Dealing With The Servants

At the University of Chicago students and staff are treated like Royalty and the neighborhood folks are treated like servants.

At my son's graduation there last summer almost all the wait staff were blacks from the neighborhood dressed like servants in the Jim Crow South (I lived there as a youth). It had an offensive feel to it. Just the way Jim Crow felt offensive to me.

That is the environment Obama was used to. His behavior fits in well with the people he associated with. And how do you behave towards servants? Well you certainly don't get into any kind of personal conversations with them.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 04.12.08 at 04:14 PM


I noticed something similar in my time at the University of Rochester in upstate NY. I worked in one of the main dining centers for all four years, and maybe nine-tenths of the non-management employees were local blacks from the city area. The students and faculty didn't treat them badly, it's more like they were generally invisible.

It was very strange to compare and contrast the attitudes of blacks and white liberals who were students or faculty, and the black workers for whom they claimed to speak. My black co-workers were definitely more down-to-earth, and honest in their opinions. I enjoyed the fact that I could talk about race with them, even joke about race with them, and everybody could lay their cards on the table without tiptoeing or sugar-coating.

On a deeper note, a lot of this pseudo-populism, activism, and sloganeering that I see coming from people like Obama, white or black, shows a pattern. I think that in the end, class warfare exists, but it is never about rich vs. poor. It's always about the somewhat rich vs. the very rich, with the poor as a casus belli.

P. Aeneas   ·  April 12, 2008 7:25 PM

I agree that such a socioeconomic hierarchy exists in most elite college towns. It's probably the same in Cambridge, New Haven, Ann Arbor, Palo Alto, and Austin. It's also true at country clubs, in large corporations, etc.

But Obama did talk to the supposed help.

He served as a community organizer on the South Side, meeting with some of the same people you might have seen working at the U of C. Working for better neighborhoods.

Google his name with the Developing Communities Project and you'll see.

Anon   ·  April 14, 2008 1:44 AM


I will grant you that. He has talked to the black help. The people who might be interested in Wrights church. But what has he done for them besides offer words and inflicting Tony Rezko and the rest of the Chicago Machine on them?

However he is out of touch with the white help. Which is obvious by his latest gaffe. He has no feel for white working class. He is a city boy.

As Mickey Kaus said:

I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances--welfare and immigrants were "scapegoats," part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college. ...

Obama never left College. It shows.

M. Simon   ·  April 14, 2008 2:19 AM

Let me add that I don't think Obama has a feel for the servants other than as a means to his ends.

M. Simon   ·  April 14, 2008 2:25 AM


If I had any influence at UC I would put an end to servants get ups (except maybe at black tie and tails dinners) and let the help dress in neat street clothes with an identifying cap or sash.

M. Simon   ·  April 14, 2008 2:37 AM

Anyone proposing to restore classical values can hardly be shocked by elitism. Elitism was always one of the core Roman values.

I'm from a small town in NH (pop. 2000), my wife is from a small town in PA (pop 1000). Nothing in Obama's remarks struck me as anything people in small towns don't already know. What I find offensive is when media elites like Kaus in their fancy Malibu beach houses take time from blogging about sports cars to tell us when small town people should be offended. Pedicabo et irrumabo vos omnes.

vanya   ·  April 14, 2008 9:37 AM

M. Simon, appreciate the reply.

I do think your ``he doesn't have a feel for white working class voters" and ``he used them only as a means to an end" are both subjective opinions that can't be supported by evidence, but no matter. Obviously neither you nor I can engage in psychoanalysis. (Full disclosure: I'm white and grew up in a town of 16,000 where all you could see from my elementary school were cattle and grass. And I support Obama.)

There is one point I do want to make: the Thomas Frank ``What's the Matter With Kansas?" has been discarded by political scientists. To the extent Obama's remarks reflect this thinking, he's wrong. There is, however, an interesting paper entitled ``What's the Matter with Connecticut?" by Gelman and others that uses NES data to tackle the same question.

They do find that rich voters more strongly support the Republicans in the South than they do elsewhere - but the rich everywhere still go GOP. The image of ``latte-drinking effete Democrats" is a popular myth that washes away under the light of statistical inquiry.

Anon   ·  April 15, 2008 1:50 AM


You are correct in general. In Obama's case his remark about the high price of argula at Whole Foods kind of pins Him as an out of touch liberal.

It is not the average voter who is out of touch. It is the party elite.

And what about him not eating a Philly cheese steak in Philly? Instead he had some $99.99 a pound ham. Right now I live on a very limited budget and have meat about 3 or 4 times a month. A Philly cheese steak sounds real good. But $99.99 a pound ham? I couldn't even afford a 1/4 ounce.

Champion of the little guy? I know it is silly but you show your solidarity with the little guy by eating like one in public if you are running for office.

It is like Obama can't even play the game.

There are rituals to be observed (flags, flag pins) and Obama seems to think he is above all that. Except when he is pinned (heh) on it.

Kerry had the same problem. As did Leona Helmsley her remark about "the little people" put her in jail even if she was only guilty of arrogance. If you want to serve the "little people" it is wise to observe their rituals in public. Not rational. But much of human nature isn't rational.

What is so amusing is that it is the fat cat Republicans who understand the little guy. I attribute that to the fact that Republicans who lead companies understand the value of morale.

In the case of the American Military it is an iron rule: when on maneuvers the officers don't eat until all the enlisted are served. Which is why Bush did so well with the military. He served them in the chow line. The general public didn't get it. The military did.

In fact military service is the great leveler. If your ordinary life puts you out of touch with the average guy, military service is a good way to break the boundaries and find out how the other half lives.

M. Simon   ·  April 16, 2008 2:29 AM

When I worked at Motorola they had a great way of solving the problem of morale.

There was an executives cafeteria in the executive building and a workers cafeteria in the workers building. Both served exactly the same food. The executives had chefs the workers had cooks.

But they fixed that too. Any worker who had the time could eat in the executive dining room. We could actually rub shoulders with Galvin and the rest. Now I didn't get a chance to do it often because of the work load but once every two or three weeks we went over there to see how the other half lived. The food prices were the same. Which may have been a subsidy to the executives but it didn't price the little guys out.

Obama is nouveau riche. It doesn't sit well with the public. We expect noblesse oblige.

M. Simon   ·  April 16, 2008 2:39 AM


I didn't have to read Kaus to know how I felt about those words. I didn't like them from the get go.

And I have had every thing from gourmet meals in fancy restaurants to fresh rabbit killed before my own eyes. Not to mention deer killed out of season. I know city folk. I know country boys. I'm at home with either. Obama should try it some time. I have hobnobbed with billion dollar company executives and outlaw bikers.

It pays to get around to see how the other half lives.

M. Simon   ·  April 16, 2008 2:47 AM

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