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On Sunday, CNN will air an interview with Cindy McCain (see first link below) in which she expresses outrage about the "how many houses do you own, Johnny?" question that we and lots of others have been talking about.  She's "offended" and thinks it is going too far to wonder about such things.  After all, Cindy says, "My father had nothing...I'm proud of what my dad and my mother did and what they built and left me. And I intend to carry their legacy as long as I can."

"Their legacy."  What might that mean?  She will certainly be carrying their money around for a long time, as there is a lot of it.  The fact of the matter is that, whatever the facts about her father's business dealings, Cindy did nothing to become obscenely wealthy besides being born into the right family.  By virtue of that stroke of luck, she left the womb and immediately took up a place near the top of the business hierarchy.

Similarly, her husband had the luck to be born into the family of a Navy admiral, rather than, say, that of an enlisted man.  Though admirals don't make nearly the amount of money wealthy businessmen like Cindy's daddy do, they do quite well financially, thank you.  More importantly, they are part of the elite of another social sphere, that of the military, which, coupled with the business and political elites, actually makes most of the decisions about how American society works.  

The great social critic C. Wright Mills made the most concise and powerful version of this argument about the true anti-democratic nature and structure of the American polity in his classic 1956 book The Power Elite.  In a nutshell, Mills argued that the elite sector in each of these three spheres sets the agenda and makes the decisions for American society according to the logic of their (not the national) interest, while the masses (that'd be you and me) are systematically prevented from actually getting into positions to change anything.  Outside academia, Mills' great book has been largely forgotten, but I think we might well find it useful in getting to the bottom of this business of 'elitism' in the current electoral campaign.

You see, the McCains are a kind of textbook example of Mills' argument.  The unintelligent heiress of a business fortune and the unintelligent son of an admiral whose political career was made possible with his unintelligent wife's cash, neither of you in any way responsible for the lofty positions you now occupy, having attained them through no gifts of your own but only through the sheer stroke of fate, and now here you are, lording it over the plebes ('how many houses do we have again, Johnny?  Oh, stop it, Cindypoo, and pass the caviar'), feigning 'outrage' when someone dares to note what is obvious to anyone who has eyes, all while pretending to be the common folk in this election, and trying to pass off your opponent as the 'elitist.'  

I cannot adequately express my own outrage, Mrs. McCain, that people like you and your husband have been allowed even once to call Barack Obama an "elitist" without immediately being showered with various once-edible things in a state of advanced decomposition.  This is a guy who grew up in single-parent family, biracial in a racially-biased society, who received no trust fund and no leg up into a career in his daddy's line of work, who paid his way through college and law school with government loans.  Were and are there other Americans still more crushed by inequality and poverty than he was?  Undoubtedly.  But let's get real, Mrs. McCain.  Those of us who are literate know who the real elitists in this election are.
on Mills' The Power Elite

Originally posted to Kino on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:37 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  someone should god damned ask her about (6+ / 0-)

    lying about mother teresa. if that had been michelle obama, barack's campaign would be over.

    Call the National Enquirer about Palin. 1-888-809-6799. Unrec the diary about Bristol.

    by robertacker13 on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:39:24 PM PDT

    •  OMG...I didn't know (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Krum, JeffW, robertacker13

      what you meant so I googled. I was incommunicado when that came out so hadn't heard about it. Let me get this straight:

      She forgets her half sisters (one of whom is proudly voting for Obama) and claims herself an only child

      She claims to have met ( since scrubbed from the McTalkingPoints website) Mother Theresa and not only that, but that Mother Theresa convinced her to adopt?

      Must be the Vicodin side effects.

      "I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me, what is it exactly that the V.P. does every day?" GOP VP Candidate Sarah Palin

      by Vita Brevis on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:14:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When you don't work for it you don't know (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pattisigh, Krum, GTPinNJ, JeffW, robertacker13

    how to fight for it.  All you know how to do is cry.

    If John McCain is the answer, then the question must be ridiculous. -Patterson

    by publicv on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:40:18 PM PDT

  •  Ahhh, the American Dream... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krum, GTPinNJ, Robert Davies

    being born into a rich family.  

    The McCains are so out of touch with regular Americans it is amazing to me that the GOP voters just don't see it at all.  Or are choosing to ignore it.

    "My mother would have said that a woman voting for John McCain is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders." - Cecile Richards (TX)

    by blue armadillo on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:46:40 PM PDT

  •  It remains true and probably always will (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krum, JeffW

    that the best path to success in this country is to choose your parents well.  It served the current president nicely, despite him being a total moron and an asshole to boot.

  •  Funny how the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krum, Kino

    GOPatriot party forgets that our nation was founded by a war to leave this kind of old world feudal structure behind.

    No wonder McCain went for the Paris Hilton analogy since Cindy was the Paris of her generation.

    "I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me, what is it exactly that the V.P. does every day?" GOP VP Candidate Sarah Palin

    by Vita Brevis on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:06:24 PM PDT

  •  Don't waste your outrage. (0+ / 0-)

    It makes them look like victims.

    This election is going to come down to spending money.   If it weren't, then McCain wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance.  He's not a bad politician in his way, but he's not in Obama's league.  Obama is a once in a generation politician.  Watching him is a kind of historical privilege, like being present in Yankee stadium on that day when they took that famous picture of Babe Ruth getting up to bat and pointing to the bleachers before smashing a home run.   It's like watching Ali rope-a-dope George Foreman and then KO'ing him in round 8.  

    But Obama's not invincible.  He can't win over voters who can't hear him or who aren't listening.

    That's the whole point of the Palin thing.   McCain had to do something shocking, otherwise the media would have spent Friday, possibly much of the weekend leading up to the Republican convention as well, gushing about Obama giving the best acceptance speech in living memory. McCain might well have lit his hair on fire on national television.  Better to do something ridiculous, and count your media flunkies sage posturing to dig your out of the hole of absurdity, than to let Obama get sieze of the public attention for even a single day.

    The McCain campaign and its janissaries were reduced to critiquing Obama's backdrop.  The poor benighted bastards.  Is that the best they've got?

    Well, unfortunately, maybe they aren't counting on quality, so much as volume.     Maybe if they burn enough money in the right places, they can suck all the oxygen out of the atmosphere.    The sad thing is, it could work.

    I've lost my faith in nihilism

    by grumpynerd on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:11:29 PM PDT

  •  C. Wright Mills'... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard, Krum, Kino

    The Sociological Imagination is a must read for progressives. A must read. The diarist is right, Mills is little read today, but he is fresh and timely on the big flow of big things. I'll tell you this, reading Mills will be more fruitful than watching Race to the White House.

    Is that a real poncho, or is that a Sears' poncho? - Frank Zappa

    by JoesGarage on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:12:11 PM PDT

    •  C Wright Mills? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, JoesGarage

      To paraphrase Woody Allen, he's my second favorite Mills!  After Wilbur, of course.

      You've got to hand to to us Democrats.  We even have better sex scandals than the Republicans.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:21:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  couldn't agree more... (0+ / 0-)

      The Sociological Imagination is one of the classic texts that make the case that looking at the human world in individual terms is bound to lead us astray.  Whether we like it or not, our fates are connected to the fates of others.  The right systematically ignores the sociological perspective, and this is why it gets almost everything wrong (you're poor and uneducated and powerless--who's to blame?  YOU.)

  •  Thanks for this! (0+ / 0-)

    Now, we're putting focus where focus should be rather than Hurricane Sarah.

    Welcome Back, Hillary & friends!

    by Krum on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 08:20:34 PM PDT

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