There’s a problematic pattern emerging in several Democratic candidates for the Senate this year: A willingness to denigrate the livelihood of their Republican opponents.
It came out yesterday when Iowa Senatorial candidate Bruce Braley disparaged Republican Senator Chuck Grassley for being a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”
The blowback was swift and furious. New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait say, “Bruce Braley must realize that his career in Iowa politics is finished.” New York Times’ Nick Confessore asked whether this was “Braley’s ‘47%’ moment.” NBC’s Chuck Todd called it a “big unforced error” because it was “not just elitist but un-Iowan to attack another Iowan the way he did.” And Slate’s John Dickerson writes that this is a “campaign gaffe of such power that the Environmental Protection Agency may seek to regulate it.”
Dickerson went on to explain why this was “the gaffe of the year,”
Why is this so awful? Let us count the ways. Iowa is a farm state, and it’s never a good idea to disparage one of the state’s chief occupations. Next, it’s particularly not a good idea to demean your state when you’re somewhere else: In this case, Braley was speaking in Texas. Next, Braley, a trial lawyer, was making his pitch to a room full of trial lawyers at a private fundraiser (which is why he didn’t think he was being recorded). Trial lawyers are perhaps the most unpopular constituency among Republican base voters—besides Obama administration officials. Since midterm elections are all about motivating your base, Braley has given his opponent a turnout gift. Next, look where Braley is standing: If you’re going to talk down to Iowa farmers, at least don’t do it next to a table of booze. It makes for amusing viewing and that reinforces the idea for voters that you’re not one of them.
Those commentators are focusing on the political problem. And to be clear, it is a huge political blow to Braley, who was once the clear frontrunner to win the Senate seat left vacant by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin. Just months ago the clear assumption was that Iowa was an easy win for Democrats because the GOP had no marquee candidate and the state has been trending blue (Obama won in 2012 by six points despite Romney’s huge campaign push).
But the problem is much more fundamental than that. It’s evidence of a growing elitism in the Democratic Party, a vein of contempt for blue-collar workers and rural America. It’s a world in which law degrees and doctorates are a qualification for elected office and a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps origin story is not deserving of praise, but skepticism.
As Ed Morrissey writes for HotAir, “Even if Grassley can’t argue at the bar himself, the American political systems wasn’t designed to have lawyers writing laws for lawyers but citizens writing laws to govern themselves.”
Unfortunately, Braley is not the only lawyer turned Democratic candidate for Senate that has put his foot in his mouth. Earlier this month Sen. Mark Pryor went after his opponent’s military service by saying it created a “sense of entitlement.”
“There’s a lot of people in the Senate that didn’t serve in the military,” said Pryor. “I think it’s part of this sense of entitlement that he gives off is that almost as like ‘I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.’”
Again, is it really necessary to attack a blue collar career, especially when you’re a lawyer and the son of a politician? No, but it’s part and parcel of the current way Democrats think: That government knows what is best for its citizens and to ensure that’s the case only the most educated citizens can are deserving of election.
But that top-down approach to governance doesn’t work. A room full of Harvard-educated bureaucrats still isn’t capable of managing something so vast and complex as the nation’s health care system, or its financial sector, or energy markets, or whatever the particular industry may be. And it’s that sense of ego—that one man can outsmart the free market—that is getting Democrats into policy trouble. One need look no further than Obamacare to see the terrible impact that government’s hubris can have on large part of the economy.
And one need look no further than Bruce Braley to see the impact that hubris can have on a political career.