Elitism our misunderstood ism

During this campaign I have noticed the term elitist being thrown around, but it seems no one seems to quite have a grasp on what elitism is. For example, at the RNC we heard Barack Obama being called an elitist, however I have not heard one example of how he is so. By all measure of his policies he is a populist.

After listening for a while I realized what was going on, they would state he was an elitist and then cite examples of how he is elite. The public seems to think that being elite and being an elitist are the same thing. Being elite simply means that one is on the top of the social or economic strata (often useful when running for president). Elitism is the belief that the elite are better, deserve more, or are better qualified.

One can be an elite with out being an elitist, and one can be an elitist without being elite. We have seen many times an elite individual who was far more concerned about the plight of the disadvantaged; Princess Di, Bono, Jimmy Carter, etc.

There are times when all of us are elitist, and its usually a good thing. When we are sick we see a doctor instead of someone who passed health class in high school, that is elitism. When we invest time in money in celebrities, that is elitism. When we elect a graduate of both Yale and Harvard such as Dub-ya, that is elitism (and shows its not always a good thing).

Speaking of Bush, we can see further confusion too. When he rides on a tractor, wears a cowboy hat and cuts taxes for the very wealthy, that’s still elitism.


4 Responses to “Elitism our misunderstood ism”

  1. Well put!
    I was trying to get across this exact sentiment to a friend of mine today, and you did a MUCH better job at explaining it than I did. Will definitely borrow a couple of those examples from you next time I talk to him. 🙂

  2. Great way of expressing it. I’ve been pondering the same point for a while and came to the same conclusion.
    However, I don’t think most people know, or care, about the meaning of the word. If you injected any word – ichthyologist, altruist, philatelist, philanthropist, – with enough disdain, people would follow like sheep and express the same mistrust and disrespect.

  3. I really enjoyed the Onion piece on elitism. Sad that the most informative news these days is political satire. Check it out and keep blogging. And – if you’d like to write a piece on the secular vote on our blog – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

  4. Nicely put, and a necessary thing to say these days. Bravo!

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