2008 was the year for the word "elitist." It was the battle cry of the Republican political machine, leading us to wonder when they became so populist. How dare they expect us to stand for the degradation of having our government fall into the hands of educated and rational people, er, in other words "Elitists!" At one time, being called elite was not an insult. It meant that you were the best, or the pick. Sometimes it was used to describe the conspicuously wealthy. Voltaire was an elitist. He believed that the general masses were far too undereducated and stupid to take the helm of governance. He felt that the business of governance needed to be guided by those whose education and experience gave them a cause as well as the tools for deep consideration of political philosophy. How many guys down at the docks have read Machiavelli, for example. Do you suppose that "Joe the Plumber" was familiar with Hegel and Locke? How many congressmen and senators do you suppose are familiar with them? Do you suppose it matters?
Yes. If you insert Jethro into a position of power alongside a well-read and thoughtful Machiavellian, and expect him to do anything other than become another pawn in the game of power brokering, you need to wake up. Coming at it from the other side, being a moron is not an indicator of honesty. Some of the most dishonest people I can think of came from humble beginnings and were never really educated. There's a reason we prefer to make nighttime ATM withdrawals in a nicer neighborhood.
In many ways, I consider myself a "populist." For example, I like the idea of socialized health care. (I'll approach that one in a different post.) I, however, hold no idealistic view about the abilities and motivations of the masses when it comes to wielding political power. Power corrupts. Sudden power when you've never had it corrupts absolutely. The world needs ditch-diggers too. Now if you want to have a conversation about why the ditch-digger can't have a house and a car and send his kid to college... But, I digress.
This year was a very big year in the history of the word "elitist." Its meaning was battered by politicians, reporters, and ultimately the general population. Its sound became a hiss emanating from the fearful and confused corners of middle America. "That man expects me to elevate my conversation above the level of Jerry Springer and Pat Robertson. - He must be an elitist, if he's not going to dummy-down everything he says to the third-grade level adopted by the nation's newspapers so that my undereducated ass can understand it." "She talks just like me, and apparently doesn't understand our system of government any better than I do. She must be for the people, because she's definitely of them. She's a populist in a $150,000 dress!"
So, to the word "elitist," I offer to you the thanks of our people for making yourself so abundantly available for use by everyone, and likewise let me offer the apologies of our people for the years it's going to take for you to have any meaning at all again. You've had your fifteen minutes of fame. Congratulations.