"Gentry" vs "Yahoos" – UPDATED

My Tuesday column is up, and, jumping off this post by Glenn Reynolds it looks at the question of whether or not there is a “cultural elite” and what defines them.

Lately, the elitist notion has turned into a hardy grapple between the mainstream and alternative punditries. The mainstream, in a tacit admission that they are elitist, sniff “What’s the matter with elitism?” and—in a staggering display of distortive spinmanship—chide their lessers as being “anti-education.”

The alternative crew volleys between amusement and disdain while wondering whether the ignoble “elite”—who seem “educated” but not particularly smart—should more properly be referred to as the “credentialed gentry.”

Elites or gentry, the people who described the electorate as “ineducable” in 2004 but “enlightened” in 2008 are running out of big words with which to condemn their unpersuaded lessers, and so for 2010 they are falling back on calling them “yahoos” and referring to their non-elite preferred candidates as “crazy” or “dumb.” If the preferred candidate is a female, the credentialed gentry—including their liberated women—feel no compunction in labeling her as “crazy,” “dumb”, “mean,” or even “a whore.”

I didn’t mean to get as Irish as it became…I have nothing against the rich; society needs them. It took a rich man with connections to get Christ off the cross and entombed. But these “gentry”…well, the cognitive dissonance got to me!

You can read it here

Related story here


Ed Driscoll, “elitism, straight up” with screengrabs here

Amy Alkon: College Degree Snobbery

Don’t Know Much About History

Ace: Frustrated with how close Kurtz comes to getting it, before retreating.

Gerson: Obama the Snob

Hot Air: Revenge of the Yahoos

Byron York: Blaming everyone but himself

Duh: “Elites Tepid to Tea Party”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Chris K

    This article is proof of why you blog, and I do not. Thank you for putting into marvelous words what we cannot.

  • Joe Odegaard

    The US Constitution actually forbids titles of nobility (Article 1, Section 9), so at least this cannot run to its natural conclusion.

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  • c matt

    I prefer the term elites to gentry. Gentry is too good a word for them. In fact, the problem is that they are not really elite (at least not in the sense of being exceptionally talented, well educated or smart) or genteel – they are pretenders.

  • Judith L

    I agree that gentry is much, much, too kind a label for these pompous, self-satisfied, preachy people. The whiff of tyranny clings to them.

    Great article, Anchoress.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    chide their lessers as being “anti-education.”

    It is an undeniable fact that elites are a prime example of how some people learn to be ignorant.

    Especially those who have eagerly eaten from the moral Tree of Knowledge, they did not gain superior wisdom or knowledge, but every time prove themselves to be the biggest fools and know-nothings of all.

    The problem with elites is not that they are educated, but that they believe themselves to be beyond educating. To submit yourself to learning is to be humble enough to say that you do not know everything already, but elites lack this humility, insisting that they need not be the students, but are forever the teachers by their inate superiority.

  • dry valleys

    As if there were no conservative elites, as if right-wing journos were all horny-handed sons of toil who throw out blunt statements (of fact) between shifts working in factories or driving trucks?

    The situation with an overclass (the main representatives of which, if you ask me, are in banks) is a problem, but not one that can be made partisan. When you look at the fees Sarah Palin commands for an appearance, or George W. Bush’s education & family background, you wonder how much they have in common with the average person. You also wonder whether the policies followed during the last 30 years have really made us better off.

  • Doc

    Nice piece, Anchoress, but I get frustrated when someone complains about the quality of the corporate media product while still purchasing it. Why would you remain a subscriber? Do these people deserve your financial support? I think they need to get the Newsweek treatment. Have their value reduced to a buck. The corporate media will continue to consider themselved essential as long as people still purchase what they peddle. I refuse to give ‘em a dime.

    [I am addicted to the crossword -admin]

  • Roz Smith

    I agree the term gentry implies manners and polish that may of this new class lack. Credentialed is entirely correct, however, and is a much better term than elite for several reasons. Credentials are only as sound as the issuing institutions.

  • dry valleys

    I don’t get angry very often but one of the things that does wind me up is the way that journos, often working for Rupert Murdoch’s empire, strike up a man of the people tone, when in fact they have nothing but scorn for the people whose mannerisms they think they’re using. As a genuinely working-class person I know their lifestyles are beyond anything I’ve ever known.

    Yet they parade themselves around as if they knew all about areas like mine, whereas I happen to know where several of the worst offenders live (one of them in a gated community in Florida) & it is unaffordable to me or any of my neighbours.

    The funny thing is, a lot of left-wing commentors are less well-paid because the organs they work for are not awash with money, so they end up living in rough areas. I don’t know if it is all that way in America but I dare say I know enough to say that there’s an out of touch conservative elite too, & astroturfing is rife.

    [And yet I can name you a dozen right-wing bloggers who are making nothing while they blog. Aside from the few "stars" who manage to support themselves through blogging and additional freelance work, they're not getting the sort of subsidizing that so many left-wing bloggers receive. And I think that's probably a good thing. As I said, I don't mind "the rich." I've never been one of them and never will be, but they have their role to play. I mind the rich (or even the moderately well-off) who think that they should be telling everyone else how to live. I mind the cognitive dissonance. -admin]

  • dry valleys

    If you want to subscribe to something, The Economist isn’t bad. It is right-wing, but has extensive coverage of parts of the world that are overlooked by the mainstream media. Their coverage of foreign climes is far more extensive than in even highbrow genral interest publications. There’s less of your humanities, human interest etc stuff & they have no film reviews, but as a main staple I’ve found it to be reasonable.

    [But does it have a great crossword? :-) admin]

  • http://righthererightnow60.blogspot.com Nora


    What’s wrong with living well?

    I agree there’s a problem when someone feigns the tone of the working class, but why can’t a wealthy person genuinely identify with the issues of the working class?

  • mark†

    One of my Mom’s oldest friends had a child who was schizophenic, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between the real and the unreal.
    I happen to think this is the problem with the elites, their thinking, for whatever reason, does not align with reality. I don’t think it is a class problem, it is a problem with how they think.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    As if there were no conservative elites

    Whoever said that??

    Just take a look at Karl Rove, who did the left great service in providing them cover and ammunition for attacking Christine O’Donnell. Or Peggy Noonan, who long ago preferred her upturned nose elitism over all else. Or National Review, which was pushing Mitt Romney, and other journals which insisted that we needed to all rally around John McCain. Or a good number of conservative bloggers who spend way too much time tsk-tsking or throwing cold water on those unwashed masses.

    There are plenty of conservative elites and plenty of conservatives who suffer from elitism. Like their leftist counterparts, they have done little except help the country come crashing down.

  • JuliB

    I believe this really ties into Thomas Sowell’s book Anointed Ones. They are the self-styled elites – it would be fine if they left the rest of us alone!

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    Well Bender, old pal, I happen to BE one of the elites – at least by birth. I was born into a fairly wealthy family and turned down “elite” education in favor of a well regarded state university because I was fed up to my eyebrows with the snobbery and suffocating self-satisfaction I encountered in my first year of college.

    There’s a line in the show “Auntie Mame” which describes the kind of people I decry on any day you can think of when Auntie Mame refers to “Aryans from Darien with braces on their brains” – those lockjawed cretins who believe that no other worthwhile world exists save their own. They are pathetic and limited and narrow humans and more to be pitied than criticized.

    I love this country and I love my fellow patriotic citizens, especially those inclined toward Tea Party participation. I think Sarah Palin could well be this country’s salvation and I don’t agree in the slightest with those who find it “cool” to denigrate or amuse themselves at her expense. They just automatically parrot mindlessly that which is flapped about in the “legacy” media! Pfui!

    [I don't think "elite" has to do with being born into money, or having money at all. I think it has to do with an attitude of naked disdain, coupled with a constant need to hector at others about the "correct" way they should be living their lives. One needn't be wealthy to be obnoxious, and being middle class doesn't pre-empt one from obnoxiousness. It's an attitude. -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    dry valley –

    Here’s another conservative who drips with elitism and condescension, but again proves he’s just another SFB jerk.

    [I suspect he is just frustrated. This was a year were the best and brightest conservatives could have taken many seats, but all the candidates are not the best and brightest; witness NY. This is a year a Cuomo could have been beat, and we had no one to really challenge him. That race needed someone like a Trump - a business guy who was well known (warts and all) and whose personal peccadillos would not matter if he could get the state under control. That race needed someone bold but shrewed. Instead, sigh.

    O' Donnell was not wrong--the constitution does not mention "separation of church and state"--and Coons seems not to understand what "congress shall establish no religion" to mean "separation, so he willfully misreads it or spins it. But the fact is, she came off badly and the press will run with it. They'll run with it because they will need something to guffaw and cheer about on election night and O' Donnell will be their "prize." The one they could take down. All that said, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that the GOP only come "close" to winning the senate. If the own both houses, they'll think they're unaccountable again, and Obama will just blame them for everything in '12. But Bender, on a more personal note, why do you always sound so angry, lately? I hope folks on the right don't become like folks on the left, miserable and angry, even in victory. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Some of the most overpaid, over-adulated and wealthy progressives, who endlessly lecture us working class peons about how we should live, are from the Hollywood elite!

    These people are definitely out of touch! (Maybe even more so than bankers!)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And, of course, I never wonder how much people like Arianna Huffington, George Soros or Ted Turner identify with us “common folk.”

    (Answer: Not much!)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Bender, yes, the country could do without both limousine liberals, or port-and-cigars conservatives. (And, of course, we have to remember that just belonging to the “working class” or being, “One of the people” is no guarantee of virtue, either.)

  • dry valleys

    Nora, I certainly agree that people who are of priviliged origin can identify with the working class. George Orwell & Clement Attlee could have told you that. But accepting it as a theoretical possibility, which has happened in practice sometimes, I still deny that the right-wing journos do any such thing. More likely they think “Let’s get the rubes in with the sort of brainless filth they like”. Yet I myself see no reason why people of modest means, like myself, should be patronised by being issued prolefeed.

    We might be getting things lost in translation across the Atlantic. I’ve only ever known one blogger, a libertarian, be able to support himself. None of the bloggers I read are subsidised by anyone, they all have jobs (or in few cases are unemployed/disabled) & blog when not on the job. There’s such a thing as a donation button but I’ve rarely known this or adverts to give more than a bit of spare change.

    I have had my own reflections on the issue of the overclass. I have thought that one way for barriers to be broken between them & the wider society would be for voluntary/unpaid work to become a more normal part of life, for students as well. But it is too soon after dinner for such thoughs to be fleshed out :)

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    the best and brightest conservatives could have taken many seats, but all the candidates are not the best and brightest

    Then the “best and the brightest” should have run. They didn’t. Instead, the same-old, same-old Arlen Specter types ran, again. And again conservatives were told that we have to support them. No more.

    And I’m not half as angry as guys like “Ace” are whiny and petulant and helping to defeat their own cause.

  • newton

    I left this comment right where the Anchoress published her essay:


    There was one case from a few months back that illustrates the consequences of the current arrogant elitism that exists in this country. Let me summarize the story:

    His name is Walter Kendall Myers, a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) and Gilbert Grosvenor (first editor and president of the National Geographic Society). Received the best education American money could buy: boarding schools, Brown University. He worked at the State Department in a rather nice position for many years.

    He spied for Cuba, along with his wife. For thirty years.

    At his sentencing for the crime of espionage and wire fraud (wonder why he was not convicted of blatant treason?), he was reminded by a Federal judge who was a descendant of slaves here, of all the benefits granted to him for the virtue of being a blue-blood member of our American elite. No budge for this blue-blood: he was unrepentant. His justification for his crimes: “We acted because of our ideals and our beliefs… to defend the Cuban Revolution.” His opinion of Fidel Castro, whom he met at a private dinner in Cuba? “Fidel is wonderful, just wonderful… the most… incredible statesman in… a hundred years…”

    Whatever. The human rights abuses of the Castro regime don’t seem to phase him at all. He probably would have worn a “Che” t-shirt were he to feel free to do that…

    He will spend the rest of his miserable life in prison. His wife will get out after four years. (No, she was not Cuban.)

    A privileged man in every way possible – yet he betrayed America to her face. What would Alexander Graham Bell say? What would Gilbert Grosvenor say?

    This small example can very well be the consequence of the arrogance of our elites. One of these days, when their backs are against the wall, they will take the path of least resistance. They will “go Nazi”, as that article you pointed us to a few months ago stated. (Not that they’re not already conditioned for that: their elite education and environment have been heavily influenced by the Frankfurt School, that cursed repository of cultural Marxists.)

    And when that happens… Heaven help this nation.


  • charles

    This is a perfect example

  • newton

    Oh, Charles! Those people now have egg on their faces! They can’t even admit when she’s right! LOL!

  • http://righthererightnow60@blogspot.com Nora


    I think I’m just at the point where the word “elite” sets my teeth on edge. God knows I come from exactly the type of people you speak of on my father’s side of the family, but thank God my mother’s family were classic New York blue collar Catholic Democrats of the time. She never would have used the word “elite”, but she was known to mutter the phrase “lace curtain Irish” under her breath upon more than one occasion when faced with my father’s family in full force.

    I’m just sort of over this notion of “elites” as wealthy, liberal, uber-degreed academia and fourth estate sorts. There are plenty of “elitist” Tea Party people — people who are quick to tell me I’m an elite because I don’t worship the ground Palin walks on.

    Seems like “elite” is becoming the perjorative-du-jour, describing anyone who disagrees with you (general you).

    I think “the folks”, as O’Reilly puts it, are tired of being pandered to by both extremes. I am exhausted by the Tea Partiers anger and I am equally exhausted by the liberals brattiness. I’m just worn out by the rhetoric on both sides. I don’t want four more years of Obama, but I sure don’t want a future that might include eight years of Palin.

    Anyway, Go Giants!!!

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Valleys, I think things might be getting lost in translation across the Atlantic. I actually prefer the term “Conservative” to “right wing” for American bloggers, since “right wing” always seems to infer Facist, which American conservatives really aren’t.

    And, while I can’t read minds, many American bloggers considered “Conservative”: the Anchoress, Ace, from Ace of Spades, the guys over at Pajamas media, Spencer from Jihadwatch, Neo-Neocon, and so on, do seem more in tune with what many Americans are thinking than, say, a leftover feminist such as Maureen Dowd, a society grande dame like Huffington or a manipulator like George Soros, or just about anybody out of Hollywood: these all claim to simply lurve the poor, and the working class, but the reality seems to be they consider them only useful as guinea pigs, for their social engineering experiments.

    (Not to mention our own president, with his endless golf games and parties—while Americans go jobless, and are losing their homes—or the Democrat congress, which pushed a health plan on the American public it didn’t want, without even bothering to read the darn thing!)

    (And if you’ll take a look at some of the websites of bloggers I’ve mentioned above, you’ll see just how varied the conservative spectrum is over here. I’m not sure, by the way, what you mean by “prol-speak”; anyway, let’s face it—we Americans are mostly all working class; whether it’s busing tables, entering a profession or running our own business, just about all of us work at something for our living, so we’re all proles.)

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    lost in translation across the Atlantic

    Well, of course, it was precisely because of elitism, in the guise of nobility, landed gentry, feudalism, nepotism, aristocracy, etc., that we all left Britain and France and Germany and came to America in the first place, where no man or woman is any better than anyone else.

    And while I agree that “right wing” is not the best term for conservatives here, neither is the word “conservative.” In fact, as has been noted here many times, most modern-day American conservatives are technically classical liberals, of the John Locke variety, although some are of the conservative Edmund Burke type, if it is necessary to find a European counterpart. But none are devotees of Rousseau, et al.

    For a more modern comparison, American conservatives are definitely more Margaret Thatcher than John Major, and not at all any that have followed since (although in some measure they do have an admiration for Tony Blair because of the war).

  • Joseph Marshall

    So everybody has their feathers ruffled that “so-and-so thinks he’s better than ‘us’ “:

    The accuracy and power of the phrase was demonstrated by the vehement denials that issued from both coasts; the very rich, very insulated people who traveled from Beverly Hills to the Upper West Side to Southampton to Telluride while associating mostly with the like-minded, insisted that there was nothing elitist in their notions or their values. They were just the kinder, gentler part of the nation and the antidote to cruel moralists who would inflict their hang-ups on others, just to keep them down.

    What’s really interesting about this is that your essay contains not a single proper name and quotes no specific person who is part of the “gentry” and demonstrates how what they say makes this horrible person is an “elitist”. It also makes no reference to any serious political facts about which a reader, a writer, or a voter could actually make a decision.

    Can you offer us a public policy that you’d like to see the government implement about “elites”?

    Now I would have to say that I am terminally over-educated and over-credentialed, so, if you like, I don’t mind in the least if you use my name, quote me, and tell me off for my elitism and disdain of just plain folks.

    But before you do, let me ask you this: Why is it that when a simple plain question is put to someone like yourself about the ordinary facts of a political issue they are so seldom inclined to answer it?

    For example:

    O’ Donnell was not wrong–the constitution does not mention “separation of church and state”–and Coons seems not to understand what “congress shall establish no religion” to mean “separation,” so he willfully misreads it or spins it.

    Well, if prohibiting “establishment” doesn’t mean the separation of church and state, what does it mean?

    That’s a simple, plain question. It has a specific and objective answer, and that answer isn’t “spin”.

    Could O’Donnell answer this question? Can you?

    Because it really does objectively mean something, and what it means is a political fact about our common country, rather than a projective fantasy about some indefinite group of people ["liberals", "gentry", "elitists", "the rich", "so many left-wing bloggers" ect.] whose politics you don’t happen to like.

    It also leads to other questions such as, Would you like to repeal the First Amendment and replace it with something else? If so, what?

    Is O’Donnell ever likely to answer this question? I have my doubts. Are you? I also have my doubts.

    And my doubts really have nothing to do with my credentials, such as they are. They have to do with the fact that at the end of the day you have to vote for somebody to do something, and it would be a real nice thing to know who they are and what they propose to do.

    At least I think so.

    These doubts do leave me impatient with the endless waves of angry Conservative projective fantasy against mere contentless labels, rather than real engagement [and real refutation, if they need refuting] of the views of real people.

    If this makes me “elitist”, well, too bad.

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Joseph Marshall, the part of the Constitution that talks about “prohibiting establishment” means that the state/nation cannot establish a certain religion as the state’s/nation’s official religion.

    New York State cannot proclaim the Episcopal Church as its official religion. A far far cry from what is being bandied about now.

    But I’m sure that you already know this. (pause) Why the hostility?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Joseph, I don’t think anyone here wants to replace the First Amendment (where do you get that from?)

    My feathers don’t get ruffled because someone thinks they’re better than I am; my feathers get ruffled when they start dictating to me, and others, how we shall live—because they’re so much better than the rest of us, you see, and because they know what’s good for us. The whole green movement is a case in point. As Bender points out, these are the kind of people we came to America to get away from. (Good points, Bender, about American conservatives being more like classical liberals, than right wingers.)

    And to echo Sue from Buffalo—why the hostility?

  • http://songlines4me.blogspot.com Nora

    The right is as guilty of telling other how they are to live as the left, and for exactly the same reason — that they think their way is better than someone else’s way.

    That’s what politics _is_. It’s folks thinking their way is the best way, and they duke it out in the public arena.

    As for individuals who are elitist in nature, and hypocritical, and any other annoying thing you can come up with, they’re everywhere — there are elitist relgious folks, elitist political folks, elitist artists, elitist writers, elitist sports folks, etc. That’s just a personality flaw, and no one group is any more or less likely to have members who suffer from it.

    This whole “elitist” thing is a red herring — it has nothing to do with anything.

    If the Republican party wants to be taken seriously, they need to cultivate serious candidates and offer us serious, practical, demonstrably doable answers to the economic problems this country faces. Whining about the mean old liberal elitists doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Who cares if they think they’re better than you? Ignore them and hang with the people who don’t think that way, and do something proactive about what you believe are the problems.

  • Joseph

    Exactly, Sue. And if the state is not allowed to make any religion the official one, what is that but “separation of church and state”. How else could they be attached to one another?

    Moreover, the “establishment” of the Anglican Church in England and its colonies meant that Anglican clerics were paid by the government and the government was responsible for the upkeep of the buildings and other expenses. That’s a whole bunch of attachment that we don’t have here anymore. And, clearly, when government starts paying money to “faith based initiatives” we are headed back in that direction, whether such things will pass the standards of “establishment” or not.

    It is precisely the kiting out of opinions about the Constitution without reference to what it quite literally says that annoys me. You know what “establishment” means, but I’ll be darned if I believe that O’Donnell knows what it means on the face of what she says. And she’s the one who just might represent the great state of Delaware in the Senate.

    Now if I even suggest that a prospective Senator should know such things, and we should ask them if they do, folks like the Anchoress, Glen Reynolds, and Ed Morrisey will get all bent out of shape and have their populist hackles raised by my “credentials” and my “disdain” for someone like O’Donnell.

    I don’t know whether it’s “disdain” or not, but I am certainly dismayed by the disinclination to set and use reasonable standards of common knowledge about our government and society to evaluate politicians:

    This is a year a Cuomo could have been beat, and we had no one to really challenge him. That race needed someone like a Trump – a business guy who was well known (warts and all) and whose personal peccadillos would not matter if he could get the state under control.

    Is this any less a matter of a cult of personality than what you could find among “liberals” in Hollywood, Teluride, or the Upper West Side? I don’t think so. It conjures up a satisfying vingette of Trump saying, “You’re fired!!” to the entire State Assembly, but I can’t see that it does much more.

    Now I’m not talking about “experience” either. There is no inherent reason why a candidate has to be a professional politician to meet such standards of common knowledge. They could [and do] come from any walk of life. But, if we solicit Trump to run, we should ask more of him than his business bluster. And we should ask it explicitly and not merely presume he possesses it.

    And I do think that too many Conservatives live in a world of mere labels suitable to bash and trash for imaginary shortcomings, rather than a world of real people, real issues [What rich skiers in Teluride think of you or I is not a real political issue.], objective facts, and the common ground as citizens with the good of the country in mind that we all have, even if we disagree completely with each other about how to do it.

    Rhinestone, I would point out that many of the Tea Party have indeed proposed broad Constitutional changes of all sorts, whether it is this particular Amendment or not. So, under the circumstances, anything is up for grabs. It seems clear to me that if you know what “establishment” means and you don’t believe that Church and State should be separated [which O'Donnell clearly does not], rewriting the First Amendment should be Job 1.

    To ask her if she wants to do it or to ask anyone inclined to vote for her because “she’s one of us” if they really want it done is perfectly reasonable.

    The whole green movement…how we shall live—because they’re so much better than the rest of us, you see, and because they know what’s good for us.

    If I think the boat is leaking and going to sink, and I say to you, “We’ve all got to do stop rearranging the deck chairs and do something about it!” a response of “How dare you tell me what to do?! Mind your manners!” is not all that useful. The question is whether the boat is leaking or not. If you don’t think it is and say so, that is useful. But it’s also useful for me to ask you if you’ve been down to the bottom deck to see.

    There is an objective answer to that question and it is more important than whether I’ve failed to mind my manners about how I approached you about it.

    It’s even more important than a philosophical stance that everyone should be free to arrange the deck chairs whenever they please.

    Facts first, manners second, philosophy third.

  • c matt

    Well, if prohibiting “establishment” doesn’t mean the separation of church and state, what does it mean?

    Actually, it means the federal government shall not establish a state religion – i.e., one that all citizens must belong to, or one that is the “national” religion. It really says nothing about what the states can or can’t do, and many states at the time of ratification had a state church/religion. It says nothing about religion or religious values influencing legislation, voting, political campaigns, or calling out politicians by name as the heathens they are for their legislative actions.

    The first amendment does not need repealing. The Supreme Court opinions incorrectly interpreting it do.

  • craig

    “Well, if prohibiting “establishment” doesn’t mean the separation of church and state, what does it mean?”

    The precise legal import of the Established Church varied over time, but during at least some of the colonial period, not only was there an official religion but both the Catholicism of the Marylanders and the Puritanism of the Massachusetts colonists were prohibited by law in Britain, and attendance at Church of England worship was compulsory.

    The founders clearly intended to prevent that situation in America.

    It is not clear at all that the founders intended to mandate “separation” in the sense of official secularism, i.e., the erasure of religion from anything the state touches. There is a place for official deference to religion where the church performs some useful public function that otherwise would become a state burden. The state does not and should not have the right to insist that the church abrogate its beliefs in order to set foot in the public square. The examples that immediately come to mind are hospitals and adoption agencies: since adoption and health care are public goods, the church should not be penalized for providing these services in accordance with church beliefs.

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Excellent post, Craig.

  • midwesterner

    how about we call them Sophists, as Socrates did

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    rather than real engagement [and real refutation, if they need refuting] of the views of real people

    Let us know when you get around to doing that, would you please?

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Joseph, the way today’s society (i.e. the media and liberal politicians) seem to define separation of church and state is…the churches must stay completely out of politics. This is their way of trying to shut down churches and Christians.

    Not keeping the government from declaring the Episcopal Church as the nation’s Church and demanding that the citizens all adhere to the Church’s teachings etc etc etc.

    I understand that you view faith-based initiatives as a slippery slope. I disagree.

    I don’t think that O’Donnell is that ignorant about the Constitution. I think she was simply bringing up a point that govt indoctrinated students were taught to believe: that separation of church and state means no political activity allowed from churches.

    From what I’m reading (and please correct me if I’m wrong), there are two philosophies concerning the Constitution. One is to interpret it as it was originally intended. The second is that it is a living document that changes with the times according to what judges determine. That is why people seem to laugh at O’Donnell. She belongs to one philosophy and the laughers belong to the other.

  • Steve Colby

    So, I read Gerson’s column from the WaPo, [Obama is an intellectual snob] in which he writes

    “And a reactionary populism can be disturbing when it targets minorities, immigrants and intellectuals. But intellectual disdain among elites feeds this destructive populism rather than directing or defusing it.”

    “Yes, the borders must be controlled and terrorism is a mortal threat — but we can’t give in to stereotyping and hatred.”

    In other words, Obama may be a snob, but his opponents are still stupid, hateful bigots.

    As Bugs would say, “What a maroon!”

  • Doc

    Reading assignments:

    Nora you need to read Thomas Sowell’s “Visions of the Annointed” if you want to understand how liberal/leftist/progressive “elites” do indeed threaten individual liberty in ways conservative “elites” do not.

    Joseph, you need to read David Limbaugh’s “Persecution” if you’re interested in the way “separation of church and state” fanatics impact and harass Christians.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Well, Joseph, Sue from Buffalo explains the whole, “Separation of Church and State” quite nicely. It’s about the state not establishing a particular religion, not about religion being expunged from the public square altogether.

    Which members of the Tea Party movement have proposed constitutional changes, and what are these changes? Do you have any links? I’m not a member of any, particular movement (except for classic liberalism).

    I agree that too many conservatives also have a tendency to fall into the cult of personality—but I actually see progressives falling into this, far more often (as in the 2008 election, the Hollywood elite lecturing us on living green, as they continue to throw huge concerts, use up resources creating films, fly hither and yon in expensive jets, etc.).

    The jist of your argument basically seems to be that—liberals should not be criticized, because conservatives have some of the same faults! I really can’t agree with this.

    As for your analogy about the green movement—well, the ship may or may not be sinking; there appears to be a lot of controversy on this point, and the research people were relying on seems to have been tampered with, the data poorly collected, i.e., nobody in the boiler room appears to know what the heck’s going on.

    Meanwhile, eco-warriors like Al Gore lecture the rest of us about our wasteful lifestyles, while owning more than one house, and traveling about the country. They’re certainly not acting as if the ship is sinking. Shouldn’t it be permissible to point this out?

    Shouldn’t it also be permissible to point out the often elitist, anti-human mindset of many “Greens”, such as the ones who recently created that charming video of exploding children (“No pressure”) to get their message across? I don’t have any problem with anybody arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, as they please; what I mind is their arranging everybody else’s lives.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Craig, also, did an excellent job of explaining teh church/state separation thing.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I think “sophists” is a good term, here!