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July 18, 2006

A Class of Would-Be Rulers

Something struck me oddly about Chuck Schumer's calling out of the "theocrats":

There is a group of people in America of deep faith. I respect that faith. I've been in enough inner city black churches, working-class Catholic parishes, rural Methodist houses of worship, small Jewish synagogues to understand that faith is a gift. The trouble with this group, which I call the theocrats, is they want their faith to dictate what the government does. That, in a word, Mr. President, is un-American. This exactly what the founding fathers put down their plows and took up muskets to fight.

The senator's use of adjectives for the present-day component of his rhetoric is conspicuous (probably without intent):

  • inner city black churches
  • working-class Catholic parishes
  • rural Methodist houses of worship
  • small Jewish synagogues

With the exception of "small" — perhaps because Schumer was straining to include some sort of non-Christian church on his list — all of the italicized words evoke images of non-wealth (which is not to say "poverty"). Is it really from this group of relatively powerless non-elites that the dreaded "theocrats" arise? There's a rhetorical disconnect, here, between warm tones with which politicians generally speak of the salt of the unwashed masses and the spiteful panic that such as Schumer instinctively muster when thinking about the democratic imposition of certain Christian priorities.

But that disconnect, telling as it may be, is not what struck me about the passage. Note Schumer's characterization of the founding fathers, who:

  • put down their plows and took up muskets to fight

Thus is the heroic working class of the past is invoked in opposition to the misguided working class of the present. Of course, we all know that Schumer's imagery is really just a jumbling of myths, but perhaps he gives away confirmation of what one suspects to be his opinion: The rubes of the past were once riled by their elites to drive off a distant monarchy. Those erstwhile elites set up the system that the Schumers now exploit to secure their own power. The fear is that the modern day rubes will be all riled up by a different set of elites to overthrow (or at least undermine) the current aristocracy.

One can only hope.

Posted by Justin Katz at July 18, 2006 7:40 PM
Poverty & Wealth
Comments
There's a rhetorical disconnect, here, between warm tones with which politicians generally speak of the salt of the unwashed masses and the spiteful panic that such as Schumer instinctively muster when thinking about the democratic imposition of certain Christian priorities.
The disconnect, I think, is not hard to explain. Schumer's "warmth" is a condescending one: "Oh-ho-ho, you lovable foolish little children, with your cute, adorable, silly little beliefs that make you happy, keep a grownup like me in charge calling the shots, and I can take care of you, so you can go about your little lives inside your wonderful little communities." However, the idea that these people might not accept their rightful place as helpless sheep - that perhaps they aren't content to be marginalized and might want a place at the big boys table for their own views rather than Schumer's - it strikes terror into his heart, and the contempt that always belied the warmth turns into a paranoid hatred. Posted by: Deuce at July 19, 2006 12:01 PM

Don't look now, but Derbyshire is back on his "fathers don't matter" trip again. This time, his argument is "Fathers don't matter, because it's important for fathers to keep their daughters from dating losers". I kid you not.

Posted by: Deuce at July 27, 2006 10:56 AM