My Turn: In search of liberal elite

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I am writing to comment on a letter submitted by Mr. Chris Reilly (Empire, Nov. 10) in response to a letter submitted by Ms. Noble (Empire, Nov. 7). Substantively, I have no issue with what either one of them wrote, but Mr. Reilly used the word "elitist." I have heard the word repeatedly throughout the past election. It is usually coupled with the word "liberal." The crux of my problem is that I am not sure what a "liberal elite" is, but apparently Ms. Noble is one - at least that is what Mr. Reilly implies. Since I do not know Ms. Noble, her status does not help clarify the issue.

So in an effort to understand what a "liberal elite" is, and more importantly, if I am one, I would like to share with readers the results of some research I have done on the issue. Readers are welcome to use my work product to conduct their own self-analysis.

First, I was blown away by how much literature there is on this subject. There are books that not only define the "liberal elite" but teach you how to talk to them, uncover their conspiracy to take over the world, and defend against their agenda. I did not have the time to read all the material; however, I was able to compile a list of traits associated with the "liberal elite" that consistently came up in my research. They are: 1). They drink lattes. I drink lattes. I have mine on Sundays when I drive my dog, Harry, to the beach for his weekend swim. Harry and I make it a special occasion. I sprinkle nutmeg on the top and have an apple fritter. Harry has a side of breakfast sausage. I am kind of feeling like a "liberal elite." 2). They drive a Volvo, but not just any Volvo, a station wagon Volvo. Preferably a gray poupon- or burgundy-colored late model with rust. An NPR bumper sticker gets you bonus points. I don't drive a Volvo but I do listen to NPR. But I did not pledge this year. Sorry. Next year. Looks like I am back to square one. 3). They are soccer moms. To me this is most confusing characteristic of them all. What about dad? Doesn't he count? Kind of sexist if you ask me. And why soccer? All you need to play is a ball. What's elite about that? Wouldn't NASCAR be more elite? These guys drive multi-million dollar cars around in circles ... for fun. Anyway, I am not a mother and don't have any kids. Getting further away. 4). They have too much education. I am kind of generalizing with this one but I think the literature is referring to post-graduate work. The literature uses words like "intellectual," "ivory tower," and "pencil-necked geeks." I don't associate these words with my undergraduate experience. What comes to mind for me is mac and cheese, cheap beer, and running out of gas. But I do have a post-graduate degree. Back on the fence. 5). They are from New England. I am not from New England but I lived in Maine for two years. I also boiled lobsters ... alive. But I voted to add sexual orientation as a protected class in the Maine Constitution. Oh the contradictions. Only one category to go. 6). They like the French. This one is a recent addition and may only be a fad but it deserves recognition due to its persistent appearance in the past few years. I don't know any French people from France. I have been in the Paris airport. The French people there seemed nice enough. What can I say, I like the French. Hopelessly deadlocked.

I guess I'll never truly know if I am a "liberal elite." Maybe I am just an American. Maybe Ms. Noble and Mr. Reilly are just Americans too, in need of some common ground. But isn't that kind of an elitist thing for me to say?

• Christopher Dougherty is an attorney who lives in Juneau.

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