Snobbery in politics

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With American voters pondering the choice between a blueblood businessman and a self-described “mongrel” incumbent president, news from across the waves reminds us that class warfare is also alive and well in our mother country from colonial times.

The Associated Press reports Andrew Mitchell, a British Cabinet minister in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative administration, had a minor brush with the law when police officers asked him to dismount his bicycle as he approached the prime minister’s residence on Downing Street in London. The verbal exchange that followed got him in bigger trouble, politically.

According to the British press, the minister bristled at the perceived affront from mere cops – bobbies, the Brits might call them. “Best you learn your (expletive) place,” Mitchell was quoted as retorting. “You don’t run this (expletive) government. You’re (expletive) plebs.”

That’s short for plebeians, a term coined by the ancient Romans to distinguish their humbler countrymen from upper-class patricians. Britain has a storied history of aristocratic rule, though the commoners have gotten in on more of the action lately, especially since those rebellious colonists across the Atlantic kicked up a spot of trouble back in 1776.

Mitchell and Cameron’s Conservative Party does run the government for the moment, although the Labour Party, like America’s Democrats, has raised a ruckus over cutbacks in welfare benefits and public-sector pensions.

Cameron, like U.S. multimillionaire Mitt Romney, has taken pains to portray himself and his party as representing the best interests of all social strata, so Mitchell’s temper tantrum raised some eyebrows. The Cabinet minister apologized for the incident but denied saying what the press said he said. That hit a nerve with the Metropolitan Police Federation, a union, which thought Mitchell was accusing its members of lying.

The “pleb” reference stirs resentments that linger even as Britons of the egalitarian persuasion try to shake off the vestiges of class discrimination. Steven Fielding, director of the Center of British Politics at the University of Nottingham, said it sends voters a blunt message: “This government is not one that’s interested in people like you.”

Funny, that’s how some Americans felt about our small “c” conservatives after the secret recording of the Republican presidential candidate telling donors in a May fundraiser that 47 percent of the U.S. population pays no income tax and therefore has little interest in his tax-cutting platform. He’s had to do some backpedaling since, but stands by his basic philosophy of reducing government assistance and promoting self-reliance.

On both sides of the water, politicians who aspire to win must avoid alienating large segments of the voting population. Both Democrats and Republicans go out of their way to convince us they’re just like the boy (or girl) next door (even though most Americans probably have a hard time envisioning their next-door neighbor as president). Finding someone with the ability to lead a nation without losing touch with everyday people is a big test for any democracy. Picking one who manages to pull it off without coming across as an out-and-out fraud is even tougher.

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  • "Where is it written that that is the offical stance (of Republicans)." It is written in the voting records of these Republicans and in the words that they say in public that are recorded on video tape...and in the official Republican Party Platform. By voting for these clowns, you tacitly agree with them on these issues. I do not want to see a one party system, but it sure would be nice once again to have a small government, libertarian and fiscally conservative party that was not bought and paid for by big industry and filled with crazy neo-cons and Teabaggers. That seems really intelligent, now doesn't it.

  • First of all forgive me for my rambling and grammer. I was a little perturbed when I wrote this. Why say all republicans agree with what Romney or Akin said? Is that really most Republicans official stance? Where is it written that that is the offical stance. Most people that I know that vote Republican do not have that stance tatooed on them or squirrled away in their Bibles somewhere or locked up tight in a vault buried in the backyard. That statement you make regarding all Republicans seems very shortsighted. In fact, I would wager that there are some non-Republicans out there that have similar ideas that you purport are the official stance of the Republicans. Are all people that vote conservatively evil? Anon, IMO your way of thinking is part of the problem. Vote the man, not the party. I tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. What does that make me in your view? An uninformed voter with an IQ approaching 200. Hmmmmm. Too much partinsanship to get anything done. Do you also think that Mitt and Barrack are really that different. They both make more than you or I and I would put forth the idea that they do not share the exact same issues that you and I face. Do you hate Republicans so much that you wish we had a one party system? That really seems intelligent doesn't it?

  • bodeen.. great advice and everybody no matter what party you need to vote. Votes are becoming the only voice we have any more. Because our congressmen are not listening to the people who sent them there. They are only out for the big guns that will feed their war chests.

  • I am glad of reading ALL comments from any posters when it comes to politics.I have been reading all of 1713's comments & opinions & I personally think that 1713 has done his/hers homework. I will gladly read any negative comments on Obama when someone posts them & I hope EVERYBODY pays good attention to who/what we have running. Some people simply will not look past color (I personally hear the racists comments all the time) and vote for a better UNITED STATES of AMERICA !

  • 671, like ukfan says, I certainly do NOT hate KY voters, but that does not mean that I cannot be critical and somewhat frustrated by their self-destructive voting patterns. Most Kentuckians (not all, obviously) seem to have a penchant for being low-information voters (and are proud of it) and who do not pay attention to the issues (thus they can only resort to ad hominem attacks, like yours). This makes them especially susceptible to being hoodwinked with a mere populist slogan or emotional hot-button issue like abortion or chislers on relief by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, who obviously do not have their best interest at heart (unless they are rich...which very few are). Thanks for your faux concern for my emotional happiness, but I think that I will just stay right here in my hometown with all of my family and friends and try to change things for the better, despite your love it or leave it taunts. You can bet that they like having me right here. You have a nice day now, ya'hear!

  • I don't recall reading where 1713 said he hated Kentucky voters. I don't think he/she said they hated any voters just that they don't like the Republican views on how the country is to be run. I also don't think San Francisco voters are all going to vote for just one party. You can't clump people into one category....it don't work that way.

  • If you hate Kentucky voters so much, why don't you move to somewhere like, oh I don't know, maybe San Francisco. I bet they would like to have you out there.

  • Romney's 47% diatribe IS the Republican official position, albeit one that you normally have to pay $50,000 to hear. This was similar to the case when Rep. Todd Akin blurted out the truth about their official platform position on legitimate rape not needing an abortion because a woman's body shuts down that sort of thing. It shows that the Republican party has a profound lack of understanding about the country that they live in and want to "govern". ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ Republican Ronald Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.", and then he spent the next 8 years proving it. And the Republican Party has been pushing and proving that concept ever since, as a self-fulfilling prophesy. And some of America (and ALL of Kentucky) seems to never learn. I think that history has shown us the wisdom of the following comment, “If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat.” ― Bill Clinton