Friday, October 14, 2005

Credentialism, Elitism, and Schism in The Post-Harriet Miers Era

First, a worthwhile legacy media analysis, then a thoughtful e-mail from a reader.

1. William Powers at National Journal comments on "credentialism," partly in government but especially in journalism. He describes an interesting struggle between old school MSM types and new media. It's an interesting read. (HT: Real Clear Politics today.)

2. My reader Duane Truitt sent me these thoughts via e-mail, which I am sharing with his permission:

I wonder if you would consider the discussion that I initiated, regarding the - and what is growing more and more apparent to many of us non-elites in the flyover country that is not NY/Wash/CA - growing schism between the Republican Party elites and the rest of us "an argument amongst friends?" I didn't bring it up merely in order to castigate the elites, but rather, I raised the issue in order to start a dialogue that I believe is overdue ... between the elites of the Party and the movement, and its true grass roots "base" - both of whom (elites and grass roots) are necessary to a successful political movement and governing coalition.

If the perception continues to grow amongst the grass roots that the elites are out of touch with us, then support for the Party and the movement will surely wane, especially at the polls where it matters most. And for those elites who consider themselves to be big-C Conservatives more than big-R Party Members, the only hope the big-C's have to actually influence public policy rests solely within the Party. Otherwise they'll never have the majorities needed to get their conservative heroes elected.

Unfortunately, we are seeing far too much commentary amongst the elites that amounts to little more than threats to "stay home,” or even work actively against the Party or its current leader, Mr. Bush. They actually are working actively against his SCOTUS nominee, Ms. Miers, at this time. And if they carry out their veiled threats, it could put us into another one of those dreaded Clinton dark ages, for at least for 4 or even 8 years (by which point everything will be thoroughly mucked up and the reactionary cycle then begins yet again).

If the big-C elites would just stop and think logically and not emotionally and, truth be told, not petulantly, I think they'd see the big picture and use this opportunity to say to Mr. Bush (and to the rest of us), "OK ... you asked us to trust you, and because of what you have already done on our behalf, with other judicial nominees like Prior, Clement, Owen, and Brown, and with the War on Terror, and with the Bush Tax Cuts, we'll go with your judgment this time. You are not your father - we don't need to read your lips. But with the next SCOTUS nominee, we expect to see someone nominated out of our group of fine candidates."

If the Noonans, Ingrahams, Krauthammers, Kristols, et al., reacted in that way, the Coalition is preserved, the lib/dem's new "wedge issue" goes away, the President can get on to tending to the People's business (War on Terror, immigration reform, tax reform, spending reform, saving Social Security, etc. etc.) and the elitists would not appear so, well, "elitist" as they do now.

And like the very old saying goes, "You catch many more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”

Anyway, I think that we have begun this year to see the emergence of a very large metaphorical Gorilla in the room - this growing chasm between the elites and the rest of us - and nobody in the Conservative/Republican leadership or the conservative media within this room seems willing to acknowledge its presence. If we continue to ignore it, the Gorilla is going to hurt someone - probably all of us - eventually.

In that respect, and if the elites would wake up and act in the appropriate manner, the Miers debate could in fact be the best thing to happen to the Coalition since the re-election of GWB.

I think Duane is on to something. As an optimist by nature, I think movement conservatives and GOP regulars (and those are almost synonymous labels) will get past the Harriet Miers fiasco. For the first time, however, I am a little worried about what Hugh Hewitt calls the "Bos-Wash Axis of Elitism." (Hugh also touches on reader Duane's schism issue here.) Their apparent sense of entitlement and willingness to turn on their own are a worrisome combination.

Yes, dialogue among GOP regulars and movement conservatives will be important, provided the latter can let go of the idea that they already have all the answers.

UPDATE: Duane adds a few thoughts:

You know, I would like to see at least some acknowledgment in the Corner,
or on Laura Ingraham's show, or in Charles Krauthammer's columns, that the rank and file conservatives and party members out here don't necessarily see the world through the same lens that they look through. And that the rank-and-file's collective judgment is not necessarily less informed than theirs, but rather is tempered with different life considerations and priorities than what the elites' may have used to render their opinions.

A little elitest humility is in order, I think.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it from all the gnashing of teeth, that too many of the elitists on the Right have the same disease that is contagious on the Left; they think they speak for me and have the right and privilege to tell the President what he needs to do, or else. They actually expect him to follow their advice regardless of the consequences. Would I have liked to see a well known conservative nominee in the fight; yes. But, while I disagree with the President on many issues and policies, he has for 5 years followed through on the promises he has made during the campaigns; in particular concerning the judiciary. I now bypass most anti-Miers commentary. I’ve heard enough of that from the Democrats after Mr. Roberts nomination. 

Posted by A Reasin

Friday, October 14, 2005 6:20:00 PM  
Blogger bethtopaz said...

i like this!! this is what we need! there's nothing wrong with disagreement within a family. if it didn't happen, that would be a sign of an unhealthy family - a repressed family, but the difference between really healthy and normal is what this article expresses. thanks for posting it!

Posted by beth barnat

Friday, October 14, 2005 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I still don't quite understand this focus on the "Bos-Wash axis." Yes, the opinion columists and magazine staffs get more attention, but they are by no means the source of the objections to Miers from many people like me. When I turned on the news that Monday morning and learned that Bush had nominated Miers, I was unhappy. I didn't go to NRO or the Weekly Standard to any columnist to tell me what to think. I went to my blog and poured out my frustration.

And another thing--there are a lot of us who are religious conservatives who are mightily disappointed, not with the "elites" but with the President. I am worried about the impact of the conservative divide on the 06 elections, but I place the responsibility for that squarely on the President. 

Posted by Watchman

Saturday, October 15, 2005 2:11:00 AM  
Anonymous nash said...

The accusations of elitism are false. You only have to listen to the callers on the conservative talk shows and the comments on the conservative blogs to know that is broad disapproval with the Miers nomination.

Perhaps the "GOP regulars" such as yourself are the elitists, insisting that the "movement conservatives" shut up and get back with your party line.

All of the arguments you've presenting in the past few days have been less than convincing. You can't construct an argument to show that Miers has the same judicial philosophy as Thomas as opposed to Souter. So why should voters roll over and trust the President that has betrayed the people repeatedly (run away spending, cfr, assault weapons ban, prescription drug bill, support for affirmative action & illegal immigration, etc.) 

Posted by nash

Saturday, October 15, 2005 9:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miers isn't the problem; It's the process that got us Miers as a nominee. Republicans in the Big Tent can no longer live in denial of the reality of the Little Tent where the real decisions are made and the real power concentrated.

This is why Condi won't be president. She's a great example of the best of the Big Tent but, she has been raised up in Little Tent politics. There won't be another Bush style presidency. The Republican party would not survive intact. 

Posted by Max

Saturday, October 15, 2005 9:46:00 AM  
Blogger The Hedgehog said...

Nash, we're not saying that all opposition to Miers is elitist. We are saying that much of the opposition is driven and fomented and encouraged by a small elite group in the Washington conservative establishment. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Saturday, October 15, 2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

Your reader Duane ABSOLUTELY NAILS IT! 

Too many of our Right Wingers, most especially the N.E. elite variety, have become Right Whiners.

What we need are RIGHT WINNERS!
We'd all better wake up and work together on the many, many issues of agreement. Either that or we should get used to the sound of House Speaker Pelosi, and hearings on the latest extreme liberal judicial nominee by President Hillary Clinton.

Division, whether on principle, or by petulance is a LOSER, not just for us, but for the nation.


Posted by Mike's America

Saturday, October 15, 2005 6:48:00 PM  
Anonymous DL said...

The "elitist" label is nothing more than a poor attempt to degrade those arguments, and the people with whom you disagree.

First it was "elitists. then "sexist" then "disloyal" and next week when the Whitehouse parades out its "blitzkreig" of loyal jurists it will be "amatures" or "lack of expertese." The whitehouse and its supporter are acting like the liberals by name calling attacks against bon a fide criticism of Bush's pick.

There are far too many, historically, top quality conservatives in disagreement to just sluff them off as "elitists" or other such degrading name. How far must you stretch your imagination in order to believe "she is the best there is" or that "She's in the mode of Rhenquist and Scalia?" as promised.

Yes, there are many of us who are not blindly loyal to Bush when it is he, who commits infidelity to his own.
And now its gotten to the "threat stage".(read Professor Bainbridge) which implies that we are in need of a "marriage counseler or a divorce court, should that fail.

Loyalty and fidelity is a two-way street. The cause is far bigger than George. The cost will be destructive long after he's gone.

Posted by DL

Monday, October 17, 2005 6:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Elisin said...

Hedgehog, you reacted to the news that Miers had been nominated the same way we did; your early posts show it. It appears that Hewitt and some others have convinced you that the best thing to do now is to accept this and move on. I respect that, and I don't assume that you're just an easily led pawn following the lead of the Republican Party bigwigs.

Can you give us the same respect? I don't think that the best thing to do now is to accept this and support the President, and neither do a lot of others. If it wasn't for your blog and others like it, I wouldn't have any reason to believe that the base was split at all; my liberal friends unanimously think that Bush caved, and my conservative friends are all depressed.

You need to accept that this nomination has truly divided the conservative base, and that there are few if any paths from here that will reunite us. I know that if Miers' nomination is defeated, it will damage the President, the Republican party, and conservative causes. Do you know that if Miers succeeds, it will do the same? Because I firmly believe it will, as do many, many others. 

Posted by Elisin

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 3:53:00 PM  

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