The Hypocrisy of Political Leaders Crying “Elitist!”

Too many politicians pretend they’re not part of the elite. They are the elite shaming the elite.

A trend among conservative leaders seems to be to declare that they are simpletons and that the elites are ruining the country. While I may not completely disagree with the former assertion in some cases, the second half of the statement is absurd because of where it is coming from.

Let’s take, for example, three statements made recently by conservative leaders:

“[T]he Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between.”

— Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said after the recent gay marriage ruling.

“Everybody wants to be politically correct, everybody wants to be loved by the media and loved by the left and loved by the elitists … But, you know, I know I’m not going to be, so let’s just get it over with.”

— Republican presidential nominee and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said after some controversial comments about the transgender population.

“You’ve got nine lawyers, they are all from Harvard or Yale — there are no Protestants on the court, there are no evangelicals on the court.”

— Republican presidential nominee and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz said after the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling.

That last one kills me, considering Ted Cruz is a lawyer who attended Harvard. And that’s why these statements are so ridiculous. Here are three men at the top of the food chain, who are pampered by those who want influence over them, who have indulged in the most decadent of America’s offerings and who are pretending to be blue collar hog farmers.

Now, yes, some of these men did grow up in a partially working class environment. Scalia was born in New Jersey to a professor and an elementary school teacher. He went to high school in Manhattan. You’ll notice he’s not the Supreme Court justice who really understands the “vast expanse” between the two coasts. He then went to college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and Harvard Law School.

Mike Huckabee grew up in Arkansas. His father was a fireman and mechanic, and his mother was a clerk. He actually had a pretty simple life in the beginning, but a lot has changed since then. Huckabee became a governor over 20 years ago, in 1993, and he’s been involved in national politics ever since. He had his own show on the Fox News Channel, and he hangs out with celebrities like Chuck Norris and Ted Nugent. This is hardly a man who is concerned with how he’s going to put food on the table.

Ted Cruz, of them all, grew up in a well-off family. He was born in Canada to two parents who worked in the oil industry, he went to a Christian private school and then attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Followed by that, he’s done national politics, including working for George W. Bush, and he’s worked as a corporate lawyer. Again, someone who’s not exactly in touch with what it’s like to work at Walmart or a 7-Eleven.

And this is the myth that this kind of conservative leader loves to perpetuate. First of all, they love the idea that you will see them as someone who just gets the “hard working Americans,” as they say, while they bust up workers unions and fight against raising the minimum wage. They love to say they’re working for the middle class, while they push for tax cuts that only serve the top earners in the nation. This is not to say there are not many liberal politicians who benefit from corporate influence, because there are, but at least they are less likely to pick up a shovel and pretend they did something at a farm during a photo shoot and then appear on television to call everyone else elitist. When these conservative bash the “elites” in Washington that they are associated with, it is the elite shaming the elite.

This kind of rhetoric assumes that just because someone doesn’t actively portray the image of a simple American from the South or the Midwest that they don’t care about those people, which is simply not true. As someone who’s never lived in either of those regions, I can say I personally care about the welfare of the underprivileged in those areas quite a lot, and I know there are many like me. Many of the politicians fighting the hardest for the non-elite in the middle of the country are from New England and the West Coast. And finally, acting as if it’s some kind of treason to go to one of the finest universities in the country, something created by hard working Americans who valued their exceptional educational institutions, is not only disingenuous, it’s offensive.

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