The Elite Masses
Why were so many Obama voters so damn educated?
When CNN exit polls announced that a whopping 70 percent of voters who chose Barack Obama to be our next President were highly educated, no one was less surprised than I. As Executive Editor of demo dirt I frequently chat with some of the brightest, most articulate, and yes, educated political scientists, economists, historians, and foreign policy experts in the United States, and FYI, they did vote for Mr. Obama, as did I.
Why so many highly-educated voters in support of Obama? Is it the mutual love of arugula at Whole Foods and the shared lament of its rising price? Or could it be that many critics of the President-Elect don’t know the meaning of basic terms that were thrown about during the race to the White House?
Many Americans who voted for McCain are true patriots who simply possess a conservative ideology and admiration for the Arizona senator. Those erudite voters were informed of the issues, yet simply hold values consistent with McCain and Palin, and they are to be admired for their tenacity, and respected for their beliefs. They are not the Americans that have earned the derision of those here and abroad.
However, a recent short yet informative conversation with a McCain voter explained a lot, and multiplied my many thanks that Obama will soon be in office. Though I had heard that racism would play an unwelcome role in this election, I had not yet actually encountered an openly bigoted fellow citizen, one who actually admitted to owning such feelings, and who allowed them to decide his vote. This type of individual is rather common, one who is uneducated yet seeks no path to learn, content in his misinformation and ignorance, and today, bitter about the election results. Though I had heard pundits fearfully describe this type of voter, I was shocked to find this person so close my inner circle; it was like discovering Bigfoot in my own backyard.
It was clear that, uninterested in the issues surrounding the election, this man voted for McCain simply because he is white—which is no better than one who cast a ballot for Obama simply because he is black. This type of dissident voter is of a different species than my former peers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students who had been raised with conservative Christian values, who were members of the Young Republicans, and with whom I had enjoyed lively and educational conversations on social and political issues. These cohorts were enlightening, had broadened my views, and had imbued me with an understanding and tolerance for their points of view; though we did not always end our discussions in agreement, we did so with mutual respect and admiration of one another’s knowledge of the facts. Opinions differed based on educated, carefully formed personal value systems, not on ignorance and racism. No doubt many of my Republican conservative UNC alumni voted for McCain, and if asked, would guess that this liberal Democrat had voted for Obama. And we would still be friendly if we were to cross paths at an alumni event.
It is easy to confuse the scholarly with the well-informed, and the uneducated with the uninformed; however, one needs not to have gone to a four-year university or graduate school in order to have cast an educated vote. Obviously, one can be formally educated and woefully clueless, while another may lack schooling yet possess an extensive self-taught body of knowledge. And truly, I also knew a few major tools during my years at UNC and again in graduate school in New Jersey; the point is that there is value in any sort of education which challenges our long-held stereotypes and prejudices, and which teaches us how to think critically and productively. This type of education, while it may be facilitated in a formal setting, is certainly not the only avenue available for curious minds who have not taken the university route.
Yet, during this brief exchange with Bigfoot, I was accused of elitism, harboring communist and socialist values, and supporting terrorism. This ridiculous name-calling only served to cement the assumption that the speaker was indeed limited in his comprehension of basic sociological, economic, and political terminologies.
When one calls an Obama supporter an elitist and in the same breath a socialist or a communist, it is clear that the speaker knows the meaning of neither term. The fact that it is theoretically impossible to be both elitist and communist means nothing to the speaker. And, since the majority of Americans voted for Obama, how does that make so many of us elite? Isn’t elitism, by definition, the position of a few, not the masses? The accuser seems not to understand this basic point.
When one suggests that concern for the US reputation abroad is a weakness which caters to the terrorist agenda, the notion is so fantastic that I am forced to realize that discussing politics with such a person is akin to dissecting theories of nuclear physics with one who possesses the reasoning capabilities of a severely limited child. As an American and as an Israeli, I was initially deeply offended and stunned to hear that I "side with the terrorists," but once I considered the source, I finally managed to set aside my umbrage.
The America that I know and love, the America which I always felt had the potential to become, yet I until now had feared she would never achieve, is one in which our most basic tenet which states that all men are created equal is realized. That is the America which elected Barack Obama.
The one which our enemies despise? That America belongs to the racists, the ignorami, the voters who unfortunately carry equal weight in the count—the vote of a xenophobe equals that of his opponent—the ones who refused to vote for Obama solely because of his mixed race heritage, the ones who believed the laughable urban legend detailing his so-called ties to Islamic extremists, and who have so little understanding of our economic system that they label him and his supporters as socialists. During the election, even several Republican pundits found these scare tactics utterly ridiculous and refused to entertain them.
The America despised by terrorists and other enemies of the nation is the one in which its citizens use race or background to declare that one is superior to another, no matter what station in life each holds, no matter one’s education or achievement. The America attacked abroad is the one in which the value of diplomacy is dismissed; while the death toll of those serving our country mounts, as we live under the dark cloud of terrorism, and as civilians avoid foreign travel for fear of falling victim to a formerly growing, and violent anti-American sentiment.
The America hated abroad and by many domestically is the America in which its citizens state that they would never vote for a black man, despite their own limitations as men and women, failing to acknowledge Obama’s education, achievements, experience as a leader and as an inspiration to those of all creeds. Those so-called Americans ignored the economy, foreign policy, and various social issues in favor of bowing to their prejudicial cowardice and weakness as human beings.
The America which won? That America belongs to everyone, including the bigots, thanks to the votes of those who define the true United States of America. That America is the one in which voters weighed the issues, faced and overcame their prejudices, and announced that our standing in the world, the respect of other nations, and respect for ourselves, matter.
Thankfully the America that wins is the America that belongs to all of us, and the Obama win is one of which we should be proud. It has redeemed us in the international world view, as well as our own. As several Republican politicians and pundits have expressed, this is a moment in history in which all Americans should take pride, no matter one's partisanship.
As our new President-Elect stated so powerfully in his historic election night acceptance speech, “In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long….As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, ‘We are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.’”
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