Ironically, the emphasis on intellectual elitism has become far more pronounced on the left than the right, despite the long-standing association of Democrats as “the party of the people.” In 2008, college graduates voted decisively for Obama, and he won even bigger majorities of those with post-graduate degrees — not surprising for a candidate with credentials from Columbia and Harvard.

Not only do studies indicate a considerable liberal tilt in college faculties, but Democrats support increased government spending for institutions of higher learning. Because progressives attach greater significance to universities, it makes sense that they judge the educational backgrounds of candidates (and commentators) accordingly: In the past six presidential elections, every one of the Democratic nominees held degrees from Harvard or Yale.

This liberal infatuation with Ivy League affiliation, going back to the Harvard-trained Roosevelt and Kennedy families, also protects prominent progressives from doubts about their “unserious” early careers. Conservatives note that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., spent most of adulthood as a comedian,or that New York Times columnist Frank Rich was a drama critic, or that MSNBC firebrand Keith Olbermann gained fame as a sportscaster. Liberals respond to such objections by insisting that whatever previous professional paths, their stars boast solid academic qualifications: Franken and Rich graduated from Harvard, and Olbermann got a degree from Cornell.