If only snobs knew how silly they were

Personally I'd put Brie on my mooseburger and alienate all key sectors of the U.S. electorate at once. For good measure I'd discuss U.S. politics right after a Canadian election call and annoy my countrypersons as well. But at least I'd know it. Contrast me with the hordes of commentators appalled that Sarah Palin can "field-dress" a moose without being sure what that procedure involves. Vegans can make principled objections. But when people who eat meat flinch at someone able to obtain it, you are up against snobbery rather than analysis. And if you can't understand why I like Sarah Palin, I don't much care why you think I shouldn't.

Perhaps my disdain for Canadian politics is a form of reverse snobbery. But I'd far rather deal with the entrails of a moose than with the political kind in this country. I mean, the other day I got an e-mail from the NDP saying, "For too long, Stephen Harper has listened to those sitting around the boardroom tables, not the kitchen tables." Phooey.

It's not that I don't believe the charge. It's that I don't believe NDPers believe it. It has plausibly been suggested that Stephen Harper only listens to himself. Or that such advice as he does take comes from careful polling of those at kitchen tables, to the virtual exclusion of principled conservatives. But does anyone believe Jack Layton believes Mr. Harper takes campaign and policy advice from captains of corporate Canada? And while I don't really mind Mr. Layton being wrong, it bothers me that he's being ridiculous without knowing it.

Likewise, Stéphane Dion just denounced "Stephen Harper's laissez-faire, I don't care approach" and repeated for good measure, "This is the Canada he wants to build, laissez-faire, I don't care." Oooh, that's hip, a rhyming slogan. Hit it, boys. Regrettably it's such absolute babble that, again, one cannot believe he believes it. This Tory government inherited spending of $209 billion a year, aimed to get it to $240 billion within three years and, as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation just noted, is way ahead of that extravagant target so far this year. This batch of Tories wouldn't know laissez-faire if the collected works of Adam Smith fell on their heads. Stéphane Dion is too smart not to know it, but too dumb to see how silly he looks saying it anyway.

As for the Tories having a computer-animated bird poop on Mr. Dion, it shows the dangers of giving youthful political zealots leeway -- and, again, of operating in a closed environment where you basically only talk to people who share not just your beliefs, but also your ethos.

Which brings me back to Sarah Palin and her moosburgers. When John McCain picked her, the cognoscenti -- from journalists to journalists to journalists -- condemned it as a disastrous choice because, fundamentally, it was a vulgar one. Smart, determined, caring mother with successful career, mean shot with a rifle, won the high school basketball championship on a broken foot. What, exactly, is it about that resumé that so many supposed feminists find disgusting?

It seems to be that she's somehow tacky. Not "one of us." Worse yet, she's one of them. That great vulgar horde of self-reliant, resilient, practical Americans. You know. Hillbillies. Yuck.

To paraphrase William F. Buckley Jr., North American elites are forever yammering about other cultures, but generally seem surprised to find that there are any. And disgusted.

Lack of self-awareness is a tragic failing. Including that Canadian politics is far more sociologically exclusive than American, in everything from skin colour to family size. (Their four major candidates had seven, five, four and two kids; ours one, two, two and two.) Yet Canada was settled by people with a large dollop of frontier spirit of their own: anglos, francophones, allophones, aboriginals, practically any group you can name, with a formidable capacity to survive on their own, to endure hardship, do disgusting tasks, shoot to kill in this nation's wars and down on the farm and raise big families. So where's our Sarah Palin, instead of four guys you wouldn't want helping you change a tire? Even Mr. Dion's snowshoeing ads have "environmentally correct yuppie hobby" rather than "check the trapline" written all over them.

I say if you're going to be a snob you should at least know it, especially if you're a journalist or a politician. Remember John Kerry's major 2004 campaign gaffe when he asked for Swiss cheese on his Philly cheese steak? I'd prefer it myself; the classic fast-food Philly is actually disgusting. But if I were posing as a common man I'd at least understand why I'd better make a joke of putting Brie on my mooseburger.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]