More than anything else in the political battlefield, I value consistency of message. If someone’s going to espouse a given doctrine, they’d better have an over-arching theory that forms the basis for everything under it, or else conflicts pop up and as soon as that happens, well, that indicates that the person really doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
I try to apply this to myself as well. If I’m going to side with a decision by some artist to make an exhibit that exists solely to piss off Christians, I can’t turn around and say this other guy shouldn’t be pissing off Muslims. I can’t say “better safe than sorry” on global warming but not terrorism defense unless I have a damn good reason for it. I don’t always succeed, but hey. We’re all sinners, yeah?
Anyway, I found myself ruminating on this whole notion of hypocrisy and singularity of vision as it applies to (surprise) people I don’t agree with. What I discovered was a series of seeming conflicts and inconsistencies that, when dug into, turned out to have a pretty damn steady, if problematic, message.
See, there are words bandied about like “elitist” that have become so indelibly associated with the left that you can almost hear the word “liberal” attached to them without it being said. From a psychological standpoint, accusing someone of something creates the implied message that the accuser himself is not that. If I stand on a street corner railing against sinners, the secondary statement is that I’m sin-free. If I call you a cheater, obviously I’m on the straight and narrow.
It’s tough to see that as mixing well with what else we know about the modern conservative movement. Poor people are poor because they’re lazy. The rich are rich because they work hard. If you don’t believe in God you’re a bad person. Gays are second-class. Non-Americans don’t deserve any of the things Americans take for granted. People from coastal areas and metropolises aren’t really Americans, they don’t understand “real” America. The list goes on.
Strangely enough, that doesn’t apply to education. People with college degrees are “eggheads” who’ve “lost touch” with real Americans. Obama was famously derided on the campaign trail as some effete Ivy League liberal who had no idea what was going on anywhere else, and McCain’s absolute failure in academia was heralded as… something. I never got that part.
To see what the message is, dig into who’s saying it and likely why. The singular strand through all of that is that I, as a straight white Christian from “real America”, am just inherently better than everyone else, regardless of my lack of a high school diploma. It’s not white supremacy, it’s deeper than that. People who aren’t from my little tribe are just not as valued as human beings.
Education is a roadblock because, hey, no one wants to feel stupid. So the uneducated latch onto the notion that education isn’t just unnecessary, it’s downright bad! There’s a reason Hannity/Rush/Beck are teabag heroes: they have no higher education. That’s not a coincidence. They easily sit up on their pedestals howling about liberal universities brainwashing kids, tapping right into that insecurity. No no, they say, not only don’t you need an education to do well, if you go to college you’ll be indoctrinated into the gaybortionterrorist lifestyle!
Now you might wonder how the idea of success can work with this, because a lot of these guys are poor themselves. I’ve thought about that. The simple answer is that it’s not hard to believe that all that’s stopping you from being a millionaire is going out and doing it; saying “well I’m an idiot who doesn’t know a bull market from a bull moose and never finished school” requires a lot more fortitude.
Plus, hey, you can always say that the liberals are handing jobs out to the blacks.