Disavowing the GOP Arugula Gap

At a rural Iowa campaign stop in 2007, then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama asked a crowd a simple question: “Anybody gone into a Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”  From that point on, in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential election, Republicans used Obama’s affinity for the fancy-schmancy green stuff as a way to demonstrate just how out-of-touch he was with everyday American people.  And they were right to do so.

Now, we’re making a return trip to Whole Foods.  And it’s not to check prices.  We’re roaming the aisles to show exactly what is wrong with the Republican Party.  And, at a time when the right kind of Republicans are emerging, it’s all too important to know the difference.

In mid-December of last year, a week before the health care reform legislation now signed into law had even passed in the Senate during a Christmas Eve vote, an op-ed piece entitled “Whole Foods Republicans” ran in The Wall Street Journal, and demonstrated the real problem with the GOP.  The author was Michael Petrilli, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and the second part of the headline read as follows:

“The GOP needs to enlist voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics.”

The basic premise, suggested in the subtitle and stated clearly in the article itself, is that the vast majority of us conservatives (he doesn’t use this term, but there’s no doubt this is what he means) who oppose many of Obama’s progressive policies are uneducated rednecks who are extremely judgmental against anyone who lives a lifestyle different from their own. Bottom line: Mr. Petrilli proved himself a moderate Republican elitist — and that, my fellow conservatives, is the problem with the Republican Party, and the element which needs to be excised before we move forward.

My definition of an elitist is, simply, “a person who doesn’t know they don’t know but instead thinks they know more than anyone else.” This definition fits Mr. Petrilli’s arguments perfectly.  Take a look, using is own words.

The voting patterns of the college-educated is another story. About 30% of Americans 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree; in 1988 that number was only 20% and in 1968 it was 10%. As less-educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate, this bloc will exert growing influence. And here’s the distressing news for the GOP: According to exit-poll data, a majority of college-educated voters (53%) pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008—the first time a Democratic candidate has won this key segment since the 1970s.

There are two major flaws in this statement. First of all, by stating that the GOP will have difficulty as “less educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate,” what Petrilli is suggesting is that being “college-educated” means you are better educated. Well, I have taught a total of eight different undergraduate and graduate courses at three different universities and, in my personal experience, our current college graduates are anything but better educated. In fact, many of them are not interested in becoming educated at all. In my opinion, my own father, mother, eldest son and daughter–none of whom received a college degree–are all better educated than many of the students I taught in my upper division and graduate classes.  Education comes from experience, not pedigree or diploma; for a shining example of that, take a look at the inhabitant of the Oval Office, and the dire straits facing our nation.

His second assumption is that the “college-educated voters” who “pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008” are probably still committed to Obama’s progressive policies and in opposition to those who have a more conservative view. Anyone who does serious research on the Tea Partiers and similar groups know that their main focus is on taxes and politics. This is the same focus seen in the vast majority of educated independents who believe they were snookered by Obama and the liberal media regarding the president’s political philosophies. It is only the Republican elite and the liberal media who believe that the conservative movement is, in the main, focused on other societal issues.

Petrilli also buys into the myth, propagated by the liberal media, that the vast majority of conservatives are opposed to anyone who doesn’t embrace their conservative lifestyle. As with most myths, this one has no basis in fact. Here’s another example of where Petrilli goes wrong, in Petrilli’s own words:

Let the Democrats have the Starbucks set, goes the thinking, and we’ll grab working-class families. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, for instance, wants to embrace “Sam’s Club” Republicans. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee pitched himself in 2008 as the guy who “looks like your co-worker, not your boss.” Even Mitt Romney blasted “Eastern elites.” And of course there’s Sarah Palin, whose entire brand is anti-intellectual.

In this quote, Petrilli suggests that Pawlenty, Huckabee, Romney, and–of course!–Sarah Palin are not interested in appealing to those in the United States who are educated, but rather to the “’Sam’s Club’ Republicans,” the average guy, the guy who is more like “your co-worker, not your boss.” This, of course, is a ridiculous assumption and is far from the truth. Conservatives line up against the elitist, that person who doesn’t know they don’t know but thinks they know better than anyone else. Sometimes, this is indeed the boss, as I’m sure most of us know warehouse workers or other lower-tier personnel who truly know more about the true business of the company than the elite management running it. This was very true for many companies I’ve been intimately involved with, including both Atari and MVP.com.

Furthermore, his attack on Sarah Palin is so typical of the same elite who refuse to look beyond their bi-coastal bubbles, who believe everything they read in the newspapers and nothing they see from real people in real America. Take, for example, this quote from the former Alaska governor:

The Obama Administration reaches out to some of the world’s worst regimes in the name of their engagement policy. America and our allies watch as sanctions are eased on Cuba. Letters are written to Iran’s mullahs only to see that regime start killing protestors in the streets of Tehran. Envoys are sent to North Korea as they continue to defy the world’s demand to give up their nuclear weapons. The Burmese military junta’s representative is allowed to travel to our nation’s capital. The President’s envoy for Sudan talks about giving that genocidal regime “gold stars,” while the President shakes hands with Venezuela’s tyrannical leader. In the midst of all this embracing of enemies, where does the Obama Administration choose to escalate a minor incident into a major diplomatic confrontation? With Iran, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea or Burma? No. With our treasured ally, Israel.

Or this one:

Months ago I discussed Washington’s decision to allow U.S. dollars to flow to Brazil for that nation’s off-shore oil drilling projects, while D.C.’s attitude towards America’s own offshore developments appeared less than enthusiastic. We gained hope though when our President promised in his State of the Union address that he’d be “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.” Most of us optimistically assumed that “making tough decisions” meant allowing at least some offshore drilling. … Turns out that was just more drilling doublespeak … .

While everyone has been focused on Obamacare, the Obama administration took advantage of America’s distraction and quietly said that it’s planning to place a hold on offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf until at least 2012.

At a time when our country is desperate for job growth, deficit reduction, and energy independence, it’s simply astonishing that the administration refuses to allow additional offshore drilling, even while supporting energy development in foreign countries.

Do these quotes sound like they come from a person whose “entire brand is anti-intellectual”? And these are just two examples of many from Palin’s public Facebook page.  It is Palin’s folksy charm–the very thing which makes her attractive to so many tired of the John Dingells and Nancy Pelosis and Chuck Schumers and Henry Waxmans of the world–which is so often intentionally mischaracterized as an intellectual drought.  Much in the same way that so many Tea Party activists–normal, everyday Americans–are dismissed as unintelligent.

Additionally, Petrilli said:

What’s needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate “Whole Foods Republicans”—independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated individuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work.

Note especially his comment above: “never tell racist or homophobic jokes.” His ignorance of the true conservative is appalling. I personally don’t know a single conservative who would tell racist or homophobic jokes; in fact, I don’t know a conservative who has any problems with the homosexual lifestyle. I do know some who are against gay marriage, while strongly supporting civil unions that would guarantee gays all of the legal rights of a married couple. Nor do I know a conservative that is against immigration; but I do know plenty who are against ignoring our laws and allowing anyone and everyone to enter, live, and work in our country without going through the proper channels.

As far as racist attitudes, the reality is that progressives are just as prone to these types of remarks as any conservative, if not more so.  In fact, it is progressives who are obsessed with everything race, who look to inject racial controversy into each ancillary issue.  More over, it is their belief that the government must protect the down- trodden which leads them to a deep-seated racial prejudice that has not been helpful to blacks, nor will it be helpful to Hispanics.

In many ways the conservative is much more “inclusive” than the progressive, but are characterized as anything but.  In reality, the conservative believes that all races are equal in intelligence and wisdom and only need to be given the opportunity to excel, while is is the progressive who believes that there are those races who are not as blessed and, therefore, need help from their “betters” if they are to have a chance at a satisfactory life.

For me this attitude was best exemplified by one of the heroes of the progressive movement, Robert T. Greenleaf, author of the book Servant Leadership. His attitude of elitism becomes apparent as he bemoans that certain groups of the “dark-skinned and the deprived and the alienated of the world” are trying to solve their own problems. This is what he says:

… some of those of today’s privileged who will live into the Twenty-first Century will find it interesting if they can abandon their present notions of how they can best serve their less-favored neighbor and wait and listen until the less favored find their own enlightenment, then define their needs in their own way, and, finally, state clearly how they want to be served.

In this way Greenleaf reflects the condescending attitude of elitism that has been prevalent over the centuries: the attitude that only a few are chosen to lead and that these are the elite among us, those that will show the way and will save us from ourselves. Time and time again, we’ve seen that same sentiment present in so many comments from stalwarts on the left.  Look at these, for example, from the Hip Hop Republican:

You cannot go to a 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.
– Sen. Joe Biden

Mahatma Gandhi ran a gas station down in St. Louis.
– Sen. Hillary Clinton

You’d find these potentates from down in Africa, you know, rather than eating each other, they’d just come up and get a good square meal in Geneva.
– Former Sen. Fritz Hollings (D, S.C.)

Is you their black-haired answer-mammy who be smart? Does they like how you shine their shoes, Condoleezza? Or the way you wash and park the whitey’s cars?
– Left-wing radio host Neil Rogers

Blacks and Hispanics are “too busy eating watermelons and tacos to learn how to read and write.”
– Mike Wallace, CBS News.

Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they have no program, no policy. They have no love and no joy. They’d rather take pictures with black children than feed them.
– Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s Campaign Manager for the 2000 election

…a handkerchief-head, chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom.
– Spike Lee, on United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

He’s married to a white woman. He wants to be white. He wants a colorless society. He has no ethnic pride. He doesn’t want to be black.
– California State Senator Diane Watson, on Ward Connerly’s interracial marriage

Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
– Former Klansman and current U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, a man who is referred to by many Democrats as the “conscience of the Senate,” in a letter written in 1944, after he quit the KKK.

And Petrilli accuses conservatives of being racist!

Meanwhile, he continues with basically the same rant, fearful that the Republican Party is becoming anti-intellectual and will therefore never achieve prominence again. The truth is that conservatives, who will make up the vast majority of Republicans in the future, are not against intelligence and in fact are out front in doing needed intelligent analysis of many progressive issues — ObamaCare, anthropogenic global warming, U.S. future energy needs, and amnesty among them, to name a few. It is the Progressives who are accepting the “truth” of these issues without doing the needed intelligent analysis.

Petrilli has it all wrong. We are not against making intelligent, well-considered decisions. But, we are against signing 2,700-page bills without any idea of what they contain and how they will change our lifestyles. We are against elitists who don’t know they don’t know but think they know better than anyone else.

Nor, by the way, are true conservatives against shopping at Whole Foods.  Full disclosure: I, too, shop there.  And I like it.



  1. Randy Wills says:

    Great piece, Brad.

    Petrilli fails to make any connection between the fact that many, if not most, college graduates have been well schooled in the elitist, anti-American, philosophies of the Marxists/progressives on campus and voting tendencies.

    One would do well to consider the influence on this tendency of the likes of the “educator” Bill Ayers and that star of traditional American values, Peter McClaren, the self-avowed Communist professor of education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education.

    Can anyone say “the tide of demographics”?


  2. Gail B. says:

    Give ‘em hell, Brad! They deserve it!

  3. John Feeny says:

    Let us also never lose sight of the ‘efforts’ of Woodrow Wilson and Margaret Sanger.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Arugula, sounds like something Caligula would like.

  5. Dee says:

    Good article, Brad. We met several of the “elites” while on a trip in Ireland. After dinner our friends and we went to the common living room and turned on the TV to watch the news, this was during Sept. of 2008, and politics was on everyone’s mind. The elites walked in and saw that the TV was on, couldn’t believe it, pooh-poohed us, and stood in the entryway to talk rather than join us even though we said we would turn it off. My father came from a family of 8. They did not have alot of money and therefore none of them went to college. My father and several of his sisters skipped several grades in school because they were smart. My one uncle, while in the Navy, solved trigonomotry problems in his head. His commmander kept sending him slide rules (no caluculators at that time). My cousin would come to our house and read the old encyclopedia that we had. My father read constantly. He always had a book and would read whatever he could get his hands on. I never felt that my family was uneducated. The elites we met in Ireland had no idea who we were or how many degrees we had. Three of us had Master degrees and the fourth had a bachelor’s degree. All conservatives and all accepting of others, regardless of race or education. I have always considered the elite types as very narrow minded and very limited in their views. I feel sorry for them because they miss knowing alot of wonderful people.

  6. Jim says:

    I think the term you wanted was “anthropogenic global warming” (caused by human activity) rather than “anthropomorphic” (resembling or made to resemble human form).

  7. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Thanks for noticing that — it slipped by me.

    I’ll make the correction soon.

    – Jeff

  8. Teresa O. says:

    The arugula quip is a perfect example of how this guy (Obama) reveals his true self. You just can’t hide that kind of arrogance. Keep it up Brad!

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