Liberal columnist notices GOP emphasis on meritocracy

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David Ignatius, liberal Washington Post columnist, has noticed that the GOP is increasingly calling on the talents of high achievers with elite credentials (the latest example being Samuel Alito, Jr.), rather than good ol' boys and cronies. Mostly he sees irony here, because he regards George W. Bush (a man who made millions in business, holds two Ivy League degrees, and has won the highest elective office in the land twice) as an "underachiever"(!).

Oh, for the days of JFK and his "best and brightest" Ivy League advisors. Those were good times for liberal journalists like Ignatius.

The sad fact for Ignatius and his ilk is that Democrats have largely rejected the concept of meritocracy, understood as allowing people to rise and be rewarded according to their actual accomplishments. The Democrats like to speak of "life's lottery" and "income distribution" as if some random force unfairly allocates rewards and penalties, which should naturally be distributed equally. The notion that rewarding achievement is "unfair" creates a hostile environment witin which meritocracy cannot flourish.

Ignatius also conflates meritocracy and elitism. Elitism is a fetish for titles, credentials, social standing, and other factors which may be ascriptive, not necessarily earned. Elitism thrives in closed circles of the elect, and closes its membership roles to the merely capable and hard—working if they do not pass certain tests of birth, behavior, style, looks, etc.

The Democrats, anchored in Hollywood and East Coast media circles,have strong elitist tendencies, although they have expanded the acsriptive basis of membership in the elite through racial and ethnic consciousness and the substitution of attitude for achievement. Black strivers are welcome, as long as they have the proper attitudes assigned to them. Hello, Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson (Sr. and Jr.). Thomas Sowell, take a hike. 

Consider this mind—boggling (yet increasingly common) sort of assertion from Ignatitus:

The dominant personality in the Bush Cabinet is the ultimate meritocrat, Condoleezza Rice, a black woman from Alabama who rose to the top of American life in an A student's bubble that kept her from the harsher realities of race.

Sheltered? How about her little friends who were blown—up in a Birmingham church? Do you supppose little Condoleeza encountered no racism on the ice skating rinks where she trained in figure skating? I think that what Ignatius means to imply (but hasn't the guts to say) is that Secretary Rice isn't a genuine black because of her Republican affiliation. Or maybe he thinks that to be black means not being a superlative achiever? Or maybe it is just a matter of style? You know: just like President Bush, the most powerful man int he world, is an "underachiever" because he speaks with a Texas accent, and Dr. Rice has been "sheltered."

I give Ignatius credit for recognizing that the GOP has become the party which rewards achievement. He even notices that Harriet Miers, despite her attendence at non—Ivy SMU, was quite a meritocrat in her own rite, even if she failed to meet the criterion of elite, based on the social standing of her higher education pedigree.

But he has a lot more thinking to do before he gets it about achievement and politics in America. The GOP has become the party of the upwardly mobile strivers. By default, as well as by choice.

Thomas Lifson   11 02 05

David Ignatius, liberal Washington Post columnist, has noticed that the GOP is increasingly calling on the talents of high achievers with elite credentials (the latest example being Samuel Alito, Jr.), rather than good ol' boys and cronies. Mostly he sees irony here, because he regards George W. Bush (a man who made millions in business, holds two Ivy League degrees, and has won the highest elective office in the land twice) as an "underachiever"(!).

Oh, for the days of JFK and his "best and brightest" Ivy League advisors. Those were good times for liberal journalists like Ignatius.

The sad fact for Ignatius and his ilk is that Democrats have largely rejected the concept of meritocracy, understood as allowing people to rise and be rewarded according to their actual accomplishments. The Democrats like to speak of "life's lottery" and "income distribution" as if some random force unfairly allocates rewards and penalties, which should naturally be distributed equally. The notion that rewarding achievement is "unfair" creates a hostile environment witin which meritocracy cannot flourish.

Ignatius also conflates meritocracy and elitism. Elitism is a fetish for titles, credentials, social standing, and other factors which may be ascriptive, not necessarily earned. Elitism thrives in closed circles of the elect, and closes its membership roles to the merely capable and hard—working if they do not pass certain tests of birth, behavior, style, looks, etc.

The Democrats, anchored in Hollywood and East Coast media circles,have strong elitist tendencies, although they have expanded the acsriptive basis of membership in the elite through racial and ethnic consciousness and the substitution of attitude for achievement. Black strivers are welcome, as long as they have the proper attitudes assigned to them. Hello, Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson (Sr. and Jr.). Thomas Sowell, take a hike. 

Consider this mind—boggling (yet increasingly common) sort of assertion from Ignatitus:

The dominant personality in the Bush Cabinet is the ultimate meritocrat, Condoleezza Rice, a black woman from Alabama who rose to the top of American life in an A student's bubble that kept her from the harsher realities of race.

Sheltered? How about her little friends who were blown—up in a Birmingham church? Do you supppose little Condoleeza encountered no racism on the ice skating rinks where she trained in figure skating? I think that what Ignatius means to imply (but hasn't the guts to say) is that Secretary Rice isn't a genuine black because of her Republican affiliation. Or maybe he thinks that to be black means not being a superlative achiever? Or maybe it is just a matter of style? You know: just like President Bush, the most powerful man int he world, is an "underachiever" because he speaks with a Texas accent, and Dr. Rice has been "sheltered."

I give Ignatius credit for recognizing that the GOP has become the party which rewards achievement. He even notices that Harriet Miers, despite her attendence at non—Ivy SMU, was quite a meritocrat in her own rite, even if she failed to meet the criterion of elite, based on the social standing of her higher education pedigree.

But he has a lot more thinking to do before he gets it about achievement and politics in America. The GOP has become the party of the upwardly mobile strivers. By default, as well as by choice.

Thomas Lifson   11 02 05