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My Kind of Elitism

The debate over Harriet Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court has led her apologists to accuse her critics of being elitists. It appears some Republicans have gotten so used to scoring points with this accusation that — under pressure — they reverted to an argument that has previously worked. The first rule of politics is to attack the credibility of your attacker, so I’m not surprised the fragging has begun. But the problem is that the accusation is laughably false when directed toward conservatives.

Granted, when Republicans accuse liberals of being elitist, the charge has merit. The so-called "Blue States" are full of intellectuals who view conservatives as knuckle-dragging, ignorant, racist, religious zealots who live in "fly-over country." Visible Hollywood liberals such as Barbara Streisand have also helped buttress the very real perception that liberals are literally elitist.

But as George Will stated on ABC Sunday morning, the man conservatives revere more than perhaps anybody else is Ronald Reagan — a graduate of Eureka College. I would add that personally, I was greatly influenced by Rush Limbaugh (a college dropout). And let’s not forget all those religious "zealots" who really owe our political philosophy to the teachings of (gulp) a carpenter …

Not only is the "elitism" accusation laughably false, it is incredibly insulting to a movement that has prided itself on being almost anti-elitist — particularly because the charge is being made by people who vacation in a place called Kennebunkport, Maine or the Hamptons.

My dad was a prison guard. I worked my way through Shepherd College in West Virginia by working at an Amoco gas station, Il Forno Pizzeria, and Watson’s Restaurant (in Frederick, MD). Many movement conservatives come from a similar background. Our movement is inherently anti-intellectual and anti-elitist. We come from places like Frederick, Maryland, North Dakota and West Virginia, for crying out loud.

Our movement has gained credibility from intellectuals like William F. Buckley, who have proven that our ideas can compete — and win — in the academic world. Nevertheless, most conservatives joined the movement because they were inspired by a graduate of Eureka College, a College dropout, and a carpenter. If that’s elitism, then I plead guilty.

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Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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