Anti-Bush Snobbery II
Matthew Yglesias rebuts Mark Steyn’s thesis, which I quoted approvingly, that much of the elite reaction to Bush is a form of snobbery.
James Joyner endorses the thesis that Bush-bashing is all about snobbery. No doubt at some level that’s right — some of the people who hate Bush do so in part because they’re snobs. As anyone who’s familiar with public opinion research can tell you, the overwhelming majority of voters do not make up their minds on the basis of a coherent ideology or a great deal of information about the candidates. On another level, this is obviously wrong. Like all “liberals are effete snobs” sorts of arguments it neglects a few minor facts about the nature of the Democratic Party electorate. Like most poor people vote Democrats. As do most high school dropouts. I seriously doubt that the high school dropout vote is so dead-set against Bush because their a bunch of snobs. Likewise (and not totally unrelatedly) Bush polls terribly among African-Americans and non-Cuban Latinos for reasons that certainly have nothing to do with snobbery.
Elitism certainly isn’t a singular explanation for Democratic voting behavior. Sure, Bush polls poorly among groups that are reflexive Democratic voters just as Kerry does poorly among groups that would never dream of voting for a Democrat. There are all sorts of reasons why people might want to vote for John Kerry and why roughly 45% of the country will vote for any Democratic (or Republican) candidate. Most of these have to do with some combination of ideology or self-interest.
Steyn is seeking to explain (and making fun of) media elites who want to attribute Bush’s support to anything but Bush. Why are people who are supposed to be professional commentators on politics unable to grasp Kerry’s flaws and Bush’s strengths? Most conservatives readily admit Bush’s weaknesses, notably his weak oratorical skills, and acknowledge Kerry’s polished delivery and the appeal of a Vietnam War hero. But most media analysts seem befuddled to think that any intelligent person could actually prefer Bush, the idiot with degrees from Yale and Harvard, to the erudite Kerry. These people understand the appeal of a John McCain or a Rudi Guiliani, who at least have the common decency to agree with the intelligensia on a few issues, but not a Bush or a Reagan.
And of course one could turn this around. Looking at the two BlogAds on James’ sidebar, one would think that support for Bush is motivated by a combination of homophobia and misogyny (the “don’t be girlie-men” ad) and xenophobia (the “foreign leaders for Kerry” ad). And, just as snobbery plays a role in some people’s anti-Bush views, there can be no doubt that homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia all play roles in some people’s pro-Bush views.
Case in point. The “girlie man” schtick has nothing to do with sexual orientation or hatred of women, it’s about the traditional manly values exemplified by John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Self reliance. Honor. No whining. The “foreign leaders” jibe is along the same lines. One can scarcely imagine Teddy Roosevelt or John Kennedy asking France for permission to go to war. A majority of Americans gravitate towards leaders who come across as somewhat brash and ornery. Indeed, one of the ironies of American politics is that, for years, Democrats and their supporters have expressed their scorn for guys like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush by labeling them as “cowboys” who “shoot from the hip,” not realizing that those qualities are exactly what many Americans want in their leaders.