Barbara Ehrenreich on the ‘Liberal Elite’

You can call Michael Moore all kinds of things — loudmouthed, obnoxious and self-promoting, for example. The anorexic Ralph Nader, in what must be an all-time low for left-wing invective, has even called him fat. The one thing you cannot call him, though, is a member of the “liberal elite.”

Sure, he’s made a ton of money from his best sellers and award-winning documentaries. But no one can miss the fact that he’s a genuine son of the U.S. working class — of a Flint autoworker, in fact — because it’s built right into his “branding,” along with flannel shirts and baseball caps.

My point is not to defend Moore, who — with a platoon of bodyguards and a legal team starring Mario Cuomo — hardly needs any muscle from me. I just think it’s time to retire the “liberal elite” label, which, for the past 25 years, has been deployed to denounce anyone to the left of Colin Powell. Thus, last winter, the ultra-elite right-wing Club for Growth dismissed followers of Howard Dean as a “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show.” I’ve experienced it myself: speak up for the downtrodden, and someone is sure to accuse you of being a member of the class that’s doing the trodding.

The notion of a sinister, pseudocompassionate liberal elite has been rebutted, most recently in Thomas Frank’s brilliant new book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” which says the aim is “to cast the Democrats as the party of a wealthy, pampered, arrogant elite that lives as far as it can from real Americans, and to represent Republicanism as the faith of the hard-working common people of the heartland, an expression of their unpretentious, all-American ways, just like country music and Nascar.”

Her point about Moore has already been lost, it looks like. A conservative commenter/troll (aren’t they all these days?) at No Fear of Freedom is already spreading the new anti-Moore meme: he’s a left-wing elitist.

[i]In many ways Michael Moore is just what I am. Working class.[/i] [That’s a quote from Phaedrus; you can tell the guy’s from a bulletin board because he’s using UBB brackets instead of HTML carats and you can tell he’s right-wing because he doesn’t know the difference–MA] Yeah working class with tens of millions of dollars, a penthouse in manhattan, who sends his daughter to a private school. If you believe he is anything like you or cares anything for you outside of getting at your money then you are pretty F**king stupid. Mikey represents everything he pretends to hate about america; a fat, stupid, crude, greedy, lazy, poorly educated white man.

So Moore is getting tagged with the ‘liberal elite’ label on the right-wing BBS’s just like Kerry, like Dean, and like Ehrenreich herself. Barbara’s right: conservatives hate us so much that they turn vicious with anybody who dares stand up for us.

If this isn’t class war then the word has no meaning.


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