Bobos In Power

by Michael Schaffer | November 21, 2008

I'm basically a fan of David Brooks' version of comic social portraiture. Sure, you could be persnickety about the empirical accuracy of the occasional assertion, but his quips about kaffiyeh-clad Salvadoran waiters at hip African microbreweries usually get at some broader truth. Still, my readerly indulgence when it comes to absolute factual truth comes with a caveat: He has to be dead-on when it comes to getting his stereotypes straight.

Thus this morning's column, focusing on the quintessentially Brooksian topic of the incoming Obama administration's impressive academic credentials, included an aside that nearly made me spill my fair-trade latte: "If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we're screwed."

The Harvard-Yale game? Really? Brooks, of all people, ought to know that school sports is no longer a universal activity on the elite campuses that produce his much-chronicled Bourgeois Bohemians. After all, it's the current administration that features the cheerleader Yale man president and the onetime all-Ivy football player as Treasury Secretary. Four years ago, one survey pointed to a rare right-leaning community on Bush's old campus: The football team, which supported him by 62-27. However much time they've spent in Cambridge and New Haven, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the incoming nebbishes of Camp Obama have spent less time in Yale Bowl collectively than Henry Paulson has individually. (And he starred at Dartmouth).

In fact, just a paragraph later, Brooks notes that large numbers of the president-elect's aides send their kids to the "posh, lefitsh" Georgetown Day School. As an alum, I can say with some certainty that there was one particular thing that made the school especially appealing to me as a adolescent future member of the liberal elite: No football team! Brooks is generally bullish on Obama's collection of ex-valedictorians, but if he were in more of a sneering mood, he might note that this is yet another way young BoBos are indoctrinated into differentiating their soccer-playing selves from the American mainstream.

In the interests of promoting accurate comic sociology, let me suggest a few substitutes for next time Brooks wants to lampoon the liberal academic powerhouses of the new presidency:

-"If a foreign enemy attacks the United States in the midst of a tenure fight involving a well-loved Yale professor of gender studies anytime over the next four years, we're screwed."

-"If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during a reunion for those who led Harvard's apartheid-era divestment campaign anytime over the next four years, we're screwed."

-"If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale alumni ultimate frisbee game anytime over the next four years, we're screwed."

Now, there's some broad-brush stereotyping I can believe in.

--Michael Schafffer

Click here for Jason Zengerle's followup post.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/bobos-power