Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some actual text and analysis by me

To go with that last video. I think it is great that Obama is finally hitting back against McCain on the economy, and pointing out the position of economic privilege that McCain holds, and connecting that to his lousy, benefit the rich and screw everybody else policies. Its smart economic populism and I hope it will go far.

That said, charges of "elitism" always seem to stick more to Democrats than to Republicans, don't they... I'd like to advance a theory as to why.

Maybe its about gender.

The McCain campaign hit back against Obama's remarks by calling him "someone who worries about the price of Arugula" and thus is more "out of touch with ordinary Americans" than his fellow millionaire, John McCain.

I think that says something about how Republicans craft their message on "elitism" and what cultural codes they depend on it activating. I think they are trying to cash in on a long tradition of depicting the upper-class as effeminate - and therefore weak - and the working-class as strong, robust, and masculine. Arugula is expensive, sure, but more importantly it is a salad green - very fem. Rich folks who eat that stuff, like those who spend their money on haircuts (John Edwards) windsurf rigs (John Kerry) hybrid cars (Al Gore) or chardonnay (liberals in general) are effeminate, possibly gay, and therefore disgusting. Rich folks who buy prime steaks, massive SUVs, toy cattle ranches, and sports cars are just ordinary (macho straight) Americans.

One hopes this sort of blatant manipulation of prejudice has a limit, and that the electorate will not respond to it forever. Especially since the policies it enables are now so clearly screwing over the vast majority of the country. Sadly, history would seem to suggest that may not be necessarily so.

4 comments:

cscannella said...

Well, seeing that McCain's response actually mentions the word "arugula," I think you're exactly right.

Republican attacks on elitism are absolutely code for gay. It's "dog whistle politics."

Link:

http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/08/mccain_camp_responds_on_houses.php

Andy said...

Yeah, I would make only one small clarification. While I sort of conflated the two myself in my post, I think this is more about gender than sexuality. That is, while many may associate a man acting "femme" with his being gay (though of course the two aren't really linked) I think that depicting someone as feminine implies they are weak in our political culture, even if we don't imply they are gay. Hence the difficulties faced by women running for office.

The whole thing seems, to me, to be a sort of "psychological wage" for the male working class. Telling them they are stronger and more macho than the "elite," valorizing them and bringing them into the very system that exploits their labor.

cscannella said...

Good point. The valorizing bit is really the GOP playbook in a nutshell. I'm amazed the traction that the "tax cuts" rhetoric gets...

I laugh every time the GOP says their looking out for working people, but, to a large extent, the rhetoric works.

kelly said...

And now that the GOP has their VP candidate, and she's a fishin', huntin' hockey mom, it seems you might be correct.

The democrats do have a lot of self righteous vegetarian whiners wandering around... not that all vegetarians are whiners; some are very nice. But there is a sub-group that likes to give me funny looks when I'm eating a delicious steak. We need to kick them out. I won't make fun of their tofurkey if they keep away from my brisket. Anyway, it doesn't exactly endear love from the common folk. I didn't even know what arugula was until this all started. The repubs might be playing to the common culture as a gimmick... but... uh, isn't the democratic party supposed to be for the common people? Then why not get a bit more in touch with them?