Op-Eds

professor at blackboard 1

See also:

Bush and the Texas-Two Step

Few things anger Democrats more than the verbal and cultural shortfalls of George W. Bush. Avid readers of the New York Times are outraged to find out he rarely takes a look at newspapers. Connoisseurs of French cuisine wince when they learn of Bush's preference for beef and (non-alcoholic) beer. From his cowboy swagger to his mispronunciation of "nuclear," President Bush has carefully cultivated an image of a simple fellow with straightforward values. For the reform-minded liberals who value education and high culture, "W" stands for witless.

What these limousine liberals miss is that anger against elites is often rooted in progressive principles. They shouldn't be upset at Bush for embracing the cultural values of ordinary Americans-Democrats should be kicking themselves for letting an Ivy-League educated pretty boy come across as a regular Joe.

How did this happen? I call it the Texas Two-Step: campaign like a populist and then govern like a robber baron.

Some liberals are upset because Bush professes a love for simple foods, like hotdogs and root beer. Instead of ridiculing Bush for not knowing much about fine wine and caviar, Democrats ought to ask what he spends all his money on.

Everyone knows Harvard and Yale are breeding grounds for our nation's elite. Flush with future lawyers, bankers and politicians, most working class kids can only dream of studying at these prestigious institutions. People are right to resent these wealthy, exclusive schools. Bush attended both, not as a result of hard work, but because of family connections.

Instead of attacking Bush for lacking in intellect, Democrats ought to point out his privileged background. The President is smart enough to know most people are turned off by elitism. He hides his expensive degrees behind an avalanche of carefully scripted down-to-earth mannerisms. Bush may not be able to finish long books, but progressives should instead whack him for attending schools that regular folks can't afford.

Sure, Sen. John Kerry is a son of privilege. He was born into wealth and then attended Yale. However, Kerry is at least true to his background. Bush claiming to be a regular guy is like a Lamborghini pretending to be a Ford pickup.

Some liberals are upset because Bush professes a love for simple foods, like hotdogs and root beer. Instead of ridiculing Bush for not knowing much about fine wine and caviar, Democrats ought to ask what he spends all his money on. After all, his bank account and the wealth of all his millionaire cabinet members could probably pay for the entire menu of Ritz-Carlton several times over.

Bush skillfully exploits populist sentiments and turns them into a general, unspecified anger at elitism. For example, many people resent the wealth and lifestyle of Hollywood superstars. The President has criticized Sen. John Kerry for being supported by West Coast liberals like Martin Sheen and Barbara Streisand. By associating Kerry with Hollywood, Bush turns resentment into anger at liberals.

Regular folks have good reason to resent Hollywood. Too often, the major networks are willing to put forth programming that glorifies sex and violence. There is nothing more progressive than opposing culture that denigrates women or cheapens the value of human life. And the President knows this.

And then, with the same breath he uses to attack Hollywood, Bush will deregulate the television industry to allow more of this unfiltered filth into our homes. Instead trying to defend shows like "Wife Swap," why don't Democrats hammer Bush for catering to media moguls responsible for dragging our culture through the mud?

Democrats would be wise to see the legitimacy in anti-elite emotions among the electorate. People aren't stupid-they know most political decisions are controlled by a few wealthy interests, to the exclusion of everyone else. Instead of ridiculing this distrust, the left ought to embrace it.

Ben Waxman is a student studying politics at Juniata College.