I'm becoming more and more convinced that many of those who are opposing Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court are indeed elitist. Indeed, I think it's a kind of elitism that blinds them to what those calling them elitist are really saying. Dennis Coyle expresses his frustration at the elitism charge, claiming that Bush simply confuses intellectual qualifications with a liberal approach to jurisprudence. Ultimately, his defense of his elitism is that those claiming it's elitism are simply anti-intellectual. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what those calling it elitism really mean. It's not anti-intellectualism by any means, and it's certainly not confusing intellectual qualifications with liberalism. It's not claiming that intellectualism is bad. It's not claiming that intellectual standards should be thrown out. It's not claiming that we should abandon principles for practicality. It's not claiming that intellectualism is responsible for liberalism. What it's claiming is that the intellectual standards we need should be much broader than the elite Constitutional Law specialists think they should be.
The work of the Supreme Court often involves ConLaw, and it involves difficult and crucial questions about ConLaw. Someone appointed to the Supreme Court ought to be competent in such matters. There's no evidence that Miers isn't, however, and all claims to the contrary are impatient and premature. She has some experience in ConLaw, contrary to the misinformation being spread about her. It's unclear how extensive this background is, but she has argued cases in that area, and at least one of them made it to the Supreme Court, who upheld her side of the case without needing to take it to oral arguments. This doesn't tell the senators all they need to know about her competency in that area, but there's a process for figuring that out. If she is incompetent about ConLaw, that will come out at the hearings. It will be obvious. We may not be able to tell where she stands within the realm of competency, but that's fine. If she's competent, she can do the job. That's all senators are supposed to be deciding anyway, according to the usual conservative view, especially given that ConLaw isn't the be all and end all of Supreme Court jurisprudence, despite those who have elitistly declared it to be such.
The main point of the elitism charge is that ConLaw specialists are arbitrarily selecting ConLaw as the only important part of what SCOTUS does and expecting any nominee to be a cream of the crop expert on that one area. She should have intellectual excellence, but it doesn't need to be top expertise in that one area of law. She clearly has expertise in law in general. There's no question about that. She clearly has top intellectual ability. All the information we have suggests that she could easily have gotten into an Ivy League school (or equivalent) but chose to remain in Dallas for family reasons, choosing the best law school there, which is a subordinate point in the elitism charge. Some have indeed selected her law school as a lack of qualifications, where all evidence suggests that where she went to law school does not indicate her inability to go to a better school (not that SMU is all that bad anyway). Neither did her SMU degree hamper her ability to do incredibly well for herself career-wise, which is the primary purpose of getting a degree from a good school. That she could utilize what some have treated as a lesser degree to get so far reveals something about her intellectual and other abilities. Ignoring such factors and thinking of the mere fact of where she went to school and how it is ranked is indeed a sort of elitism, though as I've been saying this is not the main impetus behind the elitism charge. That is primarily about the ConLaw elitism.
All the information we have suggests that she's mastered the kinds of law she has handled almost all her adult life. What's elitist about the opposition to her is that it assumes ConLaw is the most important, and really the only, kind of law to evaluate her by. She ought to be competent in it, but it really is elitist to expect that being qualified requires being anywhere near as good as any of the current specialists in ConLaw who make up the current SCOTUS. Somehow we've gotten away from wanting people expert in the law in general on SCOTUS, and we've moved to a point where we expect just this one small but important subfield of law is the only important consideration for SCOTUS nominations. That is indeed elitism, and making that claim does not amount to anti-intellectualism. I write this as a Ivy League graduate who very much enjoyed and appreciated my time at an Ivy institution. I write this as a Ph.D. student in philosophy, arguably the most intellectualized of all disciplines.