Why All the Harvard Hating?

So what do Republicans in Massachusetts have against Harvard? The Globe‘s Glen Johnson has a fun post today about Mitt Romney bashing his alma mater in the name of political expediency. And as Elizabeth Warren gets ready to enter the Senate race against Scott Brown, it’s become pretty clear that Brown (who shares a political guru with Romney, Eric Fehrnstrom) intends to do all he can to paint her as a “Harvard professor from Oklahoma.” In other words, an elite liberal outsider. This is all a bit confusing, because according to my understanding of U.S. geographic stereotypes, Oklahoma is not supposed to have liberal elites (with all due respect, Senator Brown, I think Oklahoma’s pick-up truck per capita ratio blows ours away).

In any case, Brown wrote of Democrats in a fundraising letter, “They are so obsessed with winning this seat back that Washington elitists are trying to push aside local Democrat candidates in favor of Professor Warren from Oklahoma.” National Republican Senatorial Committee was even more explicit. He said:

“It’s clear Democrats in Washington are trying to pull the levers here but it’s unclear whether Massachusetts voters believe an Oklahoma native and Harvard professor best represents their views and values.”

Look, let’s be honest, Harvard is more fun to hate than it is to like. They’re rich, they’re snotty, they messed up Allston, everyone there speaks with a fake British accent, the Winklevi are annoying, etc., etc., etc. But here’s the thing: that school is pretty much the most important entity that exists in the Massachusetts economy. When Mitt Romney does battle with Rick Perry over who’s more qualified to create jobs in the U.S., you can bet that the Mittster will be referencing our state’s relatively low unemployment and high average salaries. He’ll look especially good doing it, because Perry’s Texas, despite its job boom, is filled with low-paying jobs. In fact, Texas has among the highest percentage of minimum wage jobs in the country. Not so in Massachusetts, thanks to our so-called “knowledge based economy.”

And do you know who’s responsible for that knowledge based economy? Harvard. MIT, too, but Harvard’s a big part of it. Our medical, tech, and research industries all spring out of the university. So yeah, Brown and Romney can go on bashing Harvard. It’s fun, and we all like to do it. But in reality, they, especially Romney, ought to be kissing that shiny gold foot on John Harvard’s statue in gratitude.

  • John May

    I live on a small street in Metro West. Out of twelve houses, only two of the homeowners were born in Massachusetts. The rest of us are not “natives”. All but one of us graduated from a four year college – and he was not was not born in Massachusetts. Looks like none of us is worthy enough to run for office, according to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. We’re some sort of second class citizens to the Republicans. But then again, that’s good news for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, as she seems like the perfect senator to represent all twelve middle class families on my street.

  • bob

    Good point. A Harvard prof is more qualified than a backbench state senator with a pick-up truck.

    For Mitt, chalk it up as one more entry in the extremely long list of examples showing that he will say or do anything to be elected president, but for the same reason, the voters always find him phony.

  • Caroline

    It fascinates me that having received a top-notch education is somehow seen has a disadvantage for political candidates these days. Sure, Harvard has its share of elitists, but the school also has a lot of intelligent, hardworking alums – and, though a candidate’s financial background shouldn’t be relevant, many didn’t necessarily come from privilege.

  • MJ

    Gee. In my family, the best compliment you could pay someone is to say they’re smart. Would we rather have Sarah Palin with her “took me 6 colleges to get a degree?”