[This article is the third in a series on Elitism, Conservatives and Progressives.]
In this discussion of elitism, and how it plays out in progressive and conservative politics, identity politics is central with the identities dividing into cultural (e.g., religion) and biological factors (e.g., sex). In the real world they don’t separate out so neatly as cultural characteristics often follow biological characteristics but here I look at a topical biological division, race, and how it has been playing out in the Democratic primaries. It seems to be leading to some confusion among progressives and conservatives alike.
Most of the important issues are well represented in this JED Report article, Pat Buchanan’s Racial Paranoia Meltdown. You see Pat Buchanan’s past comments illustrating some highly specious logic and extreme insensitivity to the challenges that have faced African Americans, and in the video of Buchanan’s discussion with Chris Matthews a similar inability to grasp the obstacles that Obama has faced because of his racial mix is on view. Buchanan seems entirely unable to grasp that Obama may have been successful because he has run a brilliant campaign, has caught the mood of the times, and is a very skillful politician (in the best sense). Buchanan is right that Obama has made excellent use of his unique selling points, including his race, to sell himself, but all skillful politicians do this (and his opponent is no exception).
All that said, Buchanan makes some good points about the fact that the post-racial reality hasn’t arrived, that certain electorates can vote for Obama for reasons of race without being accused of racism, yet when the West Virginians vote for Clinton for the same reason they get dismissed by progressives as racist. Jim Web explains the point very well in a later interview with Buchanan.
… when I hear people say this is racism, my back gets up a little bit because that’s my cultural group. This isn’t Selma, 1965. This is the result of how affirmative action which was basically a justifiable concept when it applied to African-Americans expanded to every single ethnic group in America that was not white.
The Appalachians that have been resisting Obama have been trashed by progressives (not a new development) are under-privileged and have been neglected. It is no wonder that they are pissed, and no wonder the Republicans can easily exploit this. [That Hillary Clinton can exploit this is, well, extraordinary—see Jonathan Chait’s article.]
All disadvantaged groups should be treated sensitively by highly-educated elites (of whatever political persuasion). The liberal scorn of the Appalachians that have turned away from Obama looks indefensible and ugly.