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Marshall Fine Headshot

Act like an elite! Vote progressive!

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I don't consider myself an intellectual. But, apparently, at least by the definition being touted by the right wing in this country, I must be one. If that means I'm one of the so-called elite, fine - though there's a distinct difference between being elite and being an elitist.

Still, I do have a website about film that I tout as "Movies for Smart People." Dumbing things down is an insidious force in today's society - and certainly no more insidious than in the election Nov. 2.

The right - particularly the Sarah Palin branch, whether it's the Tea Party, teabaggers or just plain lunatic fringe-types - have spent the past decade or so (and the past two years in particular) attacking the left for promoting elite values. The press is elite. Barack Obama is part of the left-wing elite.

And that's supposed to be a bad thing.

Which just goes to show you how deeply our language has been debased. Part of the very first definition offered for the word "elite" in Dictionary.com is: "the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons."

Yet the Tea Party would have you believe that there's something wrong with electing the best and the brightest. And they've certainly managed to nominate the worst and the most clueless. To a person, the Tea Party candidates seem to take pride in knowing as little as possible about as much as possible - and to lie about the rest of it.

Whether it's lies about taxes or the health plan or Social Security or the estate tax, the right has been particularly adept at spreading fear. As a character in an undeservedly little-seen Irish film from early this year, "A Film With Me In It," notes at one point, "It's not a lie - it's the new truth." Or, as William H. Macy, as a movie producer in David Mamet's "State and Main," observes, "It's not lie - it's a gift for fiction."

Well, here's the truth: this grass-roots revolution is funded by billionaires who have no interest in what the little people are interested in. But the little people feel so bad about having so little power that they allow themselves to be manipulated by the idea that they DO have power. They think they have the power to elect people just like them to office.

But here's the problem: I don't want someone just like me running the country - I want someone better and smarter than me. And certainly someone better and smarter than THEM. And while, as I said, I don't consider myself an intellectual, I do read a daily newspaper and a variety of news-source outlets online. Which, if I get this right, makes me one of the elite - because I actually seek out information, as opposed to swallowing whole whatever is shoveled into my living room from my TV set.

But the Tea Party and its followers count on the people who don't read - who want to be told what to think, who want to be told things they want to hear and don't listen to things they don't. These people don't want to have to think for themselves; they don't want to have to actually wrestle with ideas that are uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, the same civil rights that gave the vote to women and African-Americans also give that right to stupid people. They're going to the polls tomorrow. In huge numbers

The only thing you can do about it is to vote also. Yes, you're disillusioned by what seems like a limp performance by the Dems and Obama for the past two years. But if you read and think about these things, you know two things:

First, the Republicans have done nothing but obstruct and obfuscate. If they take power, which looks likely, they'll offer more of the same. And worse. Much worse.

Second, as many tonal miscues as Obama has made, he also took office at a point when the previous occupant had driven the country into the ground. It takes time to turn this thing around - despite our insatiable need for instant gratification.

Yet our collective amnesia - or, at least, Tea Party amnesia, Republican amnesia (and denial) - has us thinking that, wow, things were promised by Obama and they haven't been delivered - and it's been a whole two years. I want change now. And now. And now.

To which I'd politely offer: STFU.

So act like an elite - and vote for the smart people. Even if you have to hold your nose. As Bill Maher noted on his HBO show, there's a big difference between a disappointing friend - and your worst enemy. But that's who you'll be stuck with if you don't get off your ass and get to the polls.