What’s the matter with Kansas Northfield? Too many of us are snobs.

snob2 Ever since Snobamagate, I’ve been thinking about the degree to which I’m a snob… and whether Northfield has more than its share of snobbish people.

Twenty-five years ago, I worked for the Faribault Public Schools as a school social worker and it struck me how frequently the snobbishness of Northfielders came up in conversations among faculty and staff who I worked with. It really grated on them. Since then, alarm bells always go off in my head whenever I hear a fellow Northfielder make a snide remark about Faribault, Dundas, or other towns nearby.

The snide remarks are nearly always made by someone with at least a college education and the target of their remarks is the one of main demographics that Clinton and Obama are fighting over for this week’s primary in Pennsylvania —  the white, working class with a high school education.

In one of the comments I added to my January blog post, Why do you love Northfield? Why should people move here?, I wrote:

I often tell people that one of the neat things about Northfield is its social diversity. Most small towns with a college or university are dominated by its presence. They become a 99% latte town as described by David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise. Northfield is 50% a latte town. Half the population aren’t bobos, and I like that. Lots of conservatives and libertarians. Lots of blue collar, working class people. Lots of religious folks. Lots of people who volunteer in ways that bobos don’t.

I think many of us Northfielders who could be seen as bobos, especially the progressive liberal elites (which, as an Obama supporter with a Master’s degree, I’m arguably one, my support for Ray Cox, Tom Neuville and appreciation of the commentaries by David Brooks not withstanding), don’t recognize our own arrogance when we deal with others in the public sphere who are ‘not like us,’ especially ‘not smart like us.’ 

I think Obama is less of a snob than I am, but there’s probably a tendency in all of us to get a little condescending when talking about others who you don’t hang out with much. Once you’re a Senator, your circle of social contacts gets pretty limited, no matter what your roots.

I drink coffee most often at GBM and the HideAway, not the Quarterback or Perkins. I drink beer most often at The Cow and Froggy’s, rarely at the L&M or Corner Bar. When I go bowling at Jesse James Lanes with my kids, I don’t usually know anyone else there. I loved the Adult Spelling Bee. I don’t watch NASCAR events. I go to art gallery openings. I drink a lot of white wine in the winter.

But most of the guys I play racquetball and ride motorcycles with hang out in a totally different circle. They’ve never even heard of Locally Grown. I’d hate to think I’d be condescending in a conversation about them but I can see how it could happen if someone asked me why none of these guys frequent LoGroNo. I could easily make the same mistake as Obama did and slip into a little psychoanalysis that could be seen as patronizing.

I really like the PBS special, People Like Us: Social Class in America, because it touches on all these class issues and opens your eyes. I think it should be shown yearly in a ‘Social Class in Northfield’ event at The Grand, even though ‘my types’ would be the only ones to show up for it.


  1. Anthony Pierre said:

    Bill Mahr, on his show on HBO, interviewed a bunch of bikers and gun owners to see how that Obama ‘bitter’ comment sat with them.

    here is the video:

    April 21, 2008
  2. Jane McWilliams said:

    Griff: As you said, “there’s probably a tendency in all of us to get a little condescending when talking about others who you don’t hang out with much.” I probably have been a snob about Faribault all these years, but I’ve recently come to appreciate how well that city functions. River Bend Nature Center is a good example. This extraordinarily beautiful and active facility is made possible by the cooperation of the city, a non-profit supported by generous benefactors and hundreds of volunteers who build trails, teach kids and fill bird feeders. The school district sends every K-6 student out there 2 or 3 times a year for substantive environmental education programs.

    Northfielders should visit the newly refurbished old movie house, now a Center for the Arts, to see how Faribault has succeeded in creating a magnet for the downtown which features not only the restored theater, but excellent places for artists to work and for others to learn. Many of the handsome old buildings on Central Avenue have been restored and there seems to be a lot of energy along the street. There are probably other reasons we should admire Faribault. All it takes is a short drive south!

    April 21, 2008
  3. BruceWMorlan said:

    Anthony, you pointed us to a very interesting video. Since I do not have cable or the like, I miss lots of these interesting stories. I really enjoyed watching this one, since my sons (in Ohio) are akin to the guys in this story.

    One of the biggest problems we face as a society is how to balance our desire to clique up (think HS pep rallies, Vikings v. Packers, Cryps v. Bloods, Dems v. Reps) with our need to keep our conversations open and flowing. If all you ever do is latte-up and think you are somehow connected might I suggest you browse the bar at the bowling alley, snoop around to the Eagles for one of their fund-raising brunches (preferably for something you normally would not support, like say a fund-raiser to buy calves for local 4H members to raise for the county fair), or hang out by the river and talk with the anglers there. It can be an exhilarating experience.

    April 21, 2008
  4. Curt Benson said:

    Several years ago I had a Northfield High School student working in my machine shop. When he was making plans for an education after high school, I suggested technical college, pointing out several programs that seemed to promise a good future.

    He was insulted, thinking that I was putting him down. Actually, the opposite was true. I thought he had a great work ethic. He could figure things out faster than anyone else I’d employed. He enjoyed making stuff. He wanted to be self employed. I thought he could learn a well paying, in demand trade of some sort, and be working for himself in a matter of a few years.

    After talking to him a bit, I concluded that for at least some Northfielders, going to a technical school was an admission of inferiority.

    Later, I spoke with a local guy who is a very successful businessman. He employs many skilled blue collar workers and actively works with the area technical schools. He bristled when I told him about my experience with my employee. He thought the devaluation of technical, blue collar skills was true everywhere, but much more so in Northfield. He thought the presence of the colleges had something to do with it. I have to agree.

    April 21, 2008
  5. I grew up in very small towns in northern Minnesota. I watched, heard and participated in tons of prejudicial speech against social class from the lower and lower-middle class perspective. It runs both ways.

    In fact, it runs all ways. I remember how my itty-bitty town of my childhood – pop. 120 when the wind was right – had “classes” of people, even though nearly the whole town was lower to lower-middle class, at best. Those with just a tiny bit more money derided the squalor of those with just a tiny bit less money, much like the racism exercised by people against others within their same broader racial category. Much like the regionalism evident across America.

    In trashing the perceived elitism of Northfield, Griff, your Faribault colleagues were attempting to make themselves appear better in comparison to Northfield, which is, largely, the definition of elitism.

    Social class bias is rampant, but it crosses all classes

    I’m grateful that I’ve experienced many social classes and had friends across the field of personal / family income and ranging the spectrum of educational attainment. I tend to go for people who have a good, active sense of humor and are stimulating intellectually, which are traits independent of income and official education. I’ve found dull people are dull regardless of class or schooling. That’s who I am.

    Of course, I have plenty of biases, diverse and subtle. We all do. Pretending you don’t is simply another form of elitism, and it prevents you from working on the biases. I believe Kurt Vonnegut said all you could do is be kind. That’s so very true.

    Thanks to Tony for the link in comment #2. Very enlightening comments from Pennsylvanians who understood what Obama meant.

    April 21, 2008
  6. Patrick Enders said:

    I agree.

    I think it is a universal phenomenon – one that we must consciously resist – that “we” are better than “them.”

    April 21, 2008
  7. BruceWMorlan said:

    Norm Butler (of the Contented Cow) has suggested (half in jest, but still) that perhaps Dundas should try to create a small technical school to form a sort of Research triangle in the area. I mentioned that the two existing colleges could loan faculty and/or classes to round out the otherwise “too technical” nature of a small school, and the school could offer more hands-on classes for the students at the two liberal arts schools we already have. The Dundas-Bridgewater Inst. of Tech (Go D-BITs!) would anchor the triangle and could help balance out the educational opportunities in this area. It could focus on small scale farming (leaving industrial farming to the UofM types), technical issues, physical arts (metalworking and arts) and pre-engineering (a two year program that feeds into the four year system). Why not just use Faribault’s school? (sniff, they’re soooooo southern, way too southern for our northern sensibilities).

    April 21, 2008
  8. Anthony Pierre said:

    I don’t understand using elitism as a derogatory term.

    I wanted the best doctor to repair my knee, am I elitist? I want the best person to be president, not someone that would have fun with my at a BBQ. (I stole that from bill mahr :P)

    April 21, 2008
  9. David Ludescher said:

    If the bobos (snobs) in Northfield actually wanted to make Northfield more diverse, they would quit trying to social engineer Northfield into a bobo town. Look at the Comp Plan. Even though it has been changed, it still reads like a Bobo Manifesto.

    There is nothing wrong in being a bobo. The problem is thinking that everyone can or should be a bobo. When you are smart and cultured, it is difficult to imagine why everyone wouldn’t want to be like you.

    April 21, 2008
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    This bobo term. People use it a lot*, but I don’t know many people in Northfield that it would actually apply to. Sounds like yet another derogatory stereotype.

    People are complicated, and hard to understand. Calling some people ‘bobos’ will get you about as much goodwill (or help in revising our Comp Plan) as calling other people ‘yokels’ or ‘yahoos’ might. And it shows just as much toleration and understanding.

    *: Actually, I’ve only heard it used here, and by David Brooks when he was talking/writing elsewhere. Heck, the term doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page yet.

    April 21, 2008
  11. Excellent topic, Griff, and a lot of interesting comments. Growing up in Northfield in the mid-60s through mid-’70s, it was abundantly clear to me that class issues/problems were just as prevalent in Northfield as anywhere else (if not more so). Nothing has changed in the intervening decades. We in Northfield tend to think we live in a “special place” (which we do!), but we have a LOT to learn from other communities, and lots of room for improvement in this and many other areas.

    Anthony, I thought the Bill Mahr/Jeremy Scahill YouTube video you posted was fascinating, and an excellent examination of the manufactured outrage over Obama’s “elitism.”

    I have to agree with Patrick’s comments (#10) regarding use of the term “bobos” in comments such as yours, David L. (#9). Pretty off-putting, and not at all helpful in engaging in meaningful discussion. Nobody likes to be stereotyped, and stereotypes are nearly always inaccurate and mostly useful in perpetuating we/they conflict.

    April 21, 2008
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m swamped with work today and not much time to comment. But I’m the one who started using the shorthand ‘bobo’ here and I think David L was following my lead.

    I just feel compelled to defend any poor helpless lawyer who happens to wander in here. 😉

    April 21, 2008
  13. Curt Benson said:

    Hey lighten up. David Brooks coined the “Bobo” term. “Bobos in Paradise” is hardly scathing. It’s a sort of affectionate, bemused look at the Bobo world.

    If I were to rank all groups of people in order of how deserving they are of victim status, I’d place Bobos towards the bottom, right before people with enormous trust funds, or women who are prettier than Kathryn Veta Jones.

    Keep it up, David L.

    April 21, 2008
  14. John S. Thomas said:

    This would be one heck of a topic for a F2F salon… a conversation in which I would love to participate.

    April 21, 2008
  15. John S., you are welcome to discuss whatever you wish at the upcoming F2F Northfield social gathering May 20 at Froggy Bottoms, Happy Hour, 4-6 p.m. and beyond. But I think you meant SALOON, instead of salon! Bobos welcome, too.

    April 21, 2008
  16. Patrick Enders said:

    My first experience of the term ‘bobo’ was here, when Griff previously suggested that half of the townsfolk might in fact be bobos. My first reaction was about the same as when I first heard “macaca” – that is, I have no idea what that word is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a compliment.

    Now, a minimum of investigation reassured me that bobo is nothing like macaca, but it still comes off as a smug, dismissive, and just a bit demeaning term. And again, one that artificially imposes an false us-versus-them divide on what is i fact a very diverse group of individuals in this town.

    April 21, 2008
  17. Patrick Enders said:

    Hey Curt,
    Just to be clear: I’m not talking about awarding anyone victim status. I’m just suggesting that 1) people often defy easy categorization, and 2) nice words can go a long way in helping people get along with each other. Anyway, my comments were more directed towards Griff than towards David L.

    And didn’t this thread start by talking about the problem of snobbery and condescension?

    April 21, 2008
  18. David Ludescher said:

    Thanks for the saves, Griff and Curt. I understood that bobo = bourgeois + bohemian = self-interested liberal idealist.

    April 21, 2008
  19. I don’t think anyone who graduated with a masters or even a doctorate before 2005 has anything to be snooty about.

    April 21, 2008
  20. John S. Thomas said:

    Ok… I have 5 diplomas from Uncle Sam’s school of hard knocks (5 honorable discharges / enlistments), a 2 year Associates Degree, a 4 year Bachelor’ s Degree with a triple major, Microsoft Certifications and I am working on my MBA in Information Technology Management.

    What does that make me? Well, for one thing, broke from Student Loans. 😎

    But by no means do I feel that I am elitist, a bobo, or a snob. I am just a person who worked very damn hard to get where I am. It has taken me over 25 years to get where I am, and I am not finished. I have lots of check marks in the been there, done that column, but there will always be someone else that has done more, or is a little smarter.

    Does that make me any better than anyone else? NO.

    Does that make me proud of who I am personally? DAMN RIGHT.

    Just because I didn’t make an arbitrary date, or an arbitrary standard, does that mean that I don’t get to join the super secret Northfield club that meets after dark on the Riverwalk on every third Thursday after a full moon? 😎

    I didn’t make the 2005 deadline, but raising a family was more important. The goals I have are MY GOALS, not the goals I need to make it to a certain level, or be a certain level of standing in the community.

    My point is this. I consider myself a born and raised “blue collar” Montanan. I clawed and scratched and scraped every day since I emancipated myself at 16. However, today, I work a very technical white collar job.

    I do my best to judge no one, as I have been there. I have done janitorial. I have had massively exciting careers in the food service industry. I have been on food stamps & public assistance. I have lived on PBJ and top ramen for 2 weeks, and walked to work because I had no money for gas or insurance. But I grew from all of those experiences, and learned that I did not want to do those things for the rest of my life.

    Bozo’s, Bobo’s, snobs… its all a label. Everyone needs to look at yourself and how you conduct your life. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated. There is way too much BS in the world. We need more kindness.

    Maybe I have not lived here long enough (Dec 2001) or drank enough of the Kool-Aid yet, but I don’t think I have a particular bias against Faribault or Dundas, or Farmington for that matter. I have my opinions, but I don’t look down on those that live there. I work in St. Paul, and I know that the big city life is not for me.

    Having a college degree makes me educated. It doesn’t automatically make me a snob. I don’t remember that course being taught in school.

    I am just afraid that if we start throwing the word snob around… the next thing you know, someone will say that we are “geographically or economically racist”. If you go and look up “racist” and “snob”… they have some disconcerting similarities…

    As for the part of “snob” that reads… one who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors… well, no one here is my social superior. You are all my friends, neighbors, peers, and countrymen. I do not have the time to go chasing any perceived “cliques” here in town. I have too many other higher priority tasks that need to be done, like raising my family.

    This is turning into a very unstructured rant, so that must mean I should end it.

    I guess that all I am trying to say is that we are all human beings, and as such, we are all equal on this earth and in the eyes of god. Just because you have a few more bucks, live 8 miles north, or two miles south, clean floors, or program computers, you are no better than your fellow man.

    Everyone needs to move past labels, and all the rhetoric. You need to get up in the morning, and do some good for humanity with the skills you have learned and been given. Life is too short to be a snob. 😎

    God bless you all, and thank you for this lively discussion. I really wish that I could discuss this more over a couple of beers. It is much easier to debate the issues face to face.

    So Endeth the Rant… I apologized if I strayed too far off topic. 😎

    April 21, 2008
  21. Griff, hmmm, can John S. T. get the beer he wants at that salon you referred to? A saloon may be better for F 2 F beers…

    April 21, 2008
  22. Patrick Enders said:

    Nice rant. 🙂

    April 21, 2008
  23. john george said:

    This whole thing centers around self image, me thinks. There has been so much emphasis put on this aspect of ourselves that I think we sometimes lose sight of reality. I just read a funny about how we were in the ’50’s. One comment said that back then, we had to accomplish something before we had a right to feel good about ourselves. This is a self defeating attitude that has caused all sorts of problems for people and equated value to accomplishment. The pendulum has swung so far the other way now that people are content with having a good self image and never accomplishing anything in their lives. So there must be a place of balance in our lives that we don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. If we equate value with accomplishment, then what about the unfortunate who cannot accomplish anything because of physical/mental disabilities?

    In our society, high value is put on accomplishment, be it getting good grades in school, playing sports proficiently or being successful in business. There is a place for accomplishments to be rewarded, but this in no way should elevate a person to a place of “greater value.” Physical differences and abilities are just that- differences. It is difficult, though, for some to be able to separate their “value” from their “accomplishments”, especially if one is of the male gender. This is one of the reasons many men die off quickly after retirement- They no longer have “value” because they no longer work.

    The unfortunate result of competitiveness in our society is to separate people of different disciplines rather than unite them. There seems to be an innate part in people to want to be the “best”. This, of course, means that everyone else is something less than the best. Then come the labels to try to “define” the differences. It is an unfortunate part of human nature. You can see it demonstrated amongst two year olds on the playground. Is there hope for this state? I believe so, and I see it demonstrated in the lives of the people in the church I attend.

    So, how’s that for a rant? 🙂

    April 21, 2008
  24. john george said:

    Oops! Forgot my last thought, which (I hope) relates back to the thread. Is there “elitism” in Northfield? Yes. But I think it is just because we are a normal collection of people, and, just like the two year olds on the playground, we are not going to outgrow some tendencies. The healthy part comes in recognizing it and dealing with it in our own lives when it rears its ugly head.

    April 21, 2008
  25. Some years back, a friend of ours observed that, in Northfield, he was just a person, but in Faribault, he got stared at. (He was not a participant in our local ethnic homogeny.) I certainly wouldn’t have moved to Dundas or Faribault, and the community is a big part of the reason.

    It’s not that I particularly object to people without college educations, or working-class people, or whatever. It is that they are very likely to object to me. In the late 80s, as I was on my way to college one day, I was accosted (seriously, that is EXACTLY the right word) by a rather drunk man who informed me that all this computer stuff wasn’t a real job, and you couldn’t make a living doing computers, and education was stupid. He wasn’t violent, so I guess I don’t really object that much, but I think I’d be uncomfortable in a community with many more people who felt that way.

    Elitism is all over, and I think it’s odd that people seem to assume it’s one-sided. Like racism, like sexism, it goes both ways; we tend to view the groups we identify with as superior to other groups. The assumption that it is the people with the college educations doing the looking-down-on is a sort of implausible assumption, really — but I suppose it’d seem natural to a cluster of people many of whom have college degrees, no?

    April 22, 2008
  26. John S. Thomas said:

    I pondered this a great deal last night.

    Let me pose this question. Is it “Elitism” if you have made a decision against a certain career path or area to live?

    I ask this, because as I grew up in Montana, I found that I did not want to be a cowboy, and that living in a very small town was not going to allow me to grow as a person. There was not enough of an economic base in order to support the type of career I wanted. I really did not want to work at the Sugar Beet plant, or at the oil refinery, or the grain elevator. All of these are good jobs, but it was not really what I wanted to do. I wanted to pursue technology, and the only way out was to join the military.

    I would move back to Montana in a heartbeat, IF I had the financial resources to do so, and Jake was off to school. The economy is still not where it needs to be.

    So, does moving to Northfield make me a snob? Well, if you are a resident of Two Dot, and visiting Northfield… it looks like the big city. There are many opportunities here, many nice things, and many nice people. Northfield could be quite overwhelming.

    Could we be percieved as snobs by outsiders?

    Probably. Many of the folks around here are kind of self absorbed. I know that many days, I am in my own little world, as I am somewhat sleep deprived, and just trying to get done what needs to get done.

    However, I am always willing to stop, and offer assistance or a kind word to a tourist, and help them on their way to the NAG, or the Grand, or any of our amazing “pearls” that we have to enjoy.

    I don’t think we are elite. I just think that many in the community have worked very hard to build what we have, and we are DAMN PROUD of Northfield.

    Just because we may have two colleges, and our demographic skews slightly towards higher education does not make us any better than everyone else.

    It’s 5:20 AM. Time for some caffeine. No Latte for me, but I will however enjoy my fair trade peace coffee from Just Foods. Thats not elite, thats just trying to do some good in the world as well.

    Make it a GREAT DAY people!

    “Peace, Love, Recycle”


    April 22, 2008
  27. Bill Ostrem said:

    Nice post, Griff. Though my background is different, I resonated with Brendon’s comments (#5) and with Griff’s original post, but the latter more in the sense that I know I’m capable of arrogance and bias towards those who are not like me. We all pick and choose where we go based on our comfort levels. I’ve gone to Chapati a dozen times but never to the Eagle’s Club or Diamond Dave’s or the Legion.

    On the other hand, I go to both Cub and Just Food. I go to a church that has a broad socioeconomic cross-section of the community, and I’ve attended religious retreats with evangelicals who do not share my progressive views.

    Like many of us, my background is a mixture of classes: My paternal grandfather was the chief sewer engineer with the City of Minneapolis and had a college degree. His son, my father, however, nearly became a plumber and ended up living and working as a teacher in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, surrounded by wealthy business folk. Our trips were camping trips while my friends went skiing in Colorado.

    My maternal grandfather was a working-class union member who worked for the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railroad as a clerk and liked FDR. His daughter, my mother, was able to attend college at Hamline and become a nurse.

    While I might have been relatively high status in much of Minnesota (though not at Wayzata or Woodhill Country Clubs), when I attended Princeton University to get a Ph.D. in English, I found myself on the lower end of the social totem pole. A housemate described my cooking (which included hotdish) as “blue collar.” I drove a rusting Dodge Aspen station wagon. I had never been to Cape Cod or the Hamptons and found myself gravitating to more working-class places like New Brunswick (home of Rutgers University) I got sick and tired of seeing Mercedes cars, but I still enjoyed having friends from many different backgrounds.

    I did not get a permanent job in academia and am now associated with it largely through my wife. A former insider, I stand on the outside, and I appreciate the perspective this gives me.

    One other thought: let’s not forget the hatred fomented by “anti-snobs” who label those whom they don’t like as “tree-huggers” or other labels. That is a powerful force in our country.

    Now, lacking a good segue, forgive me for bringing up nonmotorized transportation again, but I’m working a lot on that issue and tend to see things through its prism. It has been indirectly criticized here as a “bobo” preoccupation. My question: is the old guy in suspenders who rides his bike from the Legion to downtown at about 5 mph a bobo? No. Should he have a safe place to ride? Yes. Do I even know his name? No, but I have waved to him.

    Let’s all drop the labels and reach across the divide to shake hands. That includes me.

    April 22, 2008
  28. Bill Ostrem said:

    Sentence two of my post should read “…towards those who are NOT like me.” Sorry about that.

    April 22, 2008
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    I fixed it, Bill.

    This conversation is really forcing me to think deeper about these issues. Damn you people. I was content with shallow thinking. 😉

    The comments about the tendencies of all groups to be judgmental about other groups who are the slightest bit different rings true. I’ll often hear BMW motorcycle riders dissing the Harley crowd, and vice versa, for example.

    I just skimmed the Wikipedia entries on classism, snob, liberal elite, and elitism and found them helpful, especially the latter in the section titled Elitism as a pejorative term, since, as Tony indicated in his comment above, other types of elitism are highly desirable.

    For me, the Northfield elitism that bugs me the most is evident in (I’m paraphrasing now from the Wikipedia entry on elitism) people who sometimes act as if their views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight because of their intellectual and/or educational status. And I notice it most, of course, in discussion (formal and informal) about civic issues.

    I think the first time I noticed it was when a group of us parents approached the school board back in the early 80s, asking that the district create an alternative elementary school. The condescension of some of the well-educated board members was shocking. The attitude was on the order of “You want a choice? How could you possibly be unhappy with our elementary schools that we’ve created? We know what’s best for children.” Result: Prairie Creek Community School, originally a private school, now (hooray!) a public charter school.

    So we need to be on our guard for both creeping classism and intellectual elitism, not with namecalling or sarcasm when we notice it in others but maybe with a gentle, understanding nudge, knowing that we’re often blind to it in ourselves.

    April 22, 2008
  30. john george said:

    Wow! This is one of the best threads you have started, Griff. I can see a common denominator in the posts I have seen so far. It is the admission that we all have tendencies toward elitism. Now, wouldn’t that be an interesting quality to rally around for unity in the city?! There are definitely differences in experience and convictions among all of us. Our choice is how we allow those differences to color our attitudes toward one another. Do we acknowledge them for what they are and choose unity in our relationships, or do we use them for separation? The choice is ours.

    April 22, 2008
  31. David Ludescher said:

    There is a difference between the “classism” and “elitism”. One Faribault resident described it to me this way, “Faribault is the valley of reality between two mountains of conceit”. (i.e. Northfield and Owatonna).

    April 22, 2008
  32. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    I’m not following your point.

    April 22, 2008
  33. That seems to me to be a rather elitist statement in its own way, Dave L.

    It also doesn’t clarify the difference between classism and elitism. Not sure what “conceit” means in this context. The “conceit” of feeling superior because of class? Educational attainment? Skill? Vocation?

    Faribault is no more “real”, no less heaped up with its own manner of “conceit”, than Northfield or Owatonna.

    Here’s what frustrates me: Kids are told to educate themselves all their lives – to better themselves, to better our society, to be engaged in our civil society in a productive, meaningful way – then, after expending this effort, getting a good education, getting involved, you are told that you are “elitist”.

    Perhaps this particular Faribault resident would like an apology? If so, for what?

    You could get to know someone, be the nicest person in the world, be genuinely caring, and then, when that new friend finds out you’re from (insert “elitist” town here), you would miraculously be considered “elitist”? Doesn’t follow.

    April 22, 2008
  34. David Ludescher said:

    For a period of time, Northfield’s motto was, “A Special Place”. Even for Northfielders that proved to be a little too elitist. Nevertheless, the attitude still remains.

    April 22, 2008
  35. So community pride or positive civic mottoes are elitist? Again, it doesn’t follow.

    I could see the case had Northfield’s motto been “Everywhere Else Sucks”.

    April 22, 2008
  36. We alwasy get into a fix when we start comparing ourselves or claiming we are something special when given that we are all special, what have you done lately? Or have you done anything lately to back up your claim to specialness? I think there was a popular song a few years back asking
    the same question..what have you done for me lately? Lets now live on our laurels or our ancestors laurels, if that is even possible…not knowing what laurels are….I’ll be back….okay, here you go…1: an evergreen shrub or tree (Laurus nobilis of the family Lauraceae, the laurel family) of southern Europe with small yellow flowers, fruits that are ovoid blackish berries, and evergreen foliage once used by the ancient Greeks to crown victors in the Pythian games —called also bay, sweet bay2: a tree or shrub that resembles the true laurel; especially : mountain laurel3 a: a crown of laurel awarded as an honor b: a recognition of achievement : honor —usually used in plural.

    So, as long as we don’t rest on our evergreen shrub too long, everything is cool.

    April 22, 2008
  37. should have been not instead of ‘now live on our laurels’ above

    April 22, 2008
  38. john george said:

    Brendon- Good points. I think this relates back to personal attitudes, not necessarily a demographic.

    David L.- I lived in Owatonna for 16 years and in Northfield now for 12 yrs. There are two different bases perceived for the elitist accusations here- Owatonna for their industry, Northfield for their education. The year the Kaplan brothers sold Owatonna Tool Co. to SPx Corp., it was said there were more millionairs per capita in Owatonna, because of the stock distributons, than in any other city in the country. I don’t know if this assesment is correct, but it was a point of pride for many people. I personally knew Buzz Kaplan, Charlie Buxton ( Federated Ins.), Jerry Wenger (Wenger Corp.) because I did work for them in their homes. Each of these men, to use an old expression from back home, were common as an old sock. There were people in the town who perceiverd them to be elitist, but they didn’t know them personally.

    I think this attitude will be common in any city between those who have achieved high levels of success and those who have not. What makes a difference is in the relationships you have with people, and whether they are a threat to your own sense of well being. I think it goes back to the curent Northfield motto, “Cows, Colleges and Contentment.” When a person is content with themselves, there will be no envy. I think it is envy and jealousy that breed discontentment and separation and the accusation of elitism. And these are attitudes that each of us have self control over. As we relate to people, our own biases become evident.

    April 22, 2008
  39. David Ludescher said:

    I like Griff’s definition of elitism in post #30. I agree with everything he said in the blog and the subsequent posts. Let’s analyze whether Northfield is snobby, and if so why. Call it elitism, classism, bobo-ism, or snobbiness, I think there is a lot to what Griff is saying.

    Northfielders are perceived as being snobs by most surrounding communities. Griff asked why that is so; and if the reputation is deserved. My question is whether we want to change that reputation.

    April 22, 2008
  40. Holly Cairns said:

    I think even a homeless woman can be a snob or an elist, if she’s talking with the right person about the right topic. Elitism/snobbishness is taking pride ‘to the next level,’ perhaps.

    Maybe This: I’m a Swede and it’s great, and it’s cool if you are Bohemian.

    Not: I’m a Swede and too bad you are a Bohemian. Or not this either: I’m a Swede and I don’t care that you are a Bohemian. etc.

    Griff might have told his co-workers that it’s not nice to say such a thing about Northfielders.

    April 22, 2008
  41. Patrick Enders said:

    Northfielders are perceived as being snobs by most surrounding communities. Griff asked why that is so; and if the reputation is deserved. My question is whether we want to change that reputation.

    As long as Northfield has a different socioeconomic character from its neighbors, it will be considered ‘different.’ As long as part of that difference is that we have two colleges, more liberals, and a higher number of Ph.D’s than do our neighbors, that difference will probably be characterized as a derogatory description of Northfield as ‘elitism’ or ‘snobbery.’

    Without a significant social and demographic shift, both that difference and that stereotype will persist. Fostering positive political relations with our neighbors would help, but I wouldn’t expect it to make the stereotype go away.

    As for the question of whether Northfielders of different stripes can avoid being condescending or snobbish towards each other, I would hope – as both John Thomas and John George have suggested – that we can all try to balance our personal pride with a good-sized dollop of humility, and a healthy respect for the opinions and needs of others. It’s an ongoing process, and I’m still working at it.

    April 22, 2008
  42. In Holly’s comment, #41, she mentions people talking about being better than others, and while I am not in favor of such blather, I do not mind it nearly as much as people taking action against others by leaving them out of the processes of government and public input on private matters where invited. This kind of thing is heavy in Northfield.

    I admit I have been guilty of being a Chicago snob, but only because I had been overlooked and purposely shoved off to the side so many times in this town that I took to drawing on my past experiences, as I was not to be allowed any future here in town. Be it because I don’t drink, I wore a skirt above my knees, I am an artist of which there are already too many here, or because I don’t have children, I don’t attend church in Northfield, because I am not born here, etc, etc, etc, all things which have been called out to me by others and not ideas living only in my poor old brain, there are too many things to overcome before I die to continue trying to fit in.

    I hope you all work it out, even if it takes longer than I will be around to do it. Oh, it’s okay to protect your hill, but not from people who wish to do you no harm and perhaps even add a flower or two to the garden.

    April 22, 2008
  43. I think that the society that we live in, that’s perpetuated by government, the media, yes schools too, etc, is one where we learn at a very young age that there are “winners” and there are “losers.” Sports teams, spelling bees, grades, competition, “climbing the corporate ladder” – I think that if you look back and see these things, then it’s not a big stretch to think that we can have judgements, class distinctions, snobbery, etc.

    I think that within all of the struggle to become popular, liked, a winner, known, loved, important, not invisible, etc – that unfortunately we can all be trapped with MANY MANY unmet needs. This is when we lash out, act ‘snobby’, behave badly, commit violence to one another, etc.

    Last year I went to see Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of Nonviolent Communication, speak at St. Thomas University. Marshall stated that “any violence committed to another is the tragic result of unmet needs.”

    I think that maybe a way through these distinctions is to start asking ourselves and one another these questions:

    What do we care deeply about?
    What are our deepest needs?
    What needs are not being met?
    How can we build a community where collective needs are placed on an even level with merit, competition, the “marketplace”, etc?
    Should our needs be put first?
    Do the structures of our institutions within our system perpetuate our divisions and our consistent unmet needs?

    Discuss. 🙂

    April 22, 2008
  44. Bright,

    1. How are we residents of the hill to evaluate accurately who means us no harm?

    2. How can we be confident that the Buckthorn and Eurasian Water Milfoil that they plant here won’t prosper so well that they choke off the indigenous plants?

    April 23, 2008
  45. Holly Cairns said:

    Bright, you get pretty serious sometimes. Naw, that’s not how it is… there’s a few close-minded people out there, but they are everywhere. Unfortunately the close-minded also have open mouths. Sorry about that.

    Scott said:

    I think that the society that we live in, that’s perpetuated by government, the media, yes schools too, etc, is one where we learn at a very young age that there are “winners” and there are “losers.”

    That kind of thinking, although of noble intent, breeds insecurity. We might look at it like this (and teach our kids to look at it like this):

    Winners won a game, and losers dared to play. All are equal.

    I am sensitive to this since (as a kid) I played on both boys and girls’ soccer teams. The guys who coached the girls said things like “Good job. You’re just doing your best. You’re not losers if you lose.” That sounds good unless you compare that to the coach of the boys’ team: “Get out there and win. You’re playing like girls. I’m going to sit you unless you get up off your butt and start playing.” (something crass like that)

    I decided the message about trying to win wasn’t the evil, but rather it is what we say about effort and losing that is important.

    Sidetracked. Yes, back to whether Northfielders are snobs. That includes all of Northfield, doesn’t it?

    April 23, 2008
  46. You will never find–well not in Northfield at any rate–a better exposition of the mechanics of snobbery than Dr. Seuss’ _Sneeches_.

    Probably about one percent of the human population is self-confident enough to rely on their own character and perceptions of the world, without subscribing to some variant of herd mentality. Not necessarily including myself in that one percent, by the way.

    Northfield’s reputation for snobbishness is only partly deserved. The city functions as a de facto gated community for libruls–so what? In no way is it abnormal for people to congregate with persons whom they find interesting/sympathetic. There is a gravitational center for ‘cultural elite’ types because there are a lot of them already here.

    What drives me nuts is when people come here because they are fleeing somewhere else (e.g. inner-ring suburbs), then lose no time trying to make the town be more like their dearly missed inner-ring suburb. I am unwilling to accept the ‘conveniences’ of suburban life at the expense of having to drive everywhere for everything.

    People who have stayed in Northfield have sacrificed some of the opportunities available in larger population centers, somewhat intentionally with a view to maintaining a certain style of life. A fairly quiet style of life. Mostly, a fairly live-and-let-live style of life. We resent it when big shots come around and threaten our preserve.

    April 23, 2008
  47. Nate-Not a reader of Dr. Seuss, but I will answer your questions that our in my email but not here at LoGRoNo, so here they are…

    1. How are we residents of the hill to evaluate accurately who means us no harm?

    2. How can we be confident that the Buckthorn and Eurasian Water Milfoil that they plant here won’t prosper so well that they choke off the indigenous plants?

    Although you may not accurately be able to determine who means no harm, you might not hang someone before they committed a crime. It is very hard to live in a community where you have come to do honest work and contribute richly when you are always being turned away. (I have a couple of good stories about living here, but they are few and far between the other ones.)

    If that doesn’t suit Northfielders, they ought to do two things…first quit trying to separate “outsiders” from their money and donations and volunteer work from the person who is giving those things. And then,
    shut yourselves up in a compound like the Branch Davidians.
    When you have an isolationists heart, you ought not to invite the public.

    April 23, 2008
  48. Correcting an error of not seeing the questions herein. Sorry.

    April 23, 2008
  49. Holly Cairns said:

    While I’m at it, who has read the “Beans of Egypt, Maine”? There’s an eye opener. You’ll never look at classism or elitism the same, again.

    April 23, 2008
  50. Allow me to expound. I come from one of the most successfully integrated neighborhoods in the country, and the military also housed their 5th Army families there, with a major 20,000 employee univeristy with students from just about every country in the world. We never got into this kind of discussion because where there is openess and community, there is a space for everyone. No one complains of getting choked out. And although there were probably ten times the population there, the crime rate was extremely low…and except for the daytime buses, it was very quiet.

    April 23, 2008
  51. Holly Cairns said:

    “Limbo” looks interesting. Thanks, Curt.

    April 23, 2008
  52. Patrick Enders said:

    Interesting piece. Thanks.

    April 23, 2008
  53. Bill Ostrem said:


    Thanks for the link to Lubrano’s book on “straddlers” – people who are between two worlds. In my case this was as much regional as it was class. Midwesterners feel this in the Northeastern U.S., Southerners probably even more so.

    One thing that can foster a sense of superiority is having traveled or lived somewhere else, especially somewhere else that claims to be superior in some way to where you are now. I fall into this trap myself, having lived in Chicago, New Jersey, and California, besides Minnesota – also having traveled in Europe.

    The challenge is to share with people who live here what you’ve seen elsewhere, then see if agreement can be reached to make improvements or changes here. But one problem is that people don’t have access to the same experiences of having lived in place X or Y.

    Griff presented this definition of elites in comment #30: “people who sometimes act as if their views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight because of their intellectual and/or educational status.” Webster’s defines elitism as “1. leadership or rule by an elite; 2. the selectivity of the elite, esp. snobbery; 3. consciousness of being or belonging to an elite.”

    I think Griff’s definition of elitism is too narrowly defined by “intellectual” or “educational status” elites, though this does plague Northfield. What other elites are there? Elites of race, money, profession, status, power, ancestry, property, violence, nationality, language, etc. Let’s not forget those too, and don’t be too beguiled by those who tell you to beware of “elites” without recognizing the elites they belong to themelves.

    Perhaps some of the frustration certain people have with the educational status/intellectual elites in Northfield is that those elites lay claim to power and influence that other elites want to leave for themselves.

    Finally, it might be interesting to have a community meeting with a skilled facilitator that poses some of the questions that Scott brought up in comment #44. Don’t laugh at that idea too quickly. It might be very helpful; it would certainly help a group of people to get to know each other better.

    It would also be interesting for people to read and discuss “Main Street,” by Sinclair Lewis, his story of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. In what ways is Northfield like and unlike Gopher Prairie? What characters do we identify with and why? You see the old English teacher in me coming out.

    April 23, 2008
  54. Ani Lovoll said:

    Man, I really wish I would have started to read this when it was first posted.

    Funny enough, I had a discussion about this in my politics class this morning, because about 80% of my class came from small towns in the midwest, some of which were offended by Obama’s comment, some of which were completely uninformed, and some of which understood this comment as one made on stereotypes that a lot of city folk have.

    I personally have lived in all different types of living situations. I have spent a good third of my life in the city, a third of it in the suburbs, and a third of it in small town northfield.

    I wish I started reading this earlier because I found myself skimming the 57 very intelligent comments on it, because I simply don’t have time in the hour between my classes.

    But I would, however, like to commend Anthony Pierce on his short and simple, but convincing comment.

    “I wanted the best doctor to repair my knee, am I elitist? I want the best person to be president, not someone that would have fun with my at a BBQ. (I stole that from bill mahr :P)”

    I watched that part of Bill Mahr as well…

    And I agree 100%.

    I think the problem is that we are not elitist enough because Americans are getting so concerned with being “politically correct” and always wanting to be somewhere in the middle. You know.. “I want my steak and eggs with the steak medium, and eggs over medium, and I’m going to pay a medium price, leave a medium tip, because I am an average joe in the middle class that drives moderatly above the speed limit.”

    I don’t think it would hurt us to have someone smarer than the rest of us in office. I also don’t think it would hurt us to have someone that has more money. Since if they have a lot of money and started out with very little (such as Obama’s family), they obviously know how to handle money which would be really useful in our receeding economy.

    The main reason I remain an Obama supporter despite all of the mud on his face thrown by Hilary (mud created by the Republicans GIVEN to Hilary), is because he’s a radical and because he’s willing to make some changes that have been needed for years.

    As far as Northfield goes…I’m not going to worry about offending people from Dundas and Faribault by saying I’m better than them in some ways. There’s a little bit of truth to stereotypes, otherwise people wouldn’t use them.

    Just as Apple Valley probably says they’re better than us.

    Maybe people just need to get some thicker skin.

    that was quite a bit longer than I inted on writing.

    April 23, 2008
  55. David Ludescher said:

    Does anyone except a snob debate the definition of snobbery? (Yours truly included.)

    April 23, 2008
  56. Anne Bretts said:

    David…sheer genius. Thank you.
    (“Am I a snob?” seems to be the intellectual version of “Do these pants make me look fat?” The person asking usually wants reassurance, not truth.)

    April 23, 2008
  57. Great conversation! It’s making me recall my experience coming from a lower-middle-class family and neighborhood and lucking into the opportunity to attend a wonderful private high school with kids from the wealthiest neighborhoods in San Francisco, which was exciting but pretty intimidating. When I talked with my old friends about these new classmates, and mentioned where they lived because that seemed new and different and kind of interesting, I was accused of becoming a snob. So I stopped talking about them.

    Then I went to an Ivy League university, and quickly and forever learned not to talk very freely about that unless it was particularly relevant or when with others from a similar academic milieu, because it became clear that just by mentioning where one went to college, one was seen as bragging, or name-dropping. (Never mind that I’d received major financial aid and worked for the college food service, unloading dishwashers and flipping burgers, all the way through school.) That phenomenon was even true in a different form while we were in college: I remember kids from Beverly Hills who said they were from L.A., because they knew otherwise they’d immediately be judged.

    Having different experiences and even just learning new vocabulary changes your perceptions and your interpretations and the way you express both. You can try “keeping it real” with the folks in the old neighborhood, or the folks in your new town that are like the folks you grew up with, and you can understand where they’re coming from, and maybe some of them are still your very best friends, but it can be harder to be in the same mental place. And they, quite naturally, will find it harder to be in your mental place.

    And that’s not snobbism (not that snobbism doesn’t exist, of course it does, but it’s not inherent in the situation I’m describing), that’s just the reality of the fact that we are all shaped by our experiences and environments — but it seems quite a few people insist that it is snobbism, and I think that insistence can be a psychological defense mechanism that is quite understandable: “I feel that society judges me to be in some way inferior to this other person or group who has XYZ experiences or credentials that I don’t have, so I assume that this other person or group thinks that they are superior to me, which allows me to call them snobs and thus dismiss their views, along with any implication of inferiority.”

    But on the other hand…

    While it may be hard for anyone from either side of the aisle (Faribault/Northfield; working stiff/”boho”; white collar/blue or pink collar; college educated/high school educated; financially struggling/financially stable; etc. etc. etc.) to be in the same mental place as their counterpart on the other side, we do well to try to connect with each other across those divides, and learn from each other, and explain our own perspectives and try to understand others’ differing perspectives, and be kind to each other, and try not to label and judge each other (even though that is a universal human instinct, as other commentors have discussed), because making that effort makes for a cohesive, livable society.

    I was saddened by the story of the talented student who didn’t feel that pursuing a skilled trade was an acceptable choice for him in this community. That kind of elitism I do see around here — reading the graduation supplement each year to see what everyone’s plans are (college or not, what kind of college, etc.) reveals the socioeconomic and educational divides in this town pretty darn well.

    April 24, 2008
  58. Hey, why am I a cabbage again? I used to have a picture here…

    April 24, 2008
  59. Tom Swift said:

    Whatever the textbook definition, it seems the word “elitist” has become an easy way to disarm an argument — amazingly, even if the argument was made by a black man raised by a working-class single mom in 1960s America — without judging its merits.

    As others in this thought-provoking discussion have pointed out, Americans seem leery of (even antagonistic toward) people who are smarter than we are. Unfortunately, this is most evident when we’re deciding whether a person is fit to lead the country. Consider how Al Gore was pejoratively portrayed as the “smartest kid in school” in 2000. Consider how much attention the Obama “bitter” bit has gotten versus, say, issues that matter.

    We should be civil and respectful to all people, regardless of class, race or education. No doubt. Something I need to remind myself. Yet I think it’s important to accept that some people are smarter than we are. And I don’t think we should embrace the idea all opinions are equally valid — even if many people share them. Because there is a lot of evidence that we in the masses should raise our game rather than demand that the smartest among us lower theirs.

    As author Susan Jacoby has pointed out, more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college education could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.

    As author Bill McKibben has pointed, some 85 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians. But only 40 percent of them can name any five the Ten Commandments. And twelve percent of Americans think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

    Being president is the most demanding and complex job in the country. Shouldn’t we elect an obscenely smart person to do it?

    I know I expect the person on my ballot to be several degrees smarter than I am.

    April 24, 2008
  60. William Siemers said:

    Regarding socio-economic factors that might supply some basis for Northfield’s sense of superiority over neighboring communities (based on CNN/Money’s ‘Best Places to Live’ index):

    Northfield has higher family income than Faribault and Owatonna but lower than Farmington. Higher levels of ‘some college’ than Faribault and Owatonna but lower than Farmington. Its racial diversity index is higher than Farmington and Owatonna but lower than Faribault. Northfield student test scores were higher than the other three communities.

    So it seems that what Northfield can be ‘proud’ of is the test scores of its children. Then again maybe Owatonna should be proud of itself in this regard as well. With a ‘some college’ level 15 percentage points lower than Northfield, their test score index is only about 8 per centage points lower than here. Maybe even Faribault has cause for pride…test scores slightly above the state average with an immigrant population well above the state average.

    Taking a new tack: Rochester has a ‘some college’ percentage number essentially the same as Northfield. In raw numbers they probably have 5 times as many B.A. and higher degrees. Do they get accused of snobbery by neighboring communities? Maybe…but I don’t think they have the reputation in that regard that Northfield seems to have. Why is that? Could it be that people who hold technical and engineering degrees are less likely to be snobs than those holding liberal arts degrees? Without any proof of that point, I’ll say, nevertheless, that is my experience. Maybe it stems from knowing a little about a lot, opposed to a lot about a little. Maybe it’s the nature of study of subjective versus objective realities. Or is it that holders of liberal arts degrees tend to be liberal politically? I don’t think that liberals are necessarily snobs/elitists, but let’s face it…they sure get accused of it a lot.

    Taking another tack: Maybe Northfield’s snobbishness is historic. I can well imagine the town’s uptight New England, and dour Norwegian settlers looking down their noses at Faribault’s fun loving, hard drinking Frenchmen…not to mention the Irish in Farmington.

    All that being said I’ll admit to being born and raised in Faribault…so don’t take any of this too seriously.

    April 24, 2008
  61. john george said:

    Tom- You said, “… know I expect the person on my ballot to be several degrees smarter than I am.” I can understand your expectations with this statement, but consider this perspective. Is there a difference between educational accomplishments and wisdom? I believe there is. I’m most impressed with a person who readily admits that he doesn’t know everything, but he’s willing to learn. I define that as wisdom.

    It reminds me of the story about a boyscout, an old priest and the smartest man in the world who went on an airplane flight in a small plane. The plane developed engine trouble, and the pilot said they had to bail out. The problem was that there was only three parachutes. The pilot said he had a wife and five kids, so he needed one to save himself to take care of them. He grabbed one and jumped out of the plane. The smartest man in the world said he needed one because he was going to a very high level meeting to solve the world’s problems. He grabbed one and jumped out, leaving the priest and the boyscout with one parachute. The priest, being magnanamous, told the boyscout to take the parachute. He said that he had had a long productive life and that the boyscout had his whole life ahead of him. The boyscout replied, “Don’t worry, monsignor. We will both live. The smartest man in the world just grabbed my napsack and jumped out.”

    I guess it doesn’t matter how much you know, so much as how to use what you do know. I have met people who are educated beyond their intelligence.
    We have a motto where I work that says this- “A customer does not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I still believe that snobism and elitism are a matter of attitude which is then acted out by the bahavior. And I would go so far as to say there is no justification for the attitude.

    April 25, 2008
  62. When it comes to voting for intelligent people, I am against it. Now, I guess I will have to explain why I said that. Once a man or woman or politician gets to Washington, DC or the state level, they better be ready to throw aside their smarts and get to work on getting along with the powers that be, or no pet program is going anywhere fast.

    I would love to hear someone disagree with that. I truly wish it were not true.

    April 26, 2008
  63. Ray Cox said:

    Bright, I’m not sure I follow your last (#67) comment. I think we need to send intelligent people in office. However, we do not always do that. What we do not need are rubber stamp party hacks. If a politican cannot quickly give 4-5 examples of good ideas from the opposing party, and examples when they voted in support of them, then they either are not doing their job properly, or they are not smart enough to give thoughtful analysis of legislation. The third possibility would be that the other side doesn’t have any good ideas….but that leads back to the beginning, and a failure to recognize reasonable plans and policies from the other parties.

    Regarding snobs in Northfield, I concur with David L’s thought (#60)..when you have to ask….

    April 26, 2008
  64. Tom Swift said:

    Thanks for your reply to my comment, John. To clarify, in that case I intended the word “degrees” as a synonym for “levels” or “standards” — not diplomas earned. I think the country deserves an intellectually curious and exceptionally bright president. Makes little difference to me whether the person, like Obama, was president of the Harvard Law Review or like Lincoln, self-taught.

    I disagree with your statement that “it doesn’t matter how much you know …” Especially if you’re the president. Hasn’t the current officeholder taught that much?

    April 26, 2008
  65. What I meant was that Obama is going to get his toes run over in DC.
    He is new, he has ideas, but no friends. He hasn’t made any real allies.
    Who has come out for him besides Richie Daley?

    Anyway ideas don’t power make. Anybody can have an idea. It’s more about patting each other on the back and watching each other’s backs and backing each other in the clinches…it’s about the money. Follow the money trail.

    If I am in DC and my constituency back home wants to stay on the say,
    being paid for not growing rice, and the other party wants to propose a
    bill to take away that subsidy, what do I do? If I vote against my home town people’s wishes or needs, no one will work with me on my good ideas later on. If I vote with the other party, I loose my next term in office to one who promises to work to keep the subsidy or get it back. A magical third
    solution might work, but who will take the chance?

    And this thread has drifted so that it really needs to be in the Presidential candidates thread.

    April 26, 2008
  66. Chris Schons said:

    Bill Ostrem: “But one problem is that people don’t have access to the same experiences of having lived in place X or Y.”

    Agreed. A lazy parochialism is killing this country.

    I heard someone yesterday assert that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are lviing better than they ever did in their homelands.

    You would never hear such a comment from a cosmopolitan, unless it was a calculated lie.

    April 26, 2008
  67. Regarding snobs, I realize I am an anti snob snob. And as such, I apologize if I ever made anyone feel bad for being so snobby. : )


    April 26, 2008
  68. William Siemers said:

    I had dinner last night with a 74 year old who grew up here, left, and came back for retirement. He told a story about about when he was a high school hurdler he came up against a faster Faribault boy who always beat him. That is, until the district meet when they were seniors. The Faribault boy went out drinking the night before the meet and performed poorly because of his hangover…this allowing my dinner companion to win. He completed the story with…”But you know how those Faribault guys are…” That was 1952.

    April 26, 2008
  69. john george said:

    Tom- I’m not sure you have connected with what I was saying in my post. I think you are refering to the motto about knowing and caring. Take a look at it again, “A customer does not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I believe this delineates between elevating yourself above others because of your knowledge rather than showing people you really understand them (or are at least willing to put in the effort to try to understand them). There is a scripture that says knowledge makes arrogant while love edifies. I think this is evident in human behavior. As I have observed arrogant (snobish) people, I have seen this characteristic demonstrated. And those people who have to interact with them usually feel they do not care. This is the point I was trying to get across. Am I understanding your reaction correct;y?

    Or, was it my other reference to knowledge? Either way, I’m still making the same point. I believe that empathy and understanding are invaluable in applying knowledge, and I think you are making the same point in your reference to the President.

    April 26, 2008
  70. Sometimes anti-intellectualism arises out of a rejection of complexity. I think it’s important for both leaders and everyday, Main Street citizens to be able to handle complexity, because many issues are not simple, though we would like them to be. Uncritical application of “common sense” and gut reactions may simplify decision-making, but the results can be far from ideal, as I think has been amply demonstrated. For thousands of years it was “common sense” that the sun rises and sets around the earth. Now we know that the earth’s revolutions in its orbit around the sun cause the sun to appear to rise and set — and now that model of the solar system strikes most people as common sense, because they’ve grown up with it.

    What strikes people as common sense, in other words, is very much based on what they’ve experienced and been taught and how they understand the world. Some of that “wisdom” is truly universal (e.g., “if I touch that hot stove, it will burn me”), but some of it is not. If I’ve been raised by people with a particular political, philosophical or religious outlook or world view, whether conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, their ideas will probably strike me as common sense, and differing ideas may strike me as misguided or silly or even evil. And the same is true for others raised in families and communities with differing world views. It behooves us all to try to be aware of our blind spots and to be open to the possibility that we may be wrong, or that for some problems there is no one right answer.

    “Elites” or “ivory tower intellectuals” who claim to understand the world but who lose touch with or dismiss the real concerns and perspectives of “ordinary people” can justifiably be criticized. But likewise, “ordinary people” who dismiss the real insights to be gained from careful, critical study as elitist claptrap or contrary to common sense are probably not doing themselves or their communities a favor.

    April 26, 2008
  71. Jane Moline said:

    Bright, regarding comment 67 where you are against electing smart people to office. I guess the difference is in electing smart people or electing people who think they are smart. It is up to us, the voters to figure out the difference.

    Also, I have know many “smart” people who are not practical, and that is not the same.

    However, I do think we have a large group of not very smart people in our country who know they are not smart and resent people who are smart and I also think they cling to their radical ideas about religion or guns or immigrants or abortion as they find other not so smart people who cheer them on and some very smart people who goad them on.

    I think Obama spoke the truth and nobody has the guts to point out he is right.

    The manipulation of the intellectually UN curious masses has been the success of the Republican party.

    April 27, 2008
  72. Chris Schons said:

    Jane and Penny: Some great insights. Thank you.

    ‘“Elites” or “ivory tower intellectuals” who claim to understand the world but who lose touch with or dismiss the real concerns and perspectives of “ordinary people” can justifiably be criticized.’

    I put “Condi” Rice in that category. How exactly did having served as provost at Stanford prepare her for the decision to invade Iraq?!! What a sick joke.

    April 27, 2008
  73. john george said:

    Jane & Chris- I think your comments demonstrate very well what Penny is saying in her second paragraph.

    Bright- I echo your sentiments on Penny’s comments in your post #76.

    April 27, 2008
  74. Holly Cairns said:

    Chris Schons: Are you in Chicago– Did you just like the discussion?

    I agree that Condi Rice seems the epitomy of an elitist. Not so sure about the “out of touch” part, but I know I wouldn’t like her job.

    Maybe you could explain the Guantanamo Bay comment and how that relates to the concept of elitism. I don’t like the assertion you might be making that we (US citizens) all miss the big picture… thanks a lot.

    On a more general note– Of course we want someone smart in office. Of course!

    Good point about needing a healthy alliance to get things done. Probably both Obama and Clinton have the alliance they need as neither fits the “true renegade” mold.

    It seems the more I know about Obama, the more I think he was born to run. Of course, that might make Hillary more interesting– she’s a true intellect, and wasn’t “born to run.” She’s worked hard her whole life, I think.

    As for elitism– Money isn’t the only factor. Comparison is everything.

    Off for some milk so I can get to sleep. 🙂

    April 28, 2008
  75. William Siemers said:

    Jane said…

    “However, I do think we have a large group of not very smart people in our country who know they are not smart and resent people who are smart and I also think they cling to their radical ideas about religion or guns or immigrants or abortion as they find other not so smart people who cheer them on and some very smart people who goad them on.”

    Might someone who is religious, opposes abortion on demand and open borders, and supports the right to bear arms, find that statement just a little bit elitist? Isn’t it possible for a member of the ‘masses’ to reach an opinion based on thoughtful analysis?

    I do not think it does progressives any good to denigrate the mental abilities of those who disagree with them. And yet intellectual snobbery seems to be something of a common thread among liberals. Disdain for the very class that liberals purport to represent does not go unnoticed. Time and again it is seized on by conservatives to move voters away from the party that best represents their economic interests.

    So let’s admit it:
    Right to Lifers are just as smart as abortion advocates.
    Gun owners are just as smart as gun controllers.
    Immigration control advocates are just as smart as open border advocates.

    There is nothing about holding those beliefs, on either side, that makes one necessarily smart or stupid. The sooner liberals can come to grips with that…the sooner they can start winning more elections.

    April 28, 2008
  76. Holly, maybe what I really mean by not having a smart person elected or in any leadership position is based more in the fact that most deals fail, most new businesses fail, and many good ideas have consequences down the road that undermine the earlier intent by tenfold. Many smart ideas are merely repeats of old ones in a new coat…sans faux fur.

    I want to see the new smart which means not only using the head, but the heart. What is good for the people, the environment AND future generations. I still don’t hear enough of politicians or designers coming from those viewpoints. Too many are calling “cleaning up the environment” whenever they paint a fence white, too many think making healthcare affordable for the poor will make any difference to the really poor who need it most. Too many smart people think that the future will take care of itself.

    In the meantime, we have already too many laws, so that only the well healed will be able to buy their justice at the expense of the rest of us, because we can’t make hide nor hair of it all. So that is why I say, let’s
    not elect anyone too smart, qualiftying it with unless they get what I
    just said and will work willingly and convincingly to make the world
    spin nicley instead of sputter and spew.

    April 28, 2008
  77. Holly Cairns said:

    I see– I guess it takes a lot to make the world spin nicely, now that you mention it. Yes, less sputter and spew. 🙂 But someone smart in many ways, and practical, is a must. A must!

    Yes, practical. Good idea, Jane.

    Political leanings and smarts– are they associated? That’s a good question. I guess don’t think so, myself. I’ve heard rumors of polls showing liberals to be more educated, but I don’t put much stock in polls, lately.

    And I find it interesting that William seems to think all people are equally smart. That’s not the case. And, there are several different types of smart, while I am at it.

    I wish Jane didn’t use specifics as she talked about the not-so-smart being led by the not-so-smart and the smart. in general, educated citizens make better decisions, which I think is the point she was trying to make?

    Blah blah blah. Off to Econofoods to get food for daughter Ruth to cook. Kids have to cook nowadays in the class that used to be called home economics… goodie! I say more power to that class.

    April 28, 2008
  78. William Siemers said:

    Holly…I don’t think that all people are equally smart. I just don’t think we can presume people are ‘not so smart’ (or bitter) because of their beliefs.

    As to educated citizens making better decisions than uneducated…I would tend to agree…But remember William Buckley’s (a man who was nothing if not elitist) famous quote: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

    April 28, 2008
  79. john george said:

    William- I suppose Buckley might have something there, especially if the first 400 people might be Andersons. Now, there! How’s that for Scandanavian elitism?

    Sometimes, in these types of discussions, I think we are all probably guilty of taking ourselves a little too seriously. I know I am. That is why I like to discuss issues with people who do not always see things as I do. It really helps me recognize my own blind spots, and gets me to really analyze why I believe some of the things I believe in. Diversity of viewpoints can be healthy as long as we do not use the differences to create division. And that goes back to my opinion that we are resposible for our own reactions to people/situations/ideas, etc.

    April 28, 2008
  80. Tom Swift said:

    From comment No. 75: “For thousands of years it was ‘common sense’ that the sun rises and sets around the earth. Now we know that the earth’s revolutions in its orbit around the sun cause the sun to appear to rise and set — and now that model of the solar system strikes most people as common sense, because they’ve grown up with it.”

    Well said, Penny, and much appreciated.

    I keep thinking of what it would be like if our current political tags had been applied during other events from the past.

    Many bloggers think he looked down his nose at thousands of Americans when he freed the slaves. Is Lincoln an “elitist”? We’ll talk to people on both sides of that debate. Next on Hardball.

    April 28, 2008
  81. Tom Swift said:

    Is the “elitist” tag being applied to John McCain after he said he did not support equal-pay legislation because women really need is more “education and training”? If not, why not?

    April 28, 2008
  82. David Ludescher said:

    Mr. Siemers (Post #84): I am guessing that the late Mr. Buckley would say the same of Northfield, and that his opinion would be in the majority.

    April 28, 2008
  83. Chris Schons said:

    “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

    I would rather entrust the government of the United States to either group than to the bunch of people who’ve actually been elected!

    The problem is we have NEITHER ordinary people NOR well-educated people running the country. Buckley’s statement is a subterfuge.

    April 28, 2008
  84. Holly Cairns said:

    Chris Schon, you are irritating me with your factless statements and your BS. Can I write that, Ross?

    April 28, 2008
  85. Jane Moline said:

    I am going to be blunt. I believe that there are more ignorant and “not smart” people than there are informed and smart, or, in other words, there are more people that do not care to learn and be informed and educated than there are those that work at educating and understanding their world.

    And, thus, these less educated people tend to cling to religion or guns or anti-immigration not because of an understanding of the complexities of an issue, but because of an overriding decision to follow their church or their neighbor. In other words, like the Taliban, they want to make their religious beliefs the law and impose that religious belief on society.

    Most of the people in the United States cannot identify Iraq on a map of the world.

    My pessimistic view is that a majority of the citizens of the US are uninformed and don’t even know it. The repbulican party has capitalized on this by making guns, abortion and immigration the issue when we should be worring about corrupt politicians, a war where we pay more for mercenaries and bribes than we do to our army, and an economy that is decimated by the same war spending.

    Funny thing is, even the uneducated have figured out that the economy stinks and that this administration has fed them a bunch of hooey.

    Recognizing that most of the people in the United States are not too bright is not elitist, it is realistic. Somehow thinking that intellectual ability translates into having more rights is elitist.

    And I really don’t think that it is limited to Northfield or Faribault or Kansas or Chicago or New York. I think you would find the same proportions throughout the nation. (OK, maybe Mississippi and Arkansas would be a little different, and you gotta wonder about California.)

    What I am saying is that even if I believe that only 25% of the population is smart, I am not an elitist. If I believed that the said 25% were entitled to more rights, resources, etc. then I would be an elitist.

    So, William Siemers, I don’t agree with you, as I think that if you looked at intellectual ability and a position on the issues you listed, you will find that, statistically, “smarter” people tend to being “liberal.” That does not mean that ALL people who believe one way or another are smart or stupid-Just that I do not care to argue an issue with people who are unable to form a complete thought, and merely parrot someone else’s idea.

    April 28, 2008
  86. Someone said, and another someone approvingly quoted,
    “Now we know that the earth’s revolutions in its orbit around the sun cause the sun to appear to rise and set — and now that model of the solar system strikes most people as common sense, because they’ve grown up with it.”

    Erm, no. The earth’s revolution in its orbit, in conjunction with the tilt of its axis, causes the *seasons.* It’s the earth’s daily rotation about its axis that causes the sun to appear to rise and set.

    It would be elitist to draw a moral.

    April 29, 2008
  87. William Siemers said:

    Jane…I agree with your statement, “…thinking that intellectual ability translates into having more rights is elitist.”

    Then you go on to say “… statistically, “smarter” people tend to be “liberal.”

    I might be wrong, but your definition of ‘liberal’ does not seem to include room for those who have conservative views on abortion, immigration, and gun ownership. But there are millions of people who have deeply felt, ‘conservative’ views on one or more of those issues who also embrace lynchpin progressive positions on the war, the environment, and many issues of social and economic justice. There is no point in alienating them by demeaning their intelligence for ‘worrying’ about issues that are important to them.

    Many union members are NRA members and anti-immigration, but also economic progressives. Many in the religious community are, anti-war, socially progressive and anti-abortion. These issues are not mutually exclusive. Liberals need these voters.

    Anyway…I guess all I’m saying is that liberals need to get over this ‘statistically smarter’ attitude. Because what is more important…getting elected, or thinking you’re smarter than the next guy.

    April 29, 2008
  88. That was my quote, Linda, and I agree I may have muddied the waters by saying “in its orbit around the sun.” Those words were extraneous to my meaning. It was the revolutions (or rotation, as you put it) on its axis (which happen to occur while the earth is simultaneously traveling around the sun) that were the core of my meaning. I did not think that “revolutions” would be equated with the orbit itself. I apologize for any confusion.

    April 29, 2008
  89. Jane Moline said:

    William; I am not saying that there are not anomalies. I said that statistically smarter people tend to be more liberal (you can say progressive or whatever.) This doesn’t mean that they are all bleeding heart tree hugging pasifist gay cross dressing liberals.

    When I use statistics, I am making broad statments. I stand by my statements. I know many intelligent, well-spoken COMPASSIONATE people who disagree with me on abortion and religion. Fewer who disagree with me on capital punishment.

    People are all different. The problem is when we JUDGE everyone ELSE by some definition. People have a right to different opinions. I tend to respect and learn from people who are able to communicate their opinon based on reason. I tend to dismiss opinions from people who are unable to communicate their basis for their opinion. The diffence is sometimes intelligence.

    I still think the majority of Americans are not too bright. I didn’t say I don’t like them or want to deny them any place in our world.

    I also find it difficult to have a reasonable discussion with someone who is not informed or educated, but clings to their belief because it is their belief while they are unable to articulate a reasoned support.

    I am a CPA. My own brother came to me with a cockamamie scheme where he wouldn’t have to pay taxes anymore since wages are not income under the internal revenue code–or at least that is what somebody told him. My brother is not stupid, but he sure was stupid about this. He HEARD what he wanted to hear from someone intent on affecting a large group of people to his way of thinking. (That someone is in Federal prison for tax evasion.)

    There are fools born every minute, and people who will capitalize on their foolishness. I tend to not be persuaded by fools.

    April 29, 2008
  90. There are many types of intelligence, for those of you who have not yet had a chance to think about this topic, or who don’t really do this kind of thinking…
    some people have intelligence for details,some have the ability to understand broad and far reaching ideas, some have intelligence in thier muscles, and many are far superior to me and you in their body awareness and still others are very keenly aware of their envronment, while some are walking into walls on a daily basis. There are many kinds of abilities that people use to survive, to make decisions, and to get along in the world.

    That is why diversity of plant, animal, two leggeds and bacteria and virus and insects are so important to us all, and why none should be put off or down or under.

    April 29, 2008
  91. Curt Benson said:

    I wouldn’t necessarily equate “smartness” with good decision making ability, wisdom and especially not with virtue.

    I’d guess that all the great despots of history were “smart” in some way.

    David Halberstam’s book “The Best and Brightest” explains how America’s elite got us involved, and kept us involved in Vietnam long after the smart thing would have been to disengage.

    This customer review from Amazon says it way better than I can:

    “Nothing so brilliantly crystallized and clarified the epic true story of how the American people were led into the tragedy of Vietnam better than did this classic book by David Halberstam. Already famous for his journalistic overview in “The Making of a Quagmire”, Halberstam riveted the nation with his absorbing, literate, and very detailed account of how the arrogant, insular, technocratically well educated, and affluent sons and daughters of the Power Elite in this country led us into the unholy miasma of Vietnam. This is a classic story superbly told by a journalist with impeccable credentials.
    Halberstam already had a wealth of personal experience as a correspondent in Vietnam before initiating the research for this book, and he draws a number of fascinating, intimate, and quite absorbing in-depth portraits of the major figures involved in this fool’s errand formerly referred to as French Indochina. From the feckless and perhaps clueless Robert McNamara to McGeorge Bundy, brother William Bundy, former Oxford Scholar Dean Rusk, George Ball, William Westmoreland, Maxwell Taylor, and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, all these alumni of the best schools and best families (with the single exception of LBJ, an accidental president) pranced their pseudo-macho way toward the single most disastrous series of military decisions this side of Pearl Harbor.

    Unlike those of us who actually saw the jungles of Vietnam up close and personal, these men were neither ignorant, nor provincial (at least not in the ordinary use of that term), nor poorly informed; rather, they both considered themselves and were considered by others to be the most outstanding, capable, and effective members of the contemporary “Power Elite” i.e. the best of the then contemporary ivy League graduates Kennedy could lure from the bastions of the academic, business, and corporate world into the magic and presumptuous world of Camelot. In essence, these guys were seen as the best and the brightest of their generation. Just how their elite educations, presumptuous world-views, and de-facto actual ignorance and lack of what we would now refer to as “street-smarts” led them to conclude it was in the nation’s interests to fight what others have called “the wrong war in the wrong place with the wrong foes at the wrong time” is an epic tale of arrogance, insular thinking, and mutually sustained delusions.

    Through their efforts they embroiled us in an unwinnable war, a conflict that the rest of us paid so dearly for in blood, sweat and tears. They led a nation then so singularly blessed with affluence and peace into a bottomless cauldron of dissent, inter-generational strife, and almost pitched us off the precipice of social and political revolution. It is important to better understand what kind of men they were, and why they led us so carelessly into such sustained disaster. Why did they react to defeats by escalating, even when the evidence clearly indicated (as McNamara has recently admitted) doing so was futile? Who led whom down the primrose path in the meetings in which these decisions were repeatedly argued, hammered out and finally refined?

    All these questions and many more are answered in this wonderfully documented and exhaustively detailed account of how it is that so few individuals engaged in a series of such disastrous policy decisions that led America into the quagmire of Vietnam. By the way, after carefully re-reading the book I am more convinced than ever that McNamara and Westmoreland (among others) should be indicted and tried as war criminals. Let them spend their dotage in federal prison. After all, there is no statute of limitations on conspiracy to commit murder, and I have dozens of friends gone too soon based on nothing more than the deliberately callous and reckless decisions made by these men as outlined in this book. I highly recommend it.”

    April 29, 2008
  92. Chris Schons said:

    “Maybe you could explain the Guantanamo Bay comment and how that relates to the concept of elitism. I don’t like the assertion you might be making that we (US citizens) all miss the big picture… thanks a lot.”

    Only an ignorant person could claim that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are better off there than in their homelands. And recently I did hear a guy claim this. I’m afraid his view, along with his ignorance, are all too common.

    “Chris Schon, you are irritating me with your factless statements and your BS.”

    Like what, for example?

    April 29, 2008
  93. john george said:

    Jane- Your comment, smarter (I’m assuiming you mean more highly educated) people tend to be more liberal, raises a question in my mind. What other writers have you exposed yourself to? If you only follow writings by current accademia, you will probably come to that conclusion. I suggest you try the writings of C. S. Lewis and Francis A. Schaeffer. These men write so far above me that it takes me a day or so to figure out what they are saying on one page of their writings, but they have been highly instrumental in reinforcing my Biblical world view. It is good to be challenged to rise above our own existential experiences and listen to some learned viewpoints now and then. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are also responsible for them. If we can not, in a discussion, defend them based on sound reason rather than accusations and emotional outbursts, then perhaps they are not worth having.

    April 29, 2008
  94. Chris Schons said:

    ‘Does IQ matter in politics?

    Published May 20, 2004, St. Petersburg Times

    “So Democrats really are smarter,” teased the small headline in the latest issue of the Economist, a London-based news magazine that closely follows U.S. politics. That piqued our curiosity, so we read on.

    The magazine, using as its source IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, found that Al Gore carried nine of the 10 states with the highest average IQ in the 2000 presidential election, while George W. Bush swept the 10 states at the bottom of the list.

    We’re not sure what this means, if anything, but Democrats may find some consolation in the fact that Gore won not only more popular votes than Bush but also more smart votes.

    Gore won Connecticut (113), Massachusetts (111), New Jersey (111), New York (109), Rhode Island (107), Hawaii (106), Maryland (105), Illinois (104) and Delaware (103).

    Bush carried only one of the high-IQ states – New Hampshire (105).

    However, he blew Gore away in the 10 states with the lowest average IQ – Alabama (90), Louisiana (90), Montana (90), Oklahoma (90), South Dakota (90), South Carolina (89), Wyoming (89), Idaho (87), Utah (87) and Mississippi (85).’

    April 29, 2008
  95. No, no, he didnot say that? Now this is *only* testimonial type populous opinion, but I have and do live in the great state of Oklahoma, and everybody I meet there is as smart as a whip. Honestly. The kindest and most competent at whatever they are doing, And I am talking native Oklahomans.
    Now, take them off the bottom ten list right away. I don’t know that much about the other states, but when I do, I’ll be back.

    It’s this IQ test thing that is so richly geared toward formal state or private educational institutions, it’s not the only way to be intelligent or smart.
    In fact, that system very often gets in the way of real developmental progress and success, unless you are dealing with the hard sciences that build on factual, or closest as we have to factual information, that you can teach anyone with a good memory. We are born with good or bad memory functions, and although we can stretch it further thru training and/or experience in natural surroundings, memory is only a part of intelligence.

    I am really tired and have to go, maybe someone else can pick up on this idea and add to it.

    April 29, 2008
  96. Jane Moline said:

    John George: When I say “smarter” I am referring to both education and ability–I have know very “smart” people without a college education–they typically are well read and very interested and curious about what is going on in the world.

    I have also known very well educated people that I don’t care to even speak with–they may be manipulative or intellectually dishonest or something else that I don’t care to waste my time with.

    So IMHO smarter is pretty complex.

    I have always thought that Northfield is full of people with the opinion that their ideas were much better than anyone elses BECAUSE they believe themselves smarter.

    Even if they are smarter, their ideas may not be.

    April 29, 2008
  97. Jane Moline said:

    Also, John George. Academia is spelled with one c and yes I can read.

    April 29, 2008
  98. john george said:

    Chris- Your post #100 reminds me of something Samuel Celmens is attributed to have said, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Now, Felicity, don’t go getting all upset over my reference. It is not to put down statistics per se, but I think we need to keep them in perspective. They may not prove anything one way or the other. They are often times open to interpretation, and I think voting patterns are more complicated to analyze than just on education levels.

    Jane- After I had submitted my last post, I realized I had forgotten to connect it with your paragraph 5 in post #95. Sorry. I agree with that observation, and it was my oversight not to have connected it.

    April 29, 2008
  99. john george said:

    Jane- Thanks for pointing out my lack of keyboarding prowess. Most of the time I feel like I’m all left thumbs on this thing. I try to go back over things before I post them, but when I am visualizing something correctly in my mind rather than really looking at how I typed it, I can overlook some glaring mistakes.

    In a general opinion, I think we do ourselves a diservice when we use subjective terms, like “smarter” or “wiser”. I believe these types of terms cause more division than understanding, especially when comparing opinions. There is the implication that there is a greater and a lesser value of __________(fill in the blank). I prefer to use objective terms when I can. For instance. Mr X has higher level of education than Mr. Y. This this simply a statement of fact. To say, “I have this opinion….. because…..” is a nonthreatening way of communicating. To say, “I have this opinion because I am (better, smarter, etc.)” is to interject an unsubstantiated evaluation. I think that is what you are saying, also.

    April 29, 2008
  100. Jane Moline said:

    John George: It is interesting how you want to discount statistics that oppose your woldview. I came away with a totally different take–that being smart doesn’t mean sh** when in comes to being able to manipulate the political process. In fact, it shows you that the dummies can and will win.

    I used to provoke discussions with the statement that I believed most US Americans were uneducated and uninformed, thus most voters were uneducated and uninformed, so our politicians are elected by a bunch of idiots. I think I am still right.

    April 29, 2008
  101. john george said:

    Jane- I’m not discounting the statistics. I’m sorry my attempt at humor came across that way. I’m just saying, again, that there are other criterion that drive voting patterns besides levels of education.

    There is a scripture in Eccl. 9:11 that says something like the race is not always to the swift, nor is the battle to the warrior, nor is bread to the wise, nor is recognition to men of understanding, for time and circumstance overtake them all. I think this is just the reality of life. I also think it probably won’t matter much what political leaning the next president has. We are, after all, a representative government. Our country will continue on, although I think we are going to see some drastic changes in the economy no matter which party comes into power. If we are going to consider ourselves part of a global economy, then we are opening ourselves up to economic influences beyond our control. But, that is a different thread. One thing this will do, hopefully, is help us realize we are all in the same boat, and there will be no room for snobs in this boat.

    April 29, 2008
  102. john george said:

    Chris- Since you brought up some statistics on levels of education relative to political party victories, here are a few statistics compiled by, it would appear, a highly educated individual. Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul found these interesting observations of the 2000 election:

    States won by Democrats- 19; Republicans- 29
    Square miles of states won by Democrats- 580,000; Reps.- 2.427.000
    Population of counties won by Democrats- 127 mil.; Reps- 143 mil.
    Murder rates per 100,000 persons in states won by Dems.- 13.2; in
    those won by Republicans- 2.1

    Now, do these statistics prove anything? Not in themselves. It depends entirely on how a person interperets them and applies them.

    April 29, 2008
  103. William Siemers said:

    Chris…you reference an internet hoax…much like the one that stated Bush’s I.Q. is 93.
    One way to insure a huge number of hits on a website is to assert that democrats are smarter than republicans. Liberals can not get enough of that.

    April 30, 2008
  104. Chris Schons said:

    “Chris…you reference an internet hoax.”

    Absolutely not: The Northeastern states have higher average IQ’s and they tend to vote Democratic.

    If you’ve heard the table reproduced above (along with one showing virtually the same results from the presidential election of 2004) is a hoax, THAT is a hoax.

    The tables are real; make of them what you want.

    April 30, 2008
  105. William Siemers said:

    Chris…Ever heard of ‘standard deviation’? Does it strike you as odd that the ‘study’ you quote lists differences in average i.q. (average being a score of 100) between the states of over 27 points.

    While I am not a big fan of i.q. tests as predictors of intelligence…since you bring it up…take a look at the following link for something other than a totally fabricated comparison of average state i.q.


    April 30, 2008
  106. Here is a quick tip…

    when dealing with a long string of characters like in #111 above, which did not come out as totally clickable for me, go to


    where you can convert the long character string to 26 easily dealt with characters…not like the characters we find around, let’s say, Worthfield.

    April 30, 2008
  107. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m back… do I need to whack anybody back into civility compliance?

    In the meantime, I found NY Times columnist David Brooks’ column yesterday to be relevant to this discussion: Demography Is King. (Bold italics are mine.)

    … I’d throw in that Obama’s offer of a secular crusade hits a nerve among his fellow bobos, while Clinton’s talk of fighting and resilience plays well down market.

    But these theories only scratch the surface. The mental maps people in different cultures form are infinitely complex and poorly understood even by those who hold them. People pick up millions of subtle signals from body language, word choice, facial expressions, policy positions and biographical details. Efforts to rebrand a candidate to appeal to down-market voters are inevitably crude and counterproductive.

    The core message is that even if you take away the ideological differences between the parties, you are still left with profound social gulfs within the parties. There’s poignancy to that. The upscale liberals who revere Obama have spent their lives championing equality and opposing privilege. But they’ve smashed the old WASP social hierarchy only to create a new educational one.


    April 30, 2008
  108. Chris Schons said:

    “But they’ve smashed the old WASP social hierarchy only to create a new educational one.”

    A meritocracy would be much better than some other alternatives, but there is more to it than that: The single greatest predictor of college success is parents’ income.

    Rather than moving to a meritocracy based on educational attainment, I would say the U.S. has been moving rapidly toward an ever-more rigid class system.

    April 30, 2008
  109. Chris Schons said:

    “take a look at the following link for something other than a totally fabricated comparison of average state i.q.”

    I did: The highest individual state score is Minnesota’s; the states of the Deep South do the worst.

    Minnesota went for Gore and Kerry in ’00 and ’04; the Deep South went for Bush.

    More confirmation of the original thesis: Smarter people tend to vote Democratic.

    April 30, 2008
  110. William Siemers said:


    April 30, 2008
  111. john george said:

    A note to all- The statistics I quoted in my post #108 are only about half correct. When I first researched this on Snopes, I evidently didn’t reference it correctly, because I came up with nothing. This should have tripped a red flag, but at 11:30 at night, my flags don’t always work so good. I think I’ll stick with my first assessment in my post #104, except these are just damn lies, not statistics.

    April 30, 2008
  112. Jane Moline said:

    Right back at you, John George, I will stick to my post number 106.

    You don’t like what statistics prove, so you slam the statistics.

    May 1, 2008
  113. John George said:

    Jane- Uh, I don’t think I’m understanding you here. Both the “statistics” that I and Chris posted are not statistics at all. If you reference them on Snopes, they are fictitious, baseless. I was only trying to own up to my own mistake by using Samuel’s quote- they are lies, not even statistics. They don’t “prove” anything. Why is exposing them considered “slaming” them?

    May 1, 2008
  114. Jane Moline said:

    John: Chris’ statistics are statistics. You didn’t expose anything.

    May 1, 2008
  115. John George said:

    Jane- Take a look at the Snopes report on these statistics. They are an urban ledgend, just like the ones I quoted. I found mine out before anyone called me on them, which they had good reason to do. I was exposing my own mistake, but the table Chris refered to is fictitious, also.

    May 1, 2008
  116. William Siemers said:

    John…I fear you are wasting your time on this issue. The facts be damned…it is very important to a liberal intellectual snob to feel that they are ‘smarter’ than those with whom they do not agree. Or just smarter than the general public. It is almost as if there is no point in being liberal unless it means that they are smarter than the average person. Nevermind achieving peace and freedom, just be sure it’s recognized that they are sharp cookies.

    May 1, 2008
  117. Chris Schons said:


    I looked at your link with the commentary on the IQ and voting result table; if the “Economist” and your site publish contradictory assertions, I think I can be forgiven for trusting the venerable “Economist.”

    In any case, the academic study referred to by William Siemers draws the same conclusion: states with higher average IQ tend to vote Democratic.

    May 1, 2008
  118. Tom Swift said:

    I am not persuaded by Brooks’ argument, Griff. He seems to be making a broad-brush point based on one — not yet complete — primary election. That’s a small sample size.

    Besides, this is hardly a typical primary election. There is the rarity of the possible first female nominee, an intelligent, driven woman married to a popular two-term president who still has a loyal following among the most powerful (and hardly under-educated) members of the party. There is the rarity of the possible first black nominee, a bright, dynamic man who is inspiring new voters, including many people who are casting ballots well before they have earned their first master’s degree.

    Even if conclusions can be drawn from this atypical election, I’d like more evidence to support Brooks’ case.

    May 1, 2008
  119. John George said:

    William- You might be correct, but I’m still holding out hope. I know quite a few “liberals” who seem to be reasonable people, and I have no problem carrying on a civil discussion with them.

    Chris- Snopes is known for their even-handed and thorough analysis of things out on the internet. I could have said the same thing about my “statistics”, but there is no provable source for them. I like to go back and investigate the prime source, and there appears to be no verifiable study for the table you refer to. Sorry, but the king does not have any clothes on.

    May 1, 2008
  120. Chris Schons @ 114 says, “The single greatest predictor of college success is parents’ income.”

    That’s a claim commonly made (about a variety of educational outcomes), but the reason is usually that researchers do not have data on individually measured IQ so their analysis picks up socioeconomic factors as the best available proxy for individual IQ. If individual IQ is among the measured factors, it is a stronger predictor than SES.

    (Those who have read “The Bell Curve” will recognize this as its principal finding, and it holds equally for blacks and whites. However, few studies of educational outcomes have access to IQ data.)

    May 1, 2008
  121. Chris Schons said:

    “America’s Most Literate Cities, 2006” finds that the more literate the city, the more likely it favored the Democrat in the 2004 presidential election:

    “This year’s edition of the survey explored the possibility of a correlation between the rankings for literacy and political affiliation. Voting data was gathered from the 2004 presidential election. The 15 cities (in the AMLC survey) with the highest percentage of votes for President Bush and the 15 cities with the highest percentage of votes for Senator Kerry were selected.

    Analysis of the data revealed that the cities that voted for Senator Kerry were ranked higher in the AMLC survey (Overall and in 5 of the 6 categories). The differences were very significant in the Overall category: the cities voting for Kerry ranked on average #27 in the survey; the Bush cities ranked on average #51. “

    May 1, 2008
  122. Jane Moline said:

    William Siemers: Your caustic comment is unwarranted. You are one of the “denialists.” The facts are plain and you can do it based on education or IQ or whatever, those who vote democrat are smarter. You said

    “John…I fear you are wasting your time on this issue. The facts be damned…it is very important to a liberal intellectual snob to feel that they are ’smarter’ than those with whom they do not agree”

    You are losing the argument so you ignore the facts and revert to calling names.

    You are saying is that the people YOU disagree with are being snobs. Being smart does not make one an elitist–it makes one smart. That is about it. Smarter people don’t win more elections or make more money.

    We have seen how the UNEDUCATED masses are manipulated by “Swift Boating” or media sound bites–and that it effectively put Bush in the White House so that we can watch as our freedoms are restricted and privacy invaded, our reputation trashed in the world as we torture whomever we please, hold them without charges, deny them due process, and lie to the American people about weapons of mass destruction, throw TRILLIONS of dollars away on a war that has destroyed US reputation and bankrupted the US economy, while lining the pockets of war profiteers and oil companies.

    You want to argue that the people that voted Bush into office were actually smart and knew what they were doing.

    Right. IMHO the (few) smart ones are embarrassed that they were snookered while the less-smart ones are going to vote Democrat in the next election, because they might not be that bright but they know when they’ve been sold out.

    Then, the statistics will come back the those that vote Democrat (known as progressive and liberal) are NOT any smarter than the Republican voters and this discussion will be over–but each of us will still be as smart as we are–that does not make someone an elitist.

    May 2, 2008
  123. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, William was over the top, but your need to prove your party is smarter is really scary. There are geniuses and idiots in most political factions. John Kennedy was a liberal but got us into a mess in Vietnam and was responsible for the Bay of Pigs. Johnson was no liberal but saw the political wisdom of passing civil rights legislation.
    Chicago votes Democratic because it has a political machine. The Iron Range voted Democratic because of its union power base, not because of its education level or beliefs. Bob Lessard was a Democrat because he knew that it was the only way to get elected.
    Cities tend to vote democratic because they have higher concentrations of people working in government, receiving aid from government and involved in unions, particularly academic and government unions. All those factors must be considered along with academic achievement. People with degrees tend to be Democratic not necessarily because they are smarter but because higher education is an extension of government and people who succeed there tend to believe government is the answer…
    Academic achievement doesn’t equal intelligence. Many of the smartest, most successful people left college to do and create and succeed.

    May 2, 2008
  124. Jane, are you sure you’re not a GOP agent provocateuse in a false-flag operation, trying to rile up the yokels to come out in droves to vote against the snob democrats?

    May 2, 2008
  125. Patrick Enders said:

    Anne, you wrote:

    Johnson was no liberal but…

    Are you kidding? Warts and all, I have to claim him as a fellow liberal.

    As Wikipedia* notes, Lyndon Johnson “was responsible for designing the Great Society, comprising liberal legislation including civil rights laws, Medicare (health care for the elderly), Medicaid (health care for the poor), aid to education, and a ‘War on Poverty.'”

    I can only think of one President who has more liberal accomplishments on his resume.

    *: yes, it’s a lazy and unreliable source, but this is common knowledge.

    May 2, 2008
  126. David Ludescher said:

    There is an interesting editorial in today’s StarTribune by a first year law student suggesting that Ivy League schools produce arrogant citizens who think liberally, but are arrogant and self-centered because of their intelligence.

    May 2, 2008
  127. Ray Cox said:

    Folks, I think there have been some really strange comments posted on this thread. That’s probably good to get people talking and thinking. However, don’t take things too seriously and don’t try to make a link between ‘who is smarter’ in a political voter. That seems to be a big waste of effort. I can tell you that I’ve met a lot of people from all political parties at all different levels and there is no intelligence link. I firmly believe the vast majority of people vote on gut level emotional beliefs and those are not tied to intelligence.

    People should remember Alexander Tyler, a Scottish historian at the University of Edinburgh, who put forth a comment in the 1780’s about America and its democracy. Among other things, Tyler said…

    “A democracy is always temporary in nature: it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to a loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

    I think this has a lot more to do with voting than any other single issue.

    May 2, 2008
  128. William Siemers said:

    Jane…Caustic? Perhaps…but if calling ordinary people ‘idiots’ doesn’t constitute intellectual snobbery I don’t know what does.

    Nathan…It almost seems like a ‘false-flag’ operation. Unfortunately, it is all too common. I’ll assume your reference to ‘yokels’ was just stirring up the roux.

    May 2, 2008
  129. Chris Schons said:

    Now this discussion is getting fun!

    It’s good to read so many incisive comments, and thanks for the Alexander Tyler quote: unfortunately, it’s right on the mark.

    One point about the “literate cities” citation: the average literacy level of cities that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in ’04 was higher than that of cities that voted for the Republican. Yes, cities tend to be more liberal than rural areas, but the study looked at diferrences AMONG cities, and found a glaring one.

    As for this comment:

    “People with degrees tend to be Democratic not necessarily because they are smarter but because higher education is an extension of government and people who succeed there tend to believe government is the answer…”

    I could not disagree more vehemently. By this logic, soldiers would tend to vote Democratic because the military is part of the government.

    Jane Moline: I appaud your passion; if every US citizen cared as much and saw as clearly, our nation would not be in such trouble.

    May 2, 2008
  130. Jane Moline said:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Chris. I am passionate about politics.

    Ray, I agree with you 100%. There seems to be no connection with intelligence and politics. Of course there are several ways to interpret that statement.

    William, I am trying to say, and will say again, recognizing intelligence (or lack thereof) does not constitute snobbery. Treating people like they deserve less than others is snobbery. Stupid people can be snobs.

    I definitely want to provoke discussion when I say the majority of US citizens are less-than-bright. Show me that I am wrong. (For one, YOU are assuming that this is an insult when I think of it as stating an obvious fact–I don’t attach much emotional baggage to it–I don’t know if it is good or bad–maybe the not-so-bright are also very happy.)

    If we all try real hard we can remember back to the summer of love (NOT lst year–40 years ago) when we were disillusioned by all of our politicians–liberal and conservatives–and we were going to all join communes and change the world. Many believed the only way to change was through revolution.

    In studying democracies, the US is unique in its [past?] ability to make substantial changes without revolution. Well, we better change quick or we are going to lose this republic that we all call home.

    May 2, 2008
  131. John George said:

    Ray- Your quote attributed to Alexander Tyler is, unfortunately, something he did not say (oh, how I wish it was). His name is Lord Woodhousely, Alexander Fraser Tytler (with the second “t”). On the site you referenced, there are a couple books referenced which, according to the Library of Congress, do not exist. You can look it up on Snopes under “Alexander Tyler.” He was a professor of history, and he did have a collection of some of his lectures put together, but there are no cross references in the text that resemble any of the quotes attributed to him. None the less, I am certainly not convinced to change my party affiliations from Republican to Democrat. Any party that can support legislation that gives civil rights to a medical procedure and a moral issue does not warrant my support. You can call me whatever name you want, but I am, as Paul stated in Romans 14, convinced in my own heart. And, as he concludes that chapter, I do not want to condemn myself by what I approve.

    May 2, 2008
  132. Chris Schons said:

    “I am certainly not convinced to change my party affiliations from Republican to Democrat.”

    Obviously, Americans need more than these two parties to choose from. In what other realm of life do we put with only two options?

    May 2, 2008
  133. Anne Bretts said:

    Patrick, Lyndon Johnson was a complicated man who used the ‘N’ word in private and voted against civil rights legislation after World War II and yet ended up engineering the passage of the largest changes in civil rights law in history. My point was that Johnson was more interested in amassing his own personal power more than he was in progressive causes.
    The south in particular ended up with a lot of Dixiecrats who were anything but well-educated progressives. George Wallace comes to mind and might have been a more clear example.
    I don’t support Bush, but Republicans don’t have a lock on stupidity.
    In the area where I grew up near Chicago, poorly educated union workers voted Democratic, supported the death penalty and belonged to the Klan. I started college at 18, dropped out and went back in my 40s. Did I become more liberal after I went back to school and became better educated? Did I vote Republican while I was a dropout? No.
    Many people with high IQs don’t have access to higher education, or even a high school diploma. The greatest minds of the Catholic Church over generations have opposed abortion, made justifications for the Crusades and anti-Semitism and refused to give women the same rights as men. And they vote Democratic more than Republican. Go figure.
    So we’re back to the core of this thread, the idea of being snobs, of making sweeping generalizations about groups and looking down on those who disagree with you.
    John George and I have disagreed on many issues over the five years we have known each other, but I do not presume that I am smarter than he is. On the contrary, I admire and envy his interest in academic pursuits while I watch too much HGTV.
    My answer to the original question is yes, I think there is a small but vocal group of people in Northfield who believe they know what’s best for everyone. In the three years I have lived here, I have seen no indication that they have tried to build coalitions or work with others or compromise.
    In fact, the very idea that the majority doesn’t agree with them only reassures them of their special status.

    May 2, 2008
  134. I must admit I’ve been cringing as I’ve read the posts of the past few days — whisked back to the days of my youth when my mother and brother were arguing and I just wanted to put the pillow over my head and muffle the sounds…

    Back to Griff’s original post — Anne, you make many good points, though I don’t think Faribault residents’ perception of Northfielders as snobs stems from there being a “small but vocal group of people in Northfield who believe they know what’s best for everyone,” though Northfield residents may have that reaction to such a group. (Isn’t there probably such a group or groups in almost any community?)

    I think it does come down to judgments based on educational differences and perhaps voting pattern differences. I do know well-educated people who tend to think less of people who don’t go to college, though I also know plenty who don’t. And I have a perception — I don’t know how accurate — that quite a lot of people who don’t go to college think that those who do are less grounded in what the former, quite reasonably, see as reality, and have a certain amount of scorn for them as a result.

    What I’m saying, I guess, is that elements of each community are snobby about the others in their own ways. And it’s probably self-perpetuating, just as children’s games are. Faribault kids grow up “knowing” that Northfielders are over-educated snobs, and Northfielders “know” that Faribault is a less-educated, more blue-collar community. And there’s some truth to both perceptions, but to hold either universally true would be a gross overgeneralization. Does it mean that Northfielders really are more snobby than anyone else? I’m not sure that it does. I expect that just about any time you have clear demographic differences between adjacent communities, these types of feelings are likely to exist. When opportunities arise to build bridges and dispel the stereotypes, let’s take them, but I don’t think it’s our (Northfield’s) issue alone.

    May 3, 2008
  135. john george said:

    Chris- I’ve been ruminating on your suggestion of a third party in American politics. If it is a srong one, as what Ross Perot did in 1992, you end up with an election where the winner does not have near half the vote. In this case, Bill Clinton won on 43% of the popular vote. That appears to say that 57% of the population voted against him. That is probably accurate, since Perot was more conservative than moderate, and I’m not sure he siphoned away as many Democratic voters as he did Republican. The result was to split the conservative iniative to the point that the Democratic candidate won by the 43% margin. In 1996, Clinton garnered 49% of the popular vote, which is probably a more realistic evaluation of the spread when there are only two strong parties. It appears that a strong third party will not necessarily accomplish the will of the majority of the population, but simply divide that majority so a relative minority can rule. So, I’m not really sure that having a third party will really accomplish anything. Now, does that make me a snob?

    May 3, 2008
  136. David Ludescher said:

    Anne and Penny: Thanks for turning the conversation back to Northfield bobos.

    May 3, 2008
  137. Chris Schons said:

    The term “bobo”: I resent it because of its connection to David Brooks, a tiresome and dogmatic blowhard in thrall to his reactionary puppetmasters.

    May 3, 2008
  138. Chris Schons said:

    John: Under the current duopoly of political parties, a voter who is against abortion rights ends up supporting the entirety of the Republican package (war, deficit spending, erosion of Constitutional rights, etc.), and I think that’s terrible.

    May 3, 2008
  139. Chris Schons said:

    More on Brooks (from Wikipedia):

    “Before the Iraq War, Brooks argued forcefully on moral grounds for American military intervention, echoing the belief of neoconservative commentators and political figures that American and British forces would be welcomed as liberators.”

    Well, Brooks (born in Canada) needs to get over to Iraq now and personally help clean up the mess he helped create.

    May 3, 2008
  140. Chris S. said, ” Under the current duopoly of political parties, a voter who is against abortion rights ends up supporting the entirety of the Republican package (war, deficit spending, erosion of Constitutional rights, etc.), and I think that’s terrible.”

    Well, if you put it that way, you are saying that is is better to kill a baby who has no defense except Republicans, over a man/woman/soldier who does have other ways to avert death within their grasp.

    May 4, 2008
  141. Bright, I don’t see how you can possibly make that inference.

    If anything, Chris Schon’s comment points out the unfortunate situation that the Democratic party has basically written off everybody with any kind of ethical, moral, or even aesthetic reservations about the practice of abortion.

    (Having only the most tangential relationship to the original thread topic.)

    May 4, 2008
  142. Anne Bretts said:

    Chris, a person can be profoundly against abortion without wanting it to be illegal. There are moral issues that don’t necessarily have to have a legal solution. Throwing women and doctors in jail doesn’t really solve the problem. Promoting responsibility, access to alternative forms of birth control, and adoption all can change the situation in more rational ways.

    May 4, 2008
  143. David Ludescher said:

    Chris: Griff’s suggestion was that he was a progressive liberal elite who is unable to recognize his own arrogance in dealing with people in the public sector, especially with people who weren’t as smart as he. He also suggested that Northfield was about 50% full of people like him.

    So, whether Griff is a progressive liberal elite, self-interested liberal idealist, or a bobo, is not the question. The question is whether there are too many arrogant bobos in town.

    May 4, 2008
  144. Jane Moline said:

    Bright and Nathan, you are both wrong. What the Democrats say is that we will not adopt any one religious belief as the law of the land.

    If you are against abortion, for whatever reason, you are welcome in the Democratic party–just don’t try to use it to force others to adopt religious law.

    You are welcome to attempt to persuade others to your views.

    What is most interesting in this thread is how you’all think you know what everybody else is saying better than the ones saying it. It is revealing about your own prejudices and snobbery.

    Some claim that they have an affiliation with somewhere else so they are not a Northfield snob. Right.

    I went to high school in Faribault and I live in DUNDAS. So there.

    The real question to me is: are Northfielder’s really snobs, or are “snobs” in the eyes of the beholder? i.e., do Faribault citizens think Northfielder’s are snobs, and why? Because their mom said so? Because of a personal experience?

    What experience do the people on this discussion have of snobbery? Are you snobby to people? How? How do you know if people think you are a snob–do they tell you?

    Do any of you recognize that you may be a snob?

    May 4, 2008
  145. Chris Schons said:

    Regarding abortion rights: I only brought them up because John George implied that he votes Republican because of that party’s anti-choice stand, while he also pronounced himself pessimistic on the possiblity of breaking the stranglehold of our political duopoly. I merely meant to convey that it’s too bad focusing on just the one issue meant he also ended up supporting the entirety of the Republican agenda.

    “Do any of you recognize that you may be a snob?”

    Yes, I can be a tremendous snob, depending on the context.

    I also think that right now in the U.S. citizens are more intolerant of each other than ever.

    May 4, 2008
  146. David L said:
    “So, whether Griff is a progressive liberal elite, self-interested liberal idealist, or a bobo, is not the question. The question is whether there are too many arrogant bobos in town.”

    My answer is always the same, if you are not honoring yourself, your God/gods, your family, your friends, you are wasting time. And that is the real sadness, the real shame and the real deal of it all.

    May 4, 2008
  147. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, once again, I think it’s OK to disagree with people, but to assume you’re right and simply decree that others are wrong is what leads to the feeling that people here are snobs.
    I have seen so many other cities where people like Bruce A. and David L. and others would have sat down after the Target debacle and figured out some compromise positions to avoid a repeat. And yet issue after issue, it seems the most involved people here are more interested in proving whose position is right than in finding a plan or process everyone can back — and really bringing others into the discussion. And so years after Target and the loss of College City Beverage and the movie theater and years after the hospital decision you still are no farther along in creating a respectful inclusive process and plan — and the businesses go elsewhere and the new people shop elsewhere because they don’t have enough incentive to be involved here. Just look at the annexation thread, which now includes dozens of variations on ‘because I say so’ arguments.
    Sad, when you’re all neighbors and the town is so small. But the perfect way to keep it small and make sure no one else suits up and threatens to take your positions in the endless rematches.

    May 4, 2008
  148. Felicity Enders said:

    I’m certainly a snob. I’m over-educated, and when I drink coffee it’s nearly always a latte. But one of the things I love about Northfield is that I regularly have good conversations with people who I suspect are snobs of different stripes.

    However, I don’t feel the same about the discussion on this thread. Conversations like this make me feel unwelcome, and as such I don’t think they’re in the best interests of this town. I would hope the town would welcome just about anyone who thought highly enough of Northfield to choose to live here.

    May 4, 2008
  149. john george said:

    Anne- As always, a well thought out and expressed opinion. It’s probably good we don’t agree on everything. We might be dangerous. But, that is probably snobbery on my part.

    Going back to Griff’s original thread, (heck, after 155 posts, why not?) no one has proposed an antidote to snobbishness. I have one, but I’m sure it will stir up a hornets’ nest if I suggest it. But then, I’m just ornery enough to do that. The weather is warm, and we may as well have a few hornets buzzing.

    Phillipians 2 states this,” Have this attitude which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though He existed as God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” I think that if anyone had a right to look down upon sinful man, it was He, who, according to scripture, was without sin. He chose not to, though, and by His obedience, opened the way for sinful man to come to God. This is the gospel we preach. So, if you have a relationship with God through Jesus, you have the opportunity to embrace this same perspective of yourself toward others. This is the best antidote I have seen for snobbishness. It is called humility.

    May 4, 2008
  150. Patrick Enders said:

    Humility is an excellent virtue to embrace, irrespective of one’s religious perspective.

    May 5, 2008
  151. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: It is well known I don’t agree with John G’s religious views, and John: you know that and accept that , but I think John had the perfect last word on this thread … humility.

    P.S. That means you ought to end it, Griff.

    May 5, 2008
  152. Griff Wigley said:

    I humbly accept your suggestion, Kiffi. Thank you, John.

    Let’s put this discussion to sleep and vow to be on the alert for ways in which our own ‘inner snob’ can sneak out and get in the way of problem-solving and community-building. Antidote: humility.

    Comments are now turned off.

    May 5, 2008

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