Despite the fact that I am an anxiety-ridden caffeine-abusing history major, I consider myself to be a regular person. I do many regular person things. I watch South Park, work a couple minimum wage jobs on campus so I can afford to go here, and do not get enough sleep. I also hate many things which I thought bonded me more closely to my regular American compatriots.
I stopped reading the Left Behind series when I was in middle school because the anti-Semitic overtones of the book were too much. I do not watch NASCAR because I would rather eat an eco-friendly fluorescent light bulb then watch cars drive around a circle for hours. I do not watch Oprah because I believe her to be a complete idiot and hazardous to my health.
But I recently discovered that disliking these things somehow make me distant from “real Americans.” Apparently, I am part of a “new elite.” I read Charles Murray’s essay in The Washington Post entitled “The tea party warns of a New Elite. They’re right.” I celebrated my new title until I realized Murray was wielding the term elite like it was covered in both dog excrement and anchor baby vomit.
I was somewhat confused about my new status, however. I always considered myself to be a regular American. My family is solidly middle class. My mother raised me in the suburbs and my father raised me in the country so I managed to experience both urban and rural living. I, like roughly 20 percent of the population, am Catholic. But my refusal to apparently embrace certain cultural hallmarks of Americans renders me part of a population that just does not get what it’s like to be a regular person.
Fortunately, I need not bask in my “new elite” status for much longer as Murray’s comments are utterly ridiculous. The “new elite” that Murray references does not exist and he is yet another individual to engage in a straw man us vs. them argument. The “new elite” is a snobbish, highly educated, polo-wearing, city dwelling, atheist boogeyman that only exists within the dark recesses of his mind.
The real elite Murray should be evaluating consists of the people who champion the fact they are not part of the elite. Glenn Beck, who stated last month that, “On one side, we have the elites and the other side, we have the regular people,” and is quoted in Murray’s essay is worth tens of millions of dollars. (Being Satan’s official spokesperson pays well.) But because he listens to country music and knows evangelical Christians he is somehow more connected to regular American society then some college-educated person working for Teach for America in some poverty-stricken city who doesn’t.
Murray and others like him need to stop defying what it means to be part of regular America by reducing it to sharing a few similar cultural factors. Doing so simply enables people to discriminate against others without legitimate reason. Not listening to country music or talking about Pilates does not mean someone is automatically disconnected from regular American society or automatically part of an elite. All Beck Murray accomplish is creating a false narrative in which people like them are oppressed and need to rise up and fight their heathen liberal urbanite oppressors. Saying you’re oppressed when you are clearly not gets you both air time and a column. Lessons I will surely teach to my children.
Backlash leads to the election of people reacting against the imaginary elite. Because they are exactly that – imaginary – we end up with a regression on our hands, courtesy of politicians who claim to be more connected to society than those “elites in Washington.” While some candidates who championed their common status, like “I didn’t go to Yale Christine O’Donnel ,” lost, this does not mean such a regression did not occur.