11/17/2010 11:04 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Much Is that Diploma in the Window?

In a not-so-recent diatribe, "The Unbearable Elitism of David Brooks," Pajamas Media's Andrew Ian Dodge writes such things as "Ultimately he (Brooks) believes that the tea party movement is only "against" and for nothing. If he attended, read, or watched anything from the tea party movement he would realize that they are for quite a few things. They are "for" the Constitution, the rule of law, the free market, limited government, and fiscal responsibility. In short, they are for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." He then follows that up with:

Yes, he (Brooks), like many on the far left, is claiming that the tea party movement is akin to the Nazi movement in the 1930s. Never mind the fact that the tea party movement makes perfectly clear that it strives to return to the values of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Because it is "popular" it must be populist and no better than the rabble that followed Hitler.

I'm not sure, but I'll go out on a limb and think that Brooks might bristle with the notion that he's one of those on the "far left" a statement itself that begs numerous questions; however, what I find most engaging is how the notion of elitism has entered the fabric of our political consciousness. If the "tea party" stands "for the Constitution, the rule of law, the free market, limited government, and fiscal responsibility" then I'm not sure he'd find much of an argument from the "elitists" for whom he has such apparent disdain. Certainly, one wouldn't find many elitists opposed to the Constitution and what the Declaration of Independence has to do with his argument only Dodge would know; however, there is a kind of "tea party" disdain for those who Dodge seems to classify as "elitists."

Oddly enough, the word itself comes from the French word meaning 'to choose,' and though it has several meanings, the one that seems to be used most often is a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence. For example, since the Republicans have won a majority in the house, by virtue of being chosen over the Democrats then, by definition, they've become, well, elitists. I'm not sure how Dodge is going to deal with that situation since what he (and others) mean by elitism is not really elitism, but snobbery based on position and education. I don't know what kind of education Dodge has had since it's nowhere to be found on his site, but if he, and others, are attempting to "snobbify" those who have advanced degrees or degrees from certain educational institutions, then they really need to avoid bringing into the discussion people like, well, Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton et al since those people were, by Dodge's standards, elitists.

So, let's try to get all this elitism stuff straight especially for those non-elitists. There's nothing necessarily classist about the word, except for the fact that some people, in the wake of the Juan Williams debacle, are screaming that NPR is "elitist." I mean Williams graduated Haverford College with a degree in philosophy (which some may think is an elitist major. You know, studying people like Wittgenstein and that ilk) and worked for such "elitist" newspapers as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Not sure why Mike Huckabee might have his pants in a twist about elitism since he graduated magna cum laude which is clearly an elitist distinction. Palin can scream elitism because, well, because she was a perpetual drop-out and has some kind of "elitistphobia." You know, anyone who went to some elitist university or achieved some kind of elitist distinction is ipso facto an elitist. You know, people like Gerald Ford (Michigan) or Dick Lugar (Rhodes Scholar from Dennison) or John McCain (US Naval Academy) or Ronald Reagan (Eureka College) or George W. Bush (Yale) or George H.W. Bush (Yale) or Richard Nixon (Whittier College/Duke) or Dwight Eisenhower (West Point) or Herbert Hoover (Stanford) or Calvin Coolidge (Amherst) or that elitist of all elitists, Theodore Roosevelt (Harvard College). For some reason, the Right seems to think that only people on the left are elitists presumably because all the Kennedys went to Harvard, but what seems to underlie all that elitism nonsense is something much more insidious.

Beginning with Reagan and throughout the 80s, the Republican mantra was "let's get rid of the Department of Education." Bush wanted to abolish it; Dole wanted to abolish it; the Republican Liberty Caucus passed a resolution to abolish it; Ron Paul (M.D. Duke, yet another elitist institution) ran on a platform to abolish it; the apple from the tree, Rand Paul (another Dukie) wants to abolish it; those intellectual giants, Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle wanted to abolish it, and probably every Tea Party member wants to abolish it. Just why they want and have wanted to abolish it, I have no idea other than the fact that it's seemingly a target in the quest to reduce the deficit and, presumably, to dumb down an educational system that really doesn't need anymore dumbing down. According to CIA World Factbook, the United States ranks anywhere from 22-33 in the areas of reading, math and science with Finland and Korea leading the way. Cold figures, indeed. The 2010 budget for the Department of Education is $68.6 billion which is only about a quarter of the Defense budget which is a staggering $283.3 billion! Given the fact that one B-2 bomber averages $2.13 billion per aircraft, one bomber is about three percent of the entire Department of Education budget. It's difficult to believe that by dismantling the Department of Education it would a) increase the United States world ranking in terms of overall reading, math and science and b) dramatically contribute to reducing the deficit. What it does serve to prove is that the Right seems to think education is related to elitism and elitism, like liberalism, has vile and pejorative connotations. Of course, Lincoln was both.