Back in the '50s and '60s in the U.S., it used to be popular for "regular folks" (and conservatives from Southern and Midwestern and Western states) to sling around charges of being an "ivory tower intellectual" at, say, presidential candidates like Adlai Stevenson, or powerful East Coast media sources like the New York Times that were perceived to be "snooty" or out-of-touch with common-sense realities. Nowadays, the "ivory tower" moniker has been replaced with the simpler "elitist." Still flung at candidates (Obama) and the Times.
It's a defensive, insecure charge, admittedly. (Trying to denigrate something that, while it may indeed be "hoity-toity," is also still obviously of quality.) Yet this name-calling came about of necessity---the nationwide media really was, as it still is (though less-so, thanks to the Internet), centered in the Northeast, and it really was, and is, run primarily by men who had attended Ivy League schools and who all tended to have a certain mind-set about how things should be run, and who looked down on "lesser educated" folk from other "backward" (i.e., "non-Northeastern") parts of the country. Who wouldn't be offended by being so sneered at and belittled? Who wouldn't fight back? (Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, to name a few politicians. Though the "fighting back" didn't reach its apotheosis of skill until the Reagan-era.)
As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've always voted Democrat since I first was old enough to vote (1984). As a teen and college student, I always mocked those who mocked the "ivory tower intellectuals" as being, yes... "backward." As a kid not yet out in the world, their charges of "elitism" and "bias" seemed ludicrous, nothing but noise made by those who felt inferior.
However, this fall cycle of the 2008 election has made me re-think my earlier dismissal of those who criticized the "elite" for their bias. Since Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's running mate, the media first tried desperately to find mis-deeds during her term as Alaska governor. All they could come up with was "Trooper-gate"---Palin allegedly trying to fire her ex-brother-in-law because he'd tasered his 11-year-old stepson, illegally shot a moose, drank on the job, and threatened to shoot his father-in-law in the head.
When the idiotic "Trooper-gate" didn't pan out, the onslaught of the "elite" media attention quickly turned to idiotic things like: (1) Palin didn't go to "elite" schools like Obama did; and (2) Palin didn't even get a passport until last year. (Implying, "What a rube!")
Katie Couric, in an interview this week on CBS, asked Palin directly about the passport question, wondering if Palin didn't even "feel some curiosity about other cultures." Palin's simple response struck a chord with me: She said that, while she would have liked to have travelled to other countries as a youth, she just never had the money to do so, nor did her family have the money to let her do so. (And, as she got older, she had a family to take care of.)
I personally have a current passport, so this ridiculous "charge" could not be levelled against me. But I have a passport because my mother is German, and I'm a dual citizen of Germany and the U.S. (The four times I've been to Germany have been because my mother paid for it.) If it weren't for that, I would be exactly in Sarah Palin's position of having to defend myself against charges of "not feeling any curiosity about other cultures" (regardless of how much curiosity I actually felt) just because I'd been too poor for most of my life to be able to afford a summer, or a vacation, in Europe.
For the media to make constant snide comments about Palin's lack of travel was, indeed, an example of "elitism" and snobbery at its very worst. (Reminding me, also, of my one college interview---In the spring of my senior year, I'd already been accepted at UT-Austin; the only other school I'd applied to was Yale. At the Yale interview at an alumnus's office in Fort Worth (I can't remember the man's face, but I remember the incredibly thick carpets in his office), the rich businessman asked me where I'd "vacationed summers" during my high school years... "Um, I've been working at K-Mart the last two summers to earn money for college." Ouch! Obviously not Yale material! ;p
As for Palin's "crap state schools": As a graduate of one of the top universities in the world (#32 by this ranking, and ranked 15th by the London Times), I'm darn proud of UT, yet I also know that I just went there because I was a smart Texas local, and UT made it relatively cheap for smart locals to go to school there. Palin grew up in Alaska, tried out Hawaii and Idaho schools, finally graduating from Idaho State, I think. Did she not go on to an "elite" school like Columbia because she wasn't smart? Probably not the reason. She probably wasn't able to go to such schools because her grandparents didn't pay her way to an expensive liberal arts "starter school" (like Obama's grandparents paid for his Occidental College education). Nor was she eligible for any race-based admissions to schools such as Columbia. (Obama himself said that his grades at Occidental weren't good. How, then, did he ever get admitted to Columbia?)
I think denigrating Palin for what schools she went to, or the status of her passport, are completely ludicrous, and desperate, criteria. The "ivory tower intellectuals" have learned to bitch-and-moan with their "lesser" citizens.
And a final note about the complete bias against Palin in the media: This week, Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden claimed on the CBS Evening News, re the financial crisis: "When the stock market crashed, FDR got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" Only trouble is: (1) The stock market last crashed in 1929---when Herbert Hoover, not FDR, was President. (2) Television didn't make an appearance until 1939.
I saw two snippets in papers about Biden's stupid comments. Imagine what a huge blow-up it would have been if Palin had said such a dumb thing.