And now a word from the elite

Since when did “elite” become a pejorative word?

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she won’t be swayed from her idea of a summer gasoline-tax holiday by “elite opinion,” meaning the opinion of every serious economist who’s looked at the proposal.

Liberal gadfly Michael Moore chides the Democrats for “doing the bidding of the corporate elite in this country.”

The Democratic superdelegates are said to be reluctant to intervene in the debilitating and inconclusive Democratic presidential race for fear of being perceived as “elite insiders.”

Right-wing radio talkers rattle endlessly about the depredations of the “liberal elite” and the “media elite.”

Over the past several elections it has been a popular campaign tactic to portray an opponent as an elitist. But as Paul Farhi of The Washington Post observed in an essay on the subject, ” … those who run for president are almost always better educated, better dressed, more telegenic, far wealthier and more articulate — all in all, drawn from an elite class — than just about every voter in the country.”

The three presidential candidates are all wealthy, graduates of top colleges and members of an elite club, the U.S. Senate, limited to 100 members. Yet the Democratic race has been marked by Hillary Clinton, Yale Law, trying to portray Barack Obama, Harvard Law, as an elitist, rarefied and out of touch — she being, by implication, just simple, common folk.

The venue for a politician to proving he is not an elitist has come to be the blue-collar tavern, ironic when you recall that the motto of the archetype of that homey watering hole was Duffy’s Tavern, “where the elite meet to eat.”

The Oxford English Dictionary, the elite arbiter of the matter, defines “elite” as: “The choice part or flower (of society, or of any body or class of persons).” That would seem to be a good thing.

What is really being implied in the political context is that the targeted person is not an elitist but a snob. “Elitist” is a weasel word, seeming to say more that it does, but there’s no mistaking the meaning of “snob.” The word is there for the taking. No charge.