The Professional Class

As a degree carrying member of the professional class, I've had an easy life.  But I'm the first and only one in my family so far to earn a doctorate.  One grandfather was a bus driver and the other went into real estate.  My dad had a college degree, but my mom didn't. I grew up in a middle class family that profited from the post-war boom.  My parents bought their first house when I was a baby, and they stayed home owners, and had one to leave to me at their deaths.  My uncle, who was a fireman, owned his own home and through appreciation he died better off than my dad, who was an engineer.  

I find that conflating class with income is a strange concept.  Although I'm in the educated and often more affluent professional class, I identify with my extended family and friends, most of whom struggle to pay monthly bills and have few dreams of retirement at all, much less the retirement my parents and my fireman uncle enjoyed.

But if it's not income, what makes a someone an 'elite?' How is it that Hillary, my first choice for president, relates to working people better than her opponent, who's wife grew up in a struggling family?  

The answer is only partly education.  In this country we don't have a static class system, it's possible to change so-called class, as Barack did, through education. He went to Harvard and was on the law review.  He married a fellow professional who'd faced greater odds than he had, but so did Hillary, she also married a someone from an arguably even more struggling family than Michele's family.  So this can't fully answer how Barack is seen as the elitist, because Hillary isn't, she's seen as a woman of the people.

The answer that seems to work is the one of identification, the 'class' with which one identifies.   Which group you like to spend time with, which group you like the best, in other words which group calls for your empathy. Of course even people born rich have the capacity to identify with struggling people, just as some struggling people have the capacity to view themselves as elite.  It's a choice, in as much as everyone is free to 'be' part of the 'class' they feel most 'at home' with.  

The professional class is often seen as 'the know-it-all's,' the 'we'll tell you what's best for you,' class. It includes physicians and lawyers and school teachers, and professors, but not small business owners, who are in the merchant class.  Even though far from all professionals are rich, we get the same perks as the rich, we get invited to the right parties, we're welcomed into the so-called 'higher echelons' of social life.  

Hillary is a down-to-earth person. She's as comfortable chatting with housewives as with world leaders. She can drink a beer at a bar and shoot pool, and she can host a dinner for the most powerful men and women in the world. Like me she came from a working class family, and had the benefit of a better educated parent and parents who valued a college education. She was smart enough to get into the best schools, and she was the top in her classes. She ' worked her way up' but she married a fellow from a poor, single parent family who had nothing to offer to her but his dreams.

Still, I don't think this entirely accounts for her ability to connect with most of us, that is most of us who get to 'meet' her and don't have to rely on 'reports,' it just shows she had early practice. What made the difference is that Hillary never forgot about regular powerless people, and what makes her special is that she's always been most interested in the voiceless, those of us whom politicians overlook (those who can't always vote), children who need safe and good schools, adequate nutrition, health care; mothers who are rearing our next generation, wounded veterans; women around the world who suffer real consequences for their sex.  

Elite is a choice, you can think that your education and experience makes you a better human being than the next guy, or you can see that we're all in the same boat, and we sink or swim together.    

Tags: eiitism, low-information voters, working class (all tags)

Comments

67 Comments

Re: The Professional Class

These are your perceptions and not those of everyone.  Sometimes people are simply placed in a class by a group of people, either because of an agenda by that group or otherwise.

by rfahey22 2008-05-15 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

What's nice about being American is that you don't have to stay in your place.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

If there are two words I could indelibly imprint on America, two words that would always describe us, I would choose liberty, and opportunity.

by mattw 2008-05-15 09:48AM | 0 recs
According to the OECD social mobility in the US

is NOW lower than almost all of the other OECD nations, even England, which was known in the past for its class stratification.

If you are born poor, chances are you will remain poor. Mexico is worse. Most of the European countries, Australia, NZ, far better.

lack of access to education is the reason.

many of us are living in the past, expectation wise.

But statistics don't support that level of optimism.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:03AM | 0 recs
Oh, forgot one thing..

Its better for immigrants.

Many immigrants do FAR better than native born Americans in this measure. Immigrants are allowed to step outside of the class boundaries that Americans apply to each other.

Even African and especially Asian immigrants. (who do far better than 'white people' perhaps because they PRIORITIZE EDUCATION)

by architek 2008-05-15 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: "woman of the people". . . priceless

you're mocking me or her?  She's gets those votes, it's not just an opinion of mine.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 11:03AM | 0 recs
according to

it's a lot harder now, the ultra rich have been squeezing us. That's why we need universal heath care, better access to college and graduate schools, investment in disadvantaged communities, all the things in Hillary's reform packages.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

Beautiful, thoughtful and important diary, Anna.  Thank you.

by Tolstoy 2008-05-15 10:09AM | 0 recs
This is simple

If you hold a PhD or a JD, you're among the most educated people that have ever walked the earth. You're the very definition of "elite". As someone pursuing a graduate degree, who also comes from a rural, Southern background, I have no illusions about this. Just because I can down Jack Daniels with the best of them, or shoot turkeys and build a deck with my grandfather, does not change the fundamental fact that like it or not, you and I are part of an elite class, just like 90% of the progressive blogosphere. Anyone that has the time to devote themselves to the minutae of politics clearly isn't busting their ass for a living.

by amiches 2008-05-15 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: This is simple

I don't think I'm better than anyone and I would never presume to have an opinion on anyone else's choices. I've always voted against my own economic interests.  Elite is a state of mind.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: This is simple

Excellent diary and great comment.  Elitism certainly is a state of mind!

I understand what you are saying.  Neither of my parents went to college, and my father, in fact, dropped out of high school.  They owned a home and a business and worked to make sure that I went to college and then to law school so that I could have a better life than they did.

We had a comfortable life, but by the time my Mom died, and after she had closed the business, she struggled.  She certainly didn't have a comfortable retirement.

My husband and I have a pretty comfortable life now, but we know it could go away in a moment.  That, and the way we grew up makes us vote against our current economic interests time and time again.  We certqinly are everyday people and no one would mistake us for elitists.

by cjbardy 2008-05-15 10:04AM | 0 recs
In some fields, MS's and sometimes, even people

with 2 years of college do better than PhDs.

In other fields, a PhD is what a high school diploma used to be, the minimum possible training to get a job in your field.

Weird, isn't it?

Age has a lot to do with it too. When you reach a certain age, all the education in the world wont help you. Many companies wont hire older (meaning over 35-40) people. They just think too slow and cost too much to insure.

Its more common on the West Coast than East.

Google got sued for it.

Welcome to the future.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: In some fields, MS's andl

I'll never earn as much as my plumber, that'll never happen.  My housecleaner is a brilliant thinker, with more good sense advice than one could imagine.  her kids are nicer and doing better in school than the kids of some of my professional associates.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:18AM | 0 recs
I disagree
I come from a background of generations of college graduates and professionals, all the way to the 1600s.  Some of us have money and some of us do not.  We would easily be considered educational or cultural elites.  But some of us are and some are not.  Elitism is about how you think of the people you judge to be not as smart or well off as you.
You are not doomed to elitism unless you make that choice.  You may fall in to the trap early on and then hopefully you will get over it.
The first thing is to tell yourself..., " I am not smarter just because I have a college degree. People  are not stupid just because they do not agree with me".
by TeresaInPa 2008-05-15 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: I disagree

"Elitism" is not the same thing as "elite". Elite just means you're in a certain class of individual characterized by higher income and higher education. Elitism means you think elites are somehow inherently better or smarter than other people. I don't believe that, and I disagree with those who do. But conflating the two is a mistake.

The reason I'm a Democrat is because I believe that every person has the ability and should have the opportunity to become "elite". That certainly doesn't strike me as elitism.

by amiches 2008-05-15 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

"perceptions" are very important in a media-driven age of electoral politics.

How is it that university professors making maybe 100 K are "elite", yet George W. Bush who inherited millions was portrayed as a "regular guy"? How did the media get away with that portrayal?  

I agree that Hillary (and even more so, Bill) have the ability to mix and mingle with "Regular Joes", something Kerry looked uncomfortable doing.  And thus far, at least, Obama appears uncomfortable doing. And he is too skinny.  At 46, he should be fatter "like the rest of us."  

Is he skinny because he is "weak"? Is he a vegetarian (next thing to Communism to many average Americans)? Does he work out every day ("means he has too much free time")

Obama will painted as an elitist because the media will see to it. It is all a mirage.  But it has worked against Democrats in the past.

by WolfmanJack 2008-05-15 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

he only became an elitist when he 'explained' the motives of some who preferred voting for her. That was arrogant.  Explanations of other's motives are always offensive, unless you live in a bubble like minded explainers.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

obviously, they are all "elite".   The Clintons are "elite" but they don't act like it.  Obama (at least thusfar, and to many of us) seems "smug" "arrogant" "elite" whatever word one wants to use.

Is is fair? I don't know because I haven't gotten to know Obama. Does he sometimes "appear" elite? I would say yes.

by WolfmanJack 2008-05-15 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

if it's defined by money and connections, they could be. But, they're not.  They don't see that as substantive, I guess.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:12AM | 0 recs
$100k is not elite..

In a lot of places, its barely middle class..

Try buying a house in many parts of NY or CA if your family income is $100k a year.

It can't be done.

Say if a couple made $160k

If they have a typical mortgage, and are trying to put some money away, they are barely getting by.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:13AM | 0 recs
He is an elitist

he has not learned yet.  Some day he may have the sense not to be one, but it seems clear to me that he is an educational elitist.

by TeresaInPa 2008-05-15 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

Don't forget how Barack Obama rose from living in a small apartment with his grandparents and single mom to where he is today. There are many stories of such rises in America.

by Cheebs 2008-05-15 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

so did my son, I was broke when he was little, I was still in graduate school.  He's way elite.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:02AM | 0 recs
Educational level of parents

is highly correlated with future success.

So is a stable environment in early childhood.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

that is not really his life story.  In fact his mother married somewhat early in his life and when he lived over seas she worked for the embassy and they lived in a gated community.  When he lived with his grandparents they were quite well off and he went to expensive private schools.

by TeresaInPa 2008-05-15 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

I think most Obama supporters are familiar with his lifestory, and you, as usual, are misrepresenting the facts.

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 10:51AM | 0 recs
Could be

...or it could be that Obama got labeled an 'elitist' because his political opponents found it exceptionally expedient and beneficial to do so.

by zonk 2008-05-15 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

it didn't come from them, it came from the media, who's for him. Even Maureen Dowd nailed him on that one. And people don't need to be told what to think, those who heard his words thought for themselves.  Go figure, people can think for themselves.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

It came from Clinton.

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

she said he was wrong, and that it was wrong to speak that way about people you don't know, and behind their backs.  She said it sounded elite.  She warned him, John Kerry lost the election because he had to go wind surfing.  People don't like being talked down to, and as another dem she had to disagree, since she did disagree. He made it worse yesterday, calling a girl reporter sweetie.  This isn't good, he could be our nominee, he must start thinking more before he speaks.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

Are you seriously claiming she didn't pile on with the elite claim?

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

A google search of "Hillary calls Obama elite" will garner just under half a million hits ....

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

We all want a candidate who can win a broad base of Democrats.  Kerry was running against the real Bush and he lost. Barack is handsomer, darker, smarter, guy but he's still Kerry. He needs to show a learning curve, and his 'sweetie' remark, that she has not mentioned unfortunately cemented that view of him.  he's trying to win her supporters and he thinks women like to be called sweetie?  Google is a broad search program, many have linked that comment with her name in the same paper.  She brought it up several times in answers to questions, but it isn't a part of her message, she rarely mentions him.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

She hammered him day and night on it, why do you think we are still discussing it?

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Could be

no, he labeled himself with his elitist remarks.  And now he is calling women he perceives to be lesser than him as sweetie.

by TeresaInPa 2008-05-15 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class


Let's see...

Hillary grows up upper middle class.

Obama grows up the child of a single mom.

Who is elite?

by Bob Beard 2008-05-15 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class
To be fair, as an Obama supporter she gets the working class "white" vote over him. Easily. I mean in all honesty could you see people like this at an Obama rally?

http://druskin.net/temp/capt.1fcae0701d964ffeab2123ec7c13ae65.clinton_2008_wvea119.jpg">
by Cheebs 2008-05-15 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

thanks, you've made my point. She doesn't think she's better than anyone else, she's real. With her the tent is really really big, it's it great? What a terrific picture of some of Hillary's supporters, thanks for sharing it.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

How on earth do you know whether she thinks she's better than anyone else?  As her message has changed so many times this campaign, and the populist stuff has only emerged recently, which is the real Hillary?  To many it just seems a convenient act, that she's got better at as the campaign has progressed.  Do you not remember the bossy school marm tag she used to have?

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

I've always seen her the same as I see her now, she hasn't changed.  We're seeing more of her, that's why she won such big support in NY, she visited with  people and she listened.  She's nice, I'm sorry that you can't see it. When she's our prez I think you and everyone else will see it, and it's in her record, she works harder than anyone, and for those who need help.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

She's not going to be your Prez so I will never get that chance to see it.  I see someone who shamelessly labelled another democrat with a republican talking point for her own advantage, when she has said much worse than Obama's cling remarks herself in private ("Screw them Bill").

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

what gives you the right to correct me. We simply don't share the same opinion.  i think she must win, because we must win the GE.  She has the popular vote, and her margin may even increase, there are more votes to be cast.  She polls better against McCain and she's better positioned to face off with him, both he and Barack are counting on the same group of voters, indies, not Democrats.   Many of his supporters claim they won't accept him if she's on the same ticket, because that will dilute his message that she's 'too insider.'  That means they want to vote for him, but don't care about party loyalty.  I'm a Democrat, I'll vote for the nominee, but i want the one that can best win in November.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

The right to correct you?  You posted your opinion, I posted mine - that's how blogs work.  If you don't want people to respond to you, don't publish your opinions.  My opinion is that Hillary will not be President, and in 2 or 3 weeks that will be a fact.

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

perhaps you phrased it badly, didn't mean to tell me I'm wrong, just meant to say that you disagree?  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

Well, you're wrong as well ;)

by interestedbystander 2008-05-15 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

thank you, you made my point.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

I've seen video of Obama supporters wearing tee shirts saying "bros before hoes"

by soyousay 2008-05-15 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

well, that's pretty big tent.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:14AM | 0 recs
Hillary's workers have people scream that at them

all the time from cars..

by architek 2008-05-15 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary's workers have people scream

I didn't know that, that's very ugly.  has he asked them not to?  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary's workers have people

I didn't know that, that's very ugly.  has he asked them not to?  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class
This one? If so I dunno if women think its sexist because I've seen MANY young women wear it during Obama rallies on tv.

http://nextthing.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/bros-before-hos.jpg">
by Cheebs 2008-05-15 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

What can I say except ignorance is bliss.

by soyousay 2008-05-15 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

do you mind if I hide rate this so we can take it down? It's offensive to me.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:23AM | 0 recs
lets see

Hillary grows up middle class, going to public school and had to work her way through college.  

Obama is a Harvard legacy who attended expensive private schools while living with his bank VP grandmother.

by TeresaInPa 2008-05-15 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

I see you've bought the "single mom" story hook, line, and sinker.  Obama's adventurous mother was always helped by her well-off parents.  Her father owned a furniture store and (rarely mentioned) her mother was a bank vice-president.  Barack spent all but his early youth in their care.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madelyn_and _Stanley_Dunham

Yes, their daughter married and divorced, twice, but she was never in want, and Obama himself enjoyed a privileged upbringing.

***A

by adrienne4dean 2008-05-15 11:20AM | 0 recs
I know Millionaire beer drinking

builders who would scoff at anyone who called them elite or upper class.  Class is a state of mind and class is not what I see as Obama's problem.

I think the whole thing got fouled up be the media who jumps all over the first one to coin a phrase.

Someone called him elitist but I think he is Arrogant.  There is a difference.  I have a professor brother who fits the Elitist tag but is not arrogant at all.

by NewHampster 2008-05-15 10:01AM | 0 recs
HRC doesbetter in the "over $150k"

demographic, in many (most?) areas.

Ive seen that several times..

It just depends on where you draw the line.

To some people, in most of the country, $150k is a lot. In other areas, its barely getting by.

Its being afraid the rent will go up and you will have to move.

Obama's folks are trying to say smart people prefer Obama. I don't think that is true.

I think its too complicated to generalize like that.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

It's not where you go in life that makes a person an elitist; it's forgetting where you come from.

by soyousay 2008-05-15 10:12AM | 0 recs
YES, exactly..

I grew up poor, managed to pull myself up to the point where I was doing well, then got sick and fall way behind, now i am trying to recover. I think I will be able to do it, hopefully, but I will never be the same person I was before.

I think being poor is in many ways a very valuable experience to have.

Thats why I would NOT trivialize the West Virginia voters.

Or anybody. Each and every group has advantages and disadvantages.

Things they understand that others don't.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

Michelle's family didn't struggle.  Her father worked for the city water plant, a very good job.  Any city job was really good in those days.  And he was a precinct captain for the first Mayor Daley.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Ob ama

The connections her father made have been very helpful to both Michelle and Barack.

Carolyn Kay
MakeThemAccountable.com

Called a stupid, white-trash racist because I voted for Hillary.  When does the Unity start

by Caro 2008-05-15 10:30AM | 0 recs
Thats why some Republicans are trying to destroy

unions, privatize Federal workers, destroy job-provided healthcare without giving us any viable alternative, etc.

Basically, they are waging war on US. On everything people have that gives them stability.

They get angry when they see middle class people who aren't DEPENDENT on the rich for everything they have.

They really seem to be.

Thats why we need MORE than Obama. He doesn't understand this. They started this war. We are just trying to survive and keep America HUMAN.

by architek 2008-05-15 10:34AM | 0 recs
great post

Yes, I do think that we choose our outlook in life to some degree. We should choose to identify with everyone, not the class that we happen to belong to at the time.  Hillary Clinton, because of her work helping children, the poor, the middle-class, and many diverse groups can better identify with Americans.  Her popularity goes beyond the fact that she has worked for all Americans, but also because Clinton has a way of understanding people's hearts and is able to communicate her ability and will to unite America.

by Nancy Kallitechnis 2008-05-15 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: great post

Thanks Nancy, you stated that beautifully.  She'll make a wonderful president.  

by anna shane 2008-05-15 10:42AM | 0 recs
Antithesis of Unity

Thanks for writing this diary. I'll go one step further to say that classism and elitism are the antithesis of unity and are just as dangerous as racism and sexism. Elitism is a state-of-mind, and IMHO, a sign of personal insecurity and a need for validation. I have a better understanding of the dislike of the "Liberal Elite" as Hillary and her supporters have drawn their ire during this primary season. I have been attacked by Obama supporters as racist, stupid, and uneducated; I have put up with their put downs. I suppose it was a lesson I needed to learn regarding my own underlying snobbery. Hillary is resonating with people because they see her as being like them not as an untouchable. She is accessible in a way that Obama is not. The 'better than thou' attitude the Democratic party is draping itself in with Obama is ripe with elitism and egoism. Democrats are rejecting it and the American people will reject it in the general election. The time is now to support Hillary, a Democrat who is winning the people and will win the people in the general election to beat McCain.

by grlpatriot 2008-05-15 11:59AM | 0 recs
Elite labels are a joke.

You can call anyone Elite for knowing more than you, or being better than you at a certain thing.

For some of us, the people that repair our car could be seen as "Elite", maybe not likely to happen because it has been labeled middle class.  And some look down on the proffestion. But a high school teacher that makes 30K a year could be seen as elite, because they use complete sentences and big world,know facts, but an engineer making 120k a year is not, because their job has no carry over to daily life.

Obama was labeled as elite because he used a crazy word like arugula, and made a comment with wording that  appeared  as if he was  looking down on people.  The media and Clinton happily piled on.

What I find far more elite is the notion of a limited number of jobs and actions being  Presidential.  I have said before the Clinton supporters put forward a notion of Political Aristocracy, and Job Nobility, that I find to be a far greater sign of "elitism".

You could call anyone elite, and depending on what you mean it might even be accurate.  But the elite label they are attaching to Obama, would be far more appropriate to attach to Clinton.

by Tumult 2008-05-15 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: The Professional Class

Thanks for the wonderful diary, Anna. It provides an opportunity to discuss and important subject that needs discussing.

Comments from the likes of Donna Brazille and Obama suggesting that the Democratic party no longer needs to rely on blue collar white or Hispanic voters are absurd. If you want to get elected, you need everyone who could possibly vote for you. Relying on the liberal elite and blacks is the way to lose.

Elitism is a frame of mind, not circumstance. It doesn't matter how much money you have or your educational level or IQ. What matters is your attitude towards others and attitudes are based on decisions about things and people. An attitude is like a light switch, on or off, for or against. When a switch is on, a contact is made that allows the flow of electricity. An attitude is a decision to be for or against something, like or dislike something. My attitude is, I don't like green eggs and there's nothing anyone can say that'll make me change my mind. I've blocked the flow of any information to the contrary.

I may eat organic carrots and lettuce and sip only the finest green teas at home but that doesn't make me an elitist. I'd be happy to chow down on some ribs, pulled pork or chili with friends who happen to be black.

Hmm, OK, it's past my dinnertime and I'm hungry. :)

by Nobama 2008-05-15 03:38PM | 0 recs

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