What the G.O.P. is selling...is the pure politics of resentment; you’re supposed to vote Republican to stick it to an elite that thinks it’s better than you. Or to put it another way, the G.O.P. is still the party of Nixon.
One of the key insights in “Nixonland,” the new book by the historian Rick Perlstein, is that Nixon’s political strategy throughout his career was inspired by his college experience, in which he got himself elected student body president by exploiting his classmates’ resentment against the Franklins, the school’s elite social club. There’s a direct line from that student election to Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” and from there to the peculiar cult of personality that not long ago surrounded George W. Bush — a cult that celebrated his anti-intellectualism and made much of the supposed fact that the “misunderestimated” C-average student had proved himself smarter than all the fancy-pants experts.
And when Mr. Bush turned out not to be that smart after all, and his presidency crashed and burned, the angry right — the raging rajas of resentment? — became, if anything, even angrier. Humiliation will do that.
Judith Warner says something similar:
Republicans, very clearly, believe that real people are idiots. This disdain for their smarts shows up in the whole way they’ve cast this race now, turning a contest over economic and foreign policy into a culture war of the Real vs. the Elites. It’s a smoke and mirrors game aimed at diverting attention from the fact that the party’s tax policies have helped create an elite that’s more distant from “the people” than ever before. And from the fact that the party’s dogged allegiance to up-by-your-bootstraps individualism — an individualism exemplified by Palin, the frontierswoman who somehow has managed to “balance” five children and her political career with no need for support — is leading to a culture-wide crack-up.
It's amazing that at the convention of a party that is favored by the wealthiest elite in our nation, an audience full of what is almost certainly the country's elite-stockbrokers, financiers, CEOs, politicians, party activists and whatnot-can cheer at lines about Democrat elitism. It's infuriating to watch them turn what's best about our country into a line of attack so they can win elections, and then once they're in office prattle on about how people need to take "personal responsibility" for their lives and their choices while they're their drafting tax laws that would shield the inherited wealth of their "base." Obama did that, and he's about to be the next President of the United States, and that's an accomplishment that everyone should respect and admire whatever they think of his politics. We should all have such a "elitism" in us, but if the Republicans had their way we'd be nation of morons electing morons who are in turn led around by their noses by the elite who laugh at our stupidity in backrooms at the White House.