote for me to prove that you are not ignorant and racist.” is bad strategy.

          I would also add much of the disdain implicit in perceived automatic liberal Euro-envy. France has cool bullet trains, but we are stupid and want to drive cars. In Germany, everyone lives in cities that are thousands of years old and are so much more walkable than these American cities built after 1940. Why can’t Denver be more civilized, like Europe? In France, they eat sophisticated dishes with a decent Bordeaux, and in Philly, they eat fatty foods with CheezWhiz. If only Philadelphia had some respectable culture.

          As for examples from actual elected officials, I specifically recall this from a candidate for President:

          “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

          To his credit, he hasn’t made many of those mistakes, but starting from the proposition that “your concerns are stupid, irrelevant, and racist. Here is what you are really concerned about.” is going to earn you, justifiably, the epithet “elitist.”

          And you would never, ever have heard that line from Clinton.

          • sushi

            Maybe just coastal, but my observation here is not just limited to people with college educations and professional jobs. The kicker for me was hearing the 99 Restaurant — not Menton, Chez Henri, or the Blue Room — advertizing the freshness of their cilantro on AM radio.

            Usually, in one’s gastronomic education, cilantro comes after Dijon mustard.

          • In the world of experts

            Some of what you point to is unavoidable. In the world of expert opinion, there are things that are correct, are plausible, are wrong, and are outright stupid. It’s hard to slice it otherwise. If one wants social policy made by the best wonks money can buy, the wonks you’ll get don’t mince words with each other.

            And yes, the political side effects of that are unpleasant indeed. What’s the alternative? I don’t know. I don’t want the FDA to be run by special interests but I don’t want it run by plebiscite either.

            • You want it to be run by you

              Or by people you want to be running the FDA. A select few, in other words. Gee, what is a good word for “select few”?

              This is why it is silly to pretend this is a non-issue, or to play “la-la-la I can’t hear you” by saying things like, “Well, ___ has three houses, and if that isn’t elite, than what is?”

              It is an issue. But it need not be an insurmountable issue. See: Clinton, William J. It just requires treating people with a little respect, even if, and especially if, you disagree with them. To do otherwise means that you will be a perpetually minority party, notwithstanding ANY of the merits of your views, never wielding power on your own merits, but only on frustration and rejection of your opponent (which means that things will swing the other way after two years of dealing with your guys). Like 2006-2012.

              • Not by me

                I want the FDA to be run by people who know better than I do how to run it. I want the central bank to be run by economists who know better then me. I want education policy handled by people unencumbered by my prejudices.

                And I don’t go to the doctor to hear my own advice, either.

                • It's like what Jon Stewart said about charges of elitism

                  against Obama in 2008. Paraphrasing, he said look, he’s running for a job where, if you’re good at it, someone will carve your face into the side of a mountain! I want someone embarrassingly superior to me doing that job!

    • Have we forgotten Martha?

      Instead of being honest about her disinterest in sports, Coakley pretended to knowledge she did not have, and dismissed an opportunity to meet her constituents in a sarcastic manner. Those actions did appear to be very nose-in-the-air.

      • Absolutely

        And that’s why MC deserved to lose. But as a liberal, and someone who appreciates skillful politics, I have only contempt for that attitude. Her attitude was elitist, in the sense that it was “machine-y”, trickle-down: People will vote for whom they’re told to vote.

        I hope that the Brown camp continues to think Warren is Coakley 2.0. I welcome their complacency.

  5. "Bring it on!" didn't work so well for 43

    Republicans have indeed been running against liberal elites since at least Nixon and Agnew — and they have been doing rather well. We still live in the era of Reagan.

    There is also some outright truth to this charge. Liberals, like good government types everywhere, believe in making government work, in making it do the right thing — and not in having government do the virtuous thing and hope/pretend it works. We oppose abstinence only education because studies show it is wrong. We oppose climate change because we rely on the work of experts not the whims of public opinion.

    This most certainly does open us up to charges of favoring elites. It’s not a bad thing at all, and it may be better to defend it honestly than to deny it fruitlessly.

  6. incredulity at the "elitism" charge

    I would urge folks to realize the profound irony at issue in Brown’s “elitism” charges. I mean, after all, we are talking about: a former model/attorney who appeared in a national magazine, who is married to a former model/television news personality, who has a daughter that was a contestant-finalist on the nation’s (then) most popular television show, and who owns at least four properties that are documented.

    If those qualities don’t make someone “elite” then I’m not at all sure how the term “elite” is defined.

  7. "Elitist" is a euphemism

    The claim of “elitist” is a euphemism. What it means is that most Democrats, since 1968, are intolerant of racism, sexism, xenophobia, ignorance, and casual war-mongering. It is no accident that the Nixon/Agnew team created the meme — their purpose was to attract the racist “Dixiecrats” that the Democratic Party essentially expelled in the aftermath of the 1968 Democratic convention.

    The GOP split the traditional Democratic coalition by appealing to the racism and ignorance of blue-collar workers, especially in the south. The anti-war movement was led by college students, who were by and large not eligible for the draft (until 1972). The draftees being killed by the government were primarily from blue-collar families who, for whatever reasons, did not send their sons (the draft was all-male) to college. The Nixon/Agnew team exploited that difference to attack the anti-war protesters as “elitist”. They began the class warfare that Ronald Reagan later expanded and that this year’s GOP has turned into political Armageddon.

    The Nixon/Agnew team intentionally and cynically recognized and pandered to the cultural prejudices of the disaffected working class. Working-class anger and hurt born of fear and suffering expressed itself as bigotry and prejudice. For a variety of reasons, both cultural and economic, education and intellectualism were distrusted — and the Nixon/Agnew team were only too happy to direct that distrust towards the “intellectuals”. A notable political success of the GOP since then has been to sustain this meme while obscuring the enormous economic divide that separates the GOP from the meme’s target audience.

    Even then, the GOP didn’t have the hutzpah to say outright “we embrace your bigotry”. The “elitist” claim was one of those short-hand phrases whose meaning was clear to all.

    Sadly, it still is.

    • A euphemism is

      a polite way of putting something negative. “Elitism” is a negative way of saying something positive, i.e. intolerant of racism, sexism, xenophobia, ignorance, and casual war-mongering. As Tom says, it’s a channel for Nixonian resentment.

      There is no convenient antonym for elitist. I looked up the work and came up with egalitarian and equalitarian. Hardly words that Republicans want to defend.

      The way to combat the word is make its association ambiguous. Call Wall Street people the Wall Street elite, pundits like Thomas Friedman media elite, the Republican elite. Smear GOP stuff with elite associations until it loses meaning.

      • Agree with CMD

        He was not saying Dems are elitist but defining where it came from and why the charge works. Clinton and Obama (compared to Mitt anyway) appear as regular guys and do a great job relating to working people, so did Hillary to her credit. Both Gore and Kerry lacked that common touch and empathy and that cost them crucial states they needed to win. I remember when Obana the academic forgot to be the patriotic presidential candidate and and did not put his hand on his heart during the pledge and wear flag lapels. This faux pas mattered little to me but to my cousins who served and still have yellow ribbons on their trucks it was an affront that made them want to vote for McCain in spite of their union memberships.

        Though they came around on Obama they voted for Brown since he was “one of us”. Most unerolled voters know little about politics and vote with their gut level feeling for a candidate. Instead of dismissing the charge or saying BC Law and modeling are also elitist we should hit it head on and show point for point where Brown has consistently voted against the working men and women of this state including unemployment, health care, bailing out the fishing industry, and stimulus for the state. Hit him there. Or how out if state fat cats fund his campaign. No more ads about abortion or contraception, or lgbt issues. Warren has those constituencies in the bag, it’s guys like my cousins or the hard hats my dad overheard at a Woburn deli who still like Brown and she needs their votes to win and she doesn’t have them yet.

        • She's not going to get,

          most of those hard hat type of guys. She may need their wives, but those guys who see Scott Brown as one of them, they’ll stick with Brown.

          Independents are more complicated and varied than these type of guys. There are the wishy-washy types who will vote for Warren because they’re not thrilled with the way things are going. There are those who would have voted for Coakley if she hadn’t been such a clown. My guess is that some of these union guys may smarten up after events in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.

          30% of Democrats and less than half of the independents wins the election. In spite of criticism here and elsewhere, Warren’s campaign is making progress. I have a feeling–no evidence, but a feeling–that she’s accumulating staunch supporters. And after this round of advertising, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brown campaign starts to romney even more.

  8. jconway you are very smart about these issues

    For the majority of voters Brown’s already defined and repeating some of most of the “charges” against him aren’t going to change any unenrolled votes.

  9. But I still want to scream WHY!

    This has been a very interesting discussion about the various connotations of elitism, but it baffles me why people go with their gut and take a candidate who seems to be like them. I suppose that right there in some ways makes me elite. Part of me wants to embrace elitism and say yes, elitism is good as long as you believe that anyone is capable of achieving elite status and support policies to make that happen. I’ve heard this refered to as “the aristocracy of everyone”. Part of me wants to do one of those “REALLY?!” monologues that Seth Meyers (formerly with Amy Poehler) on the Weekend Update segment of SNL:

    REALLY – you vote for a party that consistently shafts you because you like their views on cultural issues that don’t affect you much?!

    REALLY – you are going to not vote for someone because he neglected to place his hand on his heart during the national anthem? (Actually incorrect flag etiquette is a pet peeve of mine, but it wouldn’t determine my vote.)

    I’m sure you all could come up with others, and when there doesn’t seem to be much logic it is honestly hard not to look down the nose a bit. BTW, even though I was still an HRC supporter at the time when Obama made that “cling to guns and religion” I was elated that someone had the guts to say that out loud.

    • Alterman...

      … touched on some of these issues in his Moyers interview

    • It is interesting to me that all of the responses here focus directly on policy

      Paraphrased and exaggerated for effect, many of you take the following position:

      We support policies that would be in your best interest. So, therefore we support you. Why won’t you recognize this, you ignorant twit? Are you dumb? Disabled? Why don’t you do something vaguely intelligent for once and NOT vote for these guys that are actively harming you.

      It REALLY isn’t about the policy. It is about the attitude. It never ceases to amaze me that this is such a difficult concept.

      • I see your paraphrase and raise you a hypothetical...

        Paraphrased and exaggerated for effect, many of you take the following position:

        We support policies that would be in your best interest. So, therefore we support you. Why won’t you recognize this, you ignorant twit? Are you dumb? Disabled? Why don’t you do something vaguely intelligent for once and NOT vote for these guys that are actively harming you.

        Here’s a hypothetical in response: What if this is not an exaggeration? What if this is the solid truth?

        You have two choices in response: you can see us as mean-spirited triumphalists with an attitude that looks down upon you from some lofty heights of moral dudgeon; or you can see us as deeply caring and compassionate people who have reached a weeping depth of frustration at intransigence and folly. There is, also, an anger. It is there to be sure and directed squarely at you, because you refuse to vote for your best interest simply because of my attitude. I wish I could help you. I truly do. But you won’t let me.

        Because, you see, it’s not at all an exaggeration. That question HAS been asked…

        • I meant an exaggeration here on BMG

          And I was trying to be polite.

          I think there is a significant difference between (i) supporting a policy that would be to the benefit of Group X, and (ii) being deeply caring and compassionate people with respect to Group X.

          I am not suggesting that the frustration and anger you express is unjustified. It is. I am suggesting that it is profoundly counter-productive.

          I am also suggesting that the problem lays more in superficiality than in big, weighty issues–policy positions, and therefore should not be as great a problem as it is. Yet it is a big problem, dating back to Adlai Stevenson at least.

          • What If We Said

            Point taken. What if we said, paraphrasing and exaggerated for effect, something more along the lines of (ii)? Like:

            In considering who to vote for, I’d ask you to carefully consider what you want government to do for you personally, your family and your friends. What the Republicans propose and have done is ridiculous. And this is what Candidate X has also said he supports and will do if we elect him. They want to cut taxes for rich people and then balance the budget by cutting government programs that help poor people and those of us in the middle class. Republicans think we can fix the economy and pay down our national debt if we “just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own.” Is that the America and the government you want? If not, I urge you to consider a vote for Democrat Candidate X. She supports a government that provides a safety net for the poorest Americans, that helps to grow and strengthen the middle class, and that will help fix the economy for everyone. Democrat Candidate X would pay down our national debt by ending the huge tax breaks for the wealthy and making targeted cuts to government spending that do not wholly undermine the social safety net or ask the middle class to carry the entire burden. She and her policies would benefit you, your family and your friends.


            • That is a speech.

              What made Clinton successful was that he listened, or conveyed the impression that he was listening.

              Once you are in speech mode, you have already dismissed the things that are of concern to the people you are supposed to be speaking to.

              Voters: We are concerned about—

              Politician: Oh never mind that, I’d ask you to carefully consider…

              [Hey, why doesn't anyone validate the legitimacy of my frustration in failing to reach these evil racist morons?]

            • one quibble

              I’ll start by saying I agree with the frame CMD has used here.
              In what CMD called your “speech”, you wrote “What the Republicans propose and have done is ridiculous.” I assume some in your audience would be leaning toward a Republican vote or would actually be Republican, and you’d be trying too change their attitudes. When they hear you calling them “ridiculous”, they hear an elitist.

          • I'm not buying it.

            I am not suggesting that the frustration and anger you express is unjustified. It is. I am suggesting that it is profoundly counter-productive.

            I am not responsible for how you vote. I am not your parent, priest, guardian, caretaker or ward-heeler. If I was any of these things I might be able to help you, despite yourself. I am not and any productivity (counter- or no) is on you.

            My desire to help you, and seething frustration at my own inability, is on me. But you wouldn’t drink poison just because i said you should not, so why should you vote poisonously just because I said you should not?

    • True but

      There is a very large segment of the country, and yes our state, where these issues still matter. Religion matters less here I suspect, but the patriotism and sports does matter. The way to counteract this though is not for us to ‘out Jackson the Jacksonians’ and find our own old hickory to run but to separate Brown’s image from his record.

      Brown may claim to be with the working stiff, but as the tax returns show he is wealthier than Warren! And while he did pull himself up by his bootstraps he is pulling the ladder up with him! He voted against the very programs he admitted kept him out of jail and allowed him to become the success he is today.

      That’s why I dislike Brown more than a genuinely conservative Senator. As someone who grew up needing Democratic policies he should know better. My mom never made me forget she was a single mom on welfare who couldn’t get to where she is without the government and that there was no such thing as a welfare queen. He is not even an original or intelligent politician. The way to fight back is not to pretend the problem doesn’t exist, and not to stoop to his level and make Warren something she’s not, the way to win is to hammer Brown for the actual votes he has made that hurt working people.

      I want Warren to be shown as the fighter, the woman Wall Streets afraid of (that line should be in an ad!) and also that when it comes to helping workers Brown is style over substance (also in an ad, and it alludes to the modeling and celebrity family life of leisure he leads).

  10. Oh, and one more thing

    Has anyone told those on the right who idolize the Founding Fathers that they (at least those best known by history) were about as elite as they come in so many ways?

  11. I think what people hate and what they consider elitist

    is the tone the deciders take when they make laws to manipulate behavior and when it assumes what is good for one is good for all. Examples being the seatbelt laws, the helmet laws, the tobacco tax, the proposed candy, soda and alcohol tax. I swear they would be better off just saying that we want to tax candy, soda, tobacco and alcohol because we need the money, and not try to pass it off as a sickening care and concern measure to help the battle with obesity and alcoholism and other health issues. It’s the patronizing attitude that government displays when it tries to pass gun laws. Government knows what’s best and we are going to force the law abiding citizens to comply. (We all know law breakers will still get the guns, and all the tax free candy, cigarettes and alcohol they want without concern for the laws they are breaking). Most often, it is the Democrats who want to pass these patronizing laws. The Republicans did fall into the same pit when they went on and on about reversing mandatory contraception coverage in health care, and therefore were penalizing those who used contraception, and they also step on the edge of the pit every time they claim to be against abortion and LGBT rights. However both of those issues seem to be safe and heading in the right direction, and when the Republicans talk about it they are sort of laughed off like the eccentric old relatives who are not up to date with current issues. But Democrats are consistently trying to make everyone conform to the latest craze or fad and trying to turn everyone into monolithic Barbie and Ken dolls who look right, weigh right, eat right, talk right, write right, and behave right according to the decider’s perception of what is right, and perfect, and exceptional. It is incredibly patronizing, and therefore elitist.

    • Knowing best

      But seatbelt laws do save lives.

      You maybe think saving lives is a bad thing?

      • Yes, seatbelts do save lives, and they should be available

        to use and safe to use. But it should be a personal choice whether you use one or not. The more laws we have to control personal behavior for ones own good, the more fear there is that government has or will cross the line and overreach. I believe the seatbelt and helmet laws are overreaching. Scary to think of what might be next?

        • Another example of individual/cultural tension

          I think the issue here is that when individuals make “personal choices” that affect everybody else, then those personal choices are no longer so “free”. Your right to freedom of expression ends when your fist touches my nose.

          When people don’t wear seatbelts and then get in a crash, they are injured FAR MORE SERIOUSLY. That’s simply true. That means that their resulting health care expenses are dramatically higher. The result is that my health insurance (and car insurance) premiums skyrocket to pay for Fred’s “personal choice” to skip his seatbelt.

          Helmet laws are another example. Anybody who has worked in critical care or as a physical therapist knows that head injuries from motorcycles and, to a lesser extent, bicycles are devastating, frequent, and greatly reduced by the simple act of wearing a decent helmet. I want to be clear here that motorcycles are dangerous, and no helmet will save the life of a somebody who hits a bridge at 90 on their Harley.

          On the other hand, helmet-less riders of motorcycles and bicycles account for an ENORMOUS NUMBER of cases where the victim ends up with profound mental and physical impairments for life, with astronomically multiplied health care (and therefore health insurance) outlays. A majority of those patients are young, so their care will be very very expensive.

          When the consequences on society for the choices made by an individual are so profound and alternatives exist that are affordable and not particularly intrusive (like seatbelts and helmets), I have a hard time accepting your characterization of “overreaching”.

          I think, instead, that an essential tensions exists between the freedom of an individual and the resulting impacts on society.

          We are, after all, social animals.

          • I am okay w seatbelt and helmet laws

            They save lives, but I do not think it so clear that they spend money, for the simple reason that they keep people who would otherwise be dead alive, but seriously injured and in need of significant and prolonged care. Medical expenses are not so great when the victim is declared dead on the scene.

            Not a good reason to change the law, though.

            • Private rather than public conversation

              In private, it is the “seriously injured and in need of significant and prolonged care” cases that drive seatbelt and helmet legislation. Legislators know, but are reluctant to admit, that victims declared dead on the scene are not such a burden to society.

              The same dynamic is true for anti-smoking laws, by the way. I’ve seen some interesting statistics that people who smoke actually save money for insurance companies, because they tend to die quickly and without need for long and expensive treatment of chronic diseases.

              • Yes indeed

                I became familiar with the phenomenon in a statistics class, years ago, in a lesson that I suppose was intended to teach one to test one’s assumptions. The puzzle was the significant increase in wounded after the introduction of the metal combat helmet (replacing a civil war type kepi) in WWI.

              • How much does HIV treatment cost again?

                “Legislators know, but are reluctant to admit, that victims declared dead on the scene are not such a burden to society.”

            • Comparing a person not wearing a seatbelt to a fist

              meeting your nose is quite the stretch. I agree that controlling some behavior is absolutely essential to maintain a civilized society. However, I’m afraid we have already crossed the line into dangerous government intrusion into people’s personal freedom, and this brings great concern about what the future holds and what the next round of behavior control will look like.

              • Can we find another target?

                You and I usually see eye-to-eye on things, so I hope you’ll forgive me for parting company with you on this one. I share your concern about intrusion into our personal freedoms (both from government and from private industry). I think you’re focusing on a sapling and missing the forest.

                I fear you listened to too much Jerry Williams and haven’t been paying attention to the facts. My skyrocketing insurance (health and auto) premiums are evidence enough for me that insurance costs are, in fact, a finger in the economic fist that is most certainly hitting me and my family in the face.

                I share your concern about intrusions into personal freedom and behavior control. At the moment, private industry unfettered by effective government regulation strikes me as a more immediate threat than the government itself. Are you aware of the private data that Google stole as its “Street View” vehicles canvased the US? The seatbelt and helmet laws are among the least of my concerns, especially since the need for them is compelling and well-documented.

                Not that our government isn’t trampling on our personal freedoms in hugely threatening ways. Our TSA agents are terrorizing four year old children. The NSA is monitoring virtually every internet-based communication in the US — which is every cellphone call, every text, every email, every blog post.

                There are a myriad of ways that our government and private industry are assaulting our personal freedoms. The seatbelt and helmet laws not only don’t make that list, they aren’t even in the same room.

                • Sure, we don't have to discuss it.

                  But I just want to clarify that I do not listen to Jerry Williams. Seatbelt and helmet laws are a big deal to some people. I wouldn’t minimize that the way you did. It’s sort of elitist.

        • seat belts are part of a tandem system: belt and bag.

          Yes, seatbelts do save lives, and they should be available

          to use and safe to use. But it should be a personal choice whether you use one or not.

          Airbags are mandatory. But even if they were not, the market would probably promote them to an equal degree because they are a popular feature. But airbags work, in conjunction, with the seat belt. It is part of a system. If you are riding in a car with an airbag, you should wear your seatbelt. If you chose a car because of it’s airbag safety system then you already chose to wear a seatbelt.

          Absent wearing a seatbelt, the likelihood of death is increased by the presence of the airbag: without the belt the rapid compression of the airbag can crush your sternum, unhinge your jaw, break your nose and/or snap your neck (depending upon your height and seat adjustments… and of couse, the speed at the time of the collision)

          • Right, and a warning regarding this risk is sufficient.

            I wear my seat belt, and I have worn my seat belt ever since the day I saw a picture of a steering wheel deeply planted within a person’s forehead. Creating a law to enforce wearing a seat belt is a bad idea, a money grab, and an example of an overbearing government.

            • a bad idea, a money grab, and an example of an overbearing government

              So having people lose their lives is just fine with you provided this “money grab” (!) doesn’t occur.

              I wonder, though, how the tin foil hat fits under the motorcycle helmet.

            • I get that, and ...

              I understand that you made the choice to wear your seat belt.

              I’m not sure, from what you’ve written here, that you also understand how much it costs YOU when folks choose to NOT wear theirs and are then seriously injured in accidents. Absent the laws that you are objecting to, YOUR money is being grabbed to pay for their foolhardy choices. Separately from your characterizations of the idea (good/bad) or of government (overbearing or not), the “money grab” (if you mean from your pocket) is worse in the absence of the laws you object to.

              This has its roots in the same fallacy that the anti-mandate crowd promotes: it IS NOT POSSIBLE to “opt out” of receiving expensive health care after a serious injury. So when somebody gets a serious injury that a seatbelt would have prevented, then their choice costs YOU money (because you pay for their care, one way or another).

              The helmet laws follow the same principle.

              • So you're a Republican.

                I am so confused. I always thought that Democrats were for individual freedom. Either the party has changed or I have only been hearing what I want to hear and not the truth. Thanks for clarifying.

                • *lol*

                  Right. By the argument you offer here, the individual mandate is a “money grab” and an infringement on the “personal choice” of citizens to avoid paying health insurance. So do you also oppose the individual mandate — making YOU a Republican?

                  Is it so hard to admit that in a society, we must balance our individual freedoms with the needs of society as a whole?

                  • Yes, I am against the individual mandate

                    because I don’t think I should be forced to pay for private sector profit motivated health insurance. I am for single payer health care. Democrats are for single payer health care. At least the were until they were not.

                    • Well, single payer is better -- and a plea-bargain

                      I guess the powers that be concluded that single payer was unattainable and the individual mandate was the next best choice. This was during Barack Obama’s naive and over-extended lets-reach-out-to-the-GOP phase.

                      So can we compromise on the “Republican” charge and let me plead guilty to being a “left wing socialist communist liberal”?

                • Freedom exists...

                  … along a continuum between isolated effects and global effects. Libertarians are often useful because they are good at perceiving and pointing out when the level of communal effects of a particular restriction of freedom are unnecessary. Liberals are often useful because they are good at detecting and pointing out when freedoms propagate interconnected global effects that are not obvious at first glance.

                  At one extreme we could mandate eating broccoli. At another we could allow personal nuclear weapons. Somewhere in the middle is wisdom.

                  In this case I’d err toward seatbelt laws. The propagation of costs into others’ ‘freedom’ is real in the case of medical intervention. Given this, it makes sense to do the simple things on a cost-benefit analysis, while there are certainly absurd things we could do (broccoli) to deal with this. If manufacturing airbags and seatbelts are deemed to be on the simple side, wearing and using them is even more so.

                  Medicine is already too expensive, so we have to be opportunistic here (reasonably).

                  • I think it has been assumed that I am against seatbelts.

                    I am not against seatbelts. I believe that they should be available to use and safe to use. I think it is a good idea to use them. But I believe people should use them of their own free will. I don’t believe the cost/benefit is clear enough to merit a law. As stated previously, seatbelts do save lives, but at times the injuries are still so severe that the life saved is a life lived in misery and pain. It is also true that seatbelts take lives. I know someone who was thrown from their vehicle before it was flattened. If he had been in the car belted in he would have been killed. We will just have to agree to disagree. But thank you for your thoughts.

                    • The statistics are clear and compelling

                      You may be right that seatbelts and helmets trade death for a lifetime with debilitating injuries. Commenting on public policy regarding that trade-off (death/disabilities) is above my pay-grade.

                      The thrown-from-the-car-and-saved argument is a dangerous and utterly false rumor that is utterly destroyed by statistics on actual crashes (emphasis mine):

                      Ejection from the vehicle is one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash. In fatal crashes in 2006, 75 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. Seat belts are effective in preventing total ejections: only 1 percent of the occupants reported to have been using restraints were total ejected, compared with 31 percent of the unrestrained occupants.

                      As David is fond of reminding us, you are not allowed to have your own facts. The fact is that [e]jection from the vehicle is one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash. The fact is that seatbelt and helmet legislation saves money — your own and mine — and lives.

                      If you choose to value your individual freedom above the impact on my wallet, that is certainly your right. When you oppose seatbelt and helmet legislation, that is the value system you assert.

                    • I am certain that I could pick a part those stats and come up with

                      a valid argument against the seat belt law. I have no time to make such a case to a brick wall. But thanks for enlightening me on the fact that Democrats are actually very much for restrictive freedom robbing laws that look good on paper but really have little value. I sort of have been getting that lately, but hoped that is wasn’t true.

                    • "To a brick wall"

                      We like you, too.

                    • What?

                      Are you now in “I’ve already made up my mind, so don’t confuse me with the facts” mode?

                      You refuse to address the well-documented and very real statistics of what happens to people who don’t wear seat belts. You offer an anecdotal example that flies in the face of decades of statistics and experience (I know someone who smoked two and half packs a day and lived happily until 98, so cigarettes don’t cause cancer). You simply refuse to consider the factual data that pertains to the issue YOU brought up — and then complain that I’m being “brick wall”?

                      Uh huh. Whatever.

                    • You're not reading

                      The argument has been about whether they should be mandatory or not. We get that you just love, love, love your own personal seat belts.

              • "it IS NOT POSSIBLE to “opt out” of receiving expensive health care after a serious injury."

                That’s true. When I crashed my bike into a car a couple years ago, I went to the hospital for an x-ray of my elbow, and I left with a heart transplant, a birth control prescription, a gym membership, an abortion, and a sex change operation.

                • Absurd, of course...

                  … but lets say there is a serious point behind the comment. The point you’re highlighting is a non-sequitur because you’re highlighting a completely different problem than what is discussed here.

« Blue Mass Group Front Page

Add Your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Tue 25 Apr 8:15 PM