Mudcat’s Advice And The Persistence of Anti-Elitism

Earlier today I mocked a statement from Karl Rove which suggests that Rove might have lost his touch. Steve Benen had a similar view–as did much of the liberal bloosphere as the fault in Rove’s comments were so obvious. Steve also had an earlier post which showed that bad advice does not only come from the right. He quoted Dave “Mudcat” Saunders from an article for The Weekly Standard:

When I contacted Mudcat, he was in a state of blood-spitting agitation at all the Poindexter reporters trafficking in stereotypes, depicting mountain people as racist mouth-breathers, while explaining Obama’s “Appalachian problem” as if they were anthropologists dropping in on the lip-plated savages of America’s last exotic tribe. […]

[A]s he once told a woman who stood up after a speech he gave to a Democratic audience to say he made compelling points, but they’d be more effective without the swearing, “Lady, there’s nothing I can do about it. Because if you’d seen what I’ve seen from elitist Democrats, you’d swear too.”

He’s speaking of the breed of mostly Northeastern elitist liberal that he encounters even on his own campaigns: condescending, green around the gills from consuming too much arugula, with overdeveloped thumbs from clacking nonstop on their Blackberries, all of whom jealously guard their titles such as “deputy campaign manager of the coffee pot.” He calls them “the Harvards” (a term pinched from LBJ), though in fairness he stipulates that “there’s a lot of jerks that went to other places too.”

I hoped that we had heard the last from Mudcat when Edwards left the race and would see the end of one group of Democrats attacking another as elitists when the Clinton campaign folded. That’s one right wing talking point which the Clinton backers certainly helped to keep alive. I see the tendency for some liberals to see having an education or being successful as something to be defensive about to be comparable to the tendency of some Democrats to be defensive about being called liberal. (Not surprisingly, both the nonsense on elitism and a backtrack on liberalism did come from the same camp.)

Steve responded well to Mudcat:

I see. So Mudcat thinks the problem with the Democratic establishment is that DC-types look at “Bubba” with an anthropologist’s eye. Mudcat looks at the Democratic establishment as over-educated, arugula-eating elitists obsessed with their Blackberries. He went on to argue that Dems should invest less energy in pursuing the “liberal pinko commie” vote.

Remind me, who’s engaging in cheap stereotypes? Who disdains some Americans’ culture? Who’s the anthropologist?

At The Plank, Isaac Chotnier commented:

One wonders whether Mudcat has ever encountered Republican campaign staffers, who also tend to have Blackberries, jealously guard their titles, and even (gasp!) complain about food on the campaign trail.

And this was before Rove’s attack on Obama based upon the assumption that people categorize others based upon the types of people they see standing around at country clubs drinking martinis.

Steve went on to quote further from Mudcat, including a claim that rural voters will only hear the first four words of an argument. Steve responded:

Really? This is Mudcat’s argument? Candidates should respect Bubba’s intelligence, but they should intentionally dumb down their rhetoric because he’ll only listen to the first four words of a five-word phrase?

As Isaac Chotiner noted, “Now just imagine for a moment that Howard Dean had said this. The clear implication is that ‘Bubba’ is, er, not smart enough to understand more than the first four words. Or that ‘Bubba’ does not have the capability to focus on more than four words. Either Saunders is being condescending, or he is revealing something about his beloved ‘Bubba Voter’ that proves the argument he believes elitist Democrats are making.”

After all nonsense on elitism, and now seeing Mudcat’s advice, I prefer to recall Jon Stewart’s take:

You know, I hear what you’re all saying, but doesn’t elite mean GOOD? Is that not something we’re looking for in a candidate anymore?.. I know ‘elite’ is a bad word in politics, and you wanna go bowling and throw back a few beers, but the job you’re applying for, if you get it and it goes well, they might carve your head into a mountain. If you don’t actually think you’re better than us, then what the FUCK do you think you’re doing [running for president]… In fact, not only do I want an elite president, but I want someone who is embarrassingly superior to me. I want somebody who speaks 16 languages…

Perhaps Mudcat and Rove should join together as the new James Carville/Mary Matalin team. In this case they can provide out of touch advice from the left and the right.

Dobson Accuses Obama of Distorting the Bible

Barack Obama has had some success in reaching out to compete for the evangelical vote. While he might receive the support from some religious voters who do not follow the political agenda of the religious right, the far right is certain to oppose him. James Dobson plans to attack Obama with accusations of “distorting” the bible. AP reports that this attack will air on Dobson’s  Focus on the Family radio program on Tuesday. Dobson criticizes Obama over a speech given in 2006 where he referred to his difference in approach to religion with Dobson:

“Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” Obama said. “Would we go with James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s?” referring to the civil rights leader.

Obama has often included reference to religion in his speeches, but has made clear his belief in separation of church and state. Their differences are actually over matters far more significant than their interpretations of the bible, which would not be of significance in a political campaign if not for the problem that the religious right also desires to impose their view of the bible upon others.  Dobson objects to beliefs on religion and public policy similar to those Obama expressed during a debate last year:

But what I also think is that we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy’s functioning, will continue to function. That’s what the founding fathers intended.

While Dobson objects to Obama’s views on religion on public policy, he has also stated he will not vote for John McCain. After being spoiled by the Bush year, only a full blown theocrat is now acceptable to him.

Update: In writing the above I initially used a statement from Obama which illustrates the views which Dobson is attacking. I’ve have since dug up and quoted from his actual speech from 2006 which Dobson is referring to.

Obama and Libertarian Paternalism

Obama has been called a left-libertarian by some. While this is a little bit of a stretch, there is certainly a tremendous difference between him and the nanny-state views of Hillary Clinton and some other Democrats. George Will hopes that Obama is being influenced by the ” “libertarian paternalism” philosphy of two of his advisers from the University of Chicago, Robert Thaler and Cass Sunstein:

Beginning this autumn, Sunstein, while retaining a connection with Chicago, will teach primarily at Harvard, an act of downward mobility that illustrates a central tenet of “Nudge,” that even intelligent and analytical people often make foolish choices. Thaler and Sunstein correctly assume that people are busy, their lives are increasingly complicated and they have neither time nor inclination nor, often, the ability to think through even all important choices, from health care plans to retirement options. Therefore the framing of choices matters, particularly using the enormous power of the default option—the option that goes into effect if the chooser chooses not to make a choice.

For example, Obama advocates that where defined contribution savings plans such as 401(k)s are offered, there should be automatic—note well: not mandatory—enrollment by employers of new workers. Contributions to such plans are tax deductible, taxes are deferred on the accumulating money and often employers match part of the employees’ contributions. What is at stake is, essentially, free money. Yet when an employee must affirmatively opt in, participation falls far below 100 percent. Obama’s proposal would simply change the default option: Employees are in unless they choose to opt out, which they would be free to do.

Will later gives this definition of a nudge:

By a “nudge” Thaler and Sunstein mean a policy intervention into choice architecture that is easy and inexpensive to avoid and that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing an individual’s economic incentives. “Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

He concludes with comments on the libertarian aspects of this view:

Thaler and Sunstein say the premise of libertarian policy is that people should be generally free to do what they please. Paternalistic policy “tries to influence choices in a way that will make choosers better off, as judged by themselves.” So “libertarian paternalism is a relatively weak, soft, and nonintrusive type of paternalism because choices are not blocked, fenced off, or significantly burdened.”

Thaler and Sunstein stress that if “incentives and nudges replace requirements and bans, government will be both smaller and more modest.” So nudges have the additional virtue of annoying those busybody, nanny-state liberals who, as the saying goes, do not care what people do as long as it is compulsory.

Country Club Metaphors

Sometimes the response from the left to a comment from Karl Rove is disgust. Sometimes (although far less often now than in the past) the response is begrudged respect for his skills. Today the response is well-deserved derision. Political Punch reports this latest attack on Obama from Rove:

ABC News’ Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning,  former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as “coolly arrogant.”

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy,” Rove said, per Christianne Klein. “He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”

This hardly seems like the type of attack to help John McCain with his efforts to attract working class voters. When the first example to come to Karl Rove’s mind is a scene of someone holding a martini at the country club, Rove is showing how much different he and the members of his party are from the working class voters they wish to attract. Besides, George Bush seems to fit this profile much better, right down to the smirk.

Jake Tapper sees some problems with putting Obama in this role at the country club, and questions who Karl Rove would be:

Interesting that Mr. Rove would use a country club metaphor to describe the first major party African-American presidential candidate, whom I’m sure wouldn’t be admitted into many country clubs that members of the Capitol Hill Club frequent.

But the picture Rove paints is interesting. Who, pray tell, is Rove at this country club?

The guy telling funny stories near the band?

The charming president of the club’s philanthropic arm?

The brainy guy with all the sports scores?

Or the guy who vandalizes your car and blames it on the kitchen staff?

I’d call him the guy who vandalizes the country–along with the smirking guy who is making the snide remarks.

Ralph Nader Continues To Help Republicans

Ralph Nader, the man who helped give us George Bush in 2000, continues his efforts to help Republicans. He is now attacking Barack Obama, not John McCain:

Ralph Nader’s campaign sent an e-mail to supporters Friday that paints Obama as too close to big business and special interests. “Ralph Nader stands for shifting the power from the big corporations back to the people. Period. Full stop. End of story,” writes the Nader campaign. “Contrast that with Senator Obama.”

The message highlights what it says are changes in the Illinois senator’s positions on public spending limits, NAFTA and economic populism, and says that Obama has surrounded himself with “veterans of the military industrial complex status quo.” It does not mention his Republican counterpart, John McCain.

Ralph Nader’s political strategy has long appeared to be directed more at hurting Democrats such as Al Gore and John Kerry. For example, he has concentrated on swing states where he could tilt the election to the Republicans, as he did in Florida in 2000.

George Carlin Dies at 71


George Carlin has died at age 71. The most appropriate triube to Carlin would seem to be a recitation of the seven filthy words which could not be spoken on television–but which can be included in a blog. Carlin discusses these filthy words in the video above.

Update: The New York Times has a lengthy obituary this morning.