In their battle to get GOP nominee and Surge-loving gaffe-machine John McCain installed in the White House, conservative thinkers obviously plan to spare no one: not their opponent's wife, not lovers of traditional fist bump greetings, not even returning G.I.'s seeking only a bright future in return for their service. Now, it seems that the GOP plans on raining down opprobrium on an entire neighborhood, specifically, Hyde Park in Chicago, where Senator Barack Obama resides. Well, at least one Hyde Parker, Wall Street Journal columnist and author Thomas Frank, who shot back this morning with a smart bomb of pushback. [hat tip: Alex Balk]
Frank traces the origin of the Hyde Park meme to this Washington Post article - which states, "Republicans plan to describe Obama as an elitist from the Hyde Park section of Chicago, where liberal professors mingle in an academic world that is alien to most working-class voters" - and notes the synergistic release of the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, featuring a cover story from Andrew Ferguson that depicts the Chicago neighborhood as, in Frank's words, "an island of upper-class daffiness - a neat trick, considering that Hyde Park's median household income is substantially lower than both the national and the Chicago median."
But most importantly, Frank exposes a truth about Hyde Park that Ferguson takes a certain amount of pain to downplay - the upper class twits who populate the neighborhood's elite are, by and large, a gang of wickedly out-of-touch conservative academics.
At first I thought this had to be a mistake. True, there is a clique of professors in Hyde Park who are "alien" to working-class interests, as I know from having lived there for 15 years. Those professors are conservatives, however: members of the University of Chicago's law and economics departments who have given that institution much of its world-wide fame.
Their hostility to the working class is not to be doubted. They have dreamed up ways to get the New Deal ruled unconstitutional. They have railed against labor unions and higher minimum wages while cheering lustily for Nafta and grotesque pay inequality. At this very moment, in that diabolical neighborhood of Hyde Park, the university is setting up a lavishly funded Milton Friedman Institute in order to better worship the greatest free-market evangelist of them all. (Fittingly, it will occupy what used to be the Chicago Theological Seminary.)
But these professors get a pass when Hyde Park's "academic world" comes under fire. These are intellectuals conservatives love; indeed, if the GOP ever was the "party of ideas," as many insist, those ideas pretty much came from Hyde Park.
Essentially, Ferguson is attempting to pawn off some "crude" alchemy as calculus: "Hyde Park (1) harbors a lot of academic types and (2) has a very liberal political tradition. Stereotype, meet cliché: Professors plus liberalism equals 'elitism.'"