The right has accused the left of 'elitism' for years, generations even. Thomas Jefferson, in many ways the founder of 'neoconservatism', was accusing Alexander Hamilton of seeking to foster an aristocracy before the ink on the constitution was dry. I've drawn attention to the irony of Jefferson's claims on behalf of 'the common man' and his attacks on Hamilton as an 'aristocrat' before and I probably won't ever get tired of it. Jefferson's own deeply ingrained elitism was plain to see in the fact that the straight-forward effect of Jeffersonianism is to protect the entrenched wealth, power, and privelege of the upper classes. The fact that Jefferson himself may have been ignorant of this and genuinely believed himself to be a 'yeoman' is open to debate, much of his writing and policy suggest a naive utopianism that makes this very possible. It does not change the effect of Jeffersonianism on society.
So, as we can see, even the tactic of steeping elitism in populist rhetoric is not new. What is new and interesting is the growing practice, on the religious right, of cultural elitism coloring every aspect of a populist movement. The core facet of this is, of course, an absolute faith in their own moral superiority.
There are those on the right who deny this aspect of the modern conservative movement and who occasionally seek to distance themselves from it. Yet they consistently buy into its key tropes; from the victimization of Sarah Palin to the idea that the words 'Democrat' and 'liberal' are somehow interchangeable because nearly everyone who doesn't accept core conservative dogmas has already been run out of the GOP. There are quite a few Americans who are far from 'liberal' who have gravitated to the Democrats not because of their 'liberalism' but because they don't believe that the ideas espoused by the 'conservative' and 'libertarian' blocs of the GOP are either conservative or libertarian. As a pragmatic democratic socialist and a philosophical anarcho-socialist, I can assure you that the Democratic Party is a very long way from being a 'liberal' party... let alone 'communist.'
The issue is not about 'communism' or even 'liberalism' as much as some right wing crackpots would like you to believe that it is. It is not even about 'secularism', though secularists are naturally going to drift away from religious extremism of any kind. It's about the belief that one American subculture has the right to force its interpretation of religion and morality onto the rest of American society.
With a tiny number of possible exceptions, the majority of the leaders of today's conservative movement (and the Republican Party, either actively or by their association with and defense of the movement) are concerned with one of two objects:
The first is the furthering of this brand of populist elitism and establishing the 'proper' stamp on American moral values. They would establish this by law and thus deprive all those who do not believe as they do of key constitutional rights. One doesn't just have to look at Proposition 8 in California for proof of this. One can look at the activities in school boards and educational associations all over the nation as they seek to 'democratize' the classroom to conform to their moral totalitarianism. As a Christian, I believe their view of religion is incorrect and dangerous. As a believer in American values, I believe their agenda is totally at odds with constitutional government and natural human rights.
The second is the exploitation of the former brand of 'populist' elitism to further genuinely elitist aims. As I mentioned above, aristocrats have been exploiting populism since Jefferson. It is only natural that today's elitists (who are 'managers' rather than 'aristocrats') seek to do the same thing. Many forms of 'individualism' and 'libertarianism', by placing too much faith in the free market and ignoring coercive power other than that of government, naturally further this kind of oligarchy. Indeed, supporting an oligarchic 'managerial' system of government and society through populist rhetoric is an even older tradition than Jefferson. It goes back to the Roman Senate of the Roman Republic. The modern neoconservative movement is more brazen, as they embrace the managerial culture and its bureaucratic elitism in naked and dirty hands.
One of the best examples of this embrace of the cultural, moral, and religious elitism embraced by this populist conservative movement is this: so far, of the various potential, declared, or projected candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 only one has not either expressly committed to a personal belief in literal Biblical creationism or advocated its teaching in schools. The lone holdout, Mitt Romney, has presumably not done so because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (along with the Roman Catholic Church and those other Catholic churches in communion with it and Orthodox Judaism) acknowledges scientific evolution as one of its doctrinal tenets.
The 'elitism' feared by the religious right and many conservatives who have whole-heartedly embraced their tropes is best summed up by someone whose views on religion were at least as wrong as theirs:
“From the naturalistic point of view, all men are equal. There are only two exceptions to this rule of naturalistic equality: geniuses and idiots.” -- Mikhail Bakunin
After all, let's face it. Those on the right who are terrified by science, education, individual freedom of conscience and believe their moral standard should be applied to all Americans of all faiths regardless of their beliefs?
They aren't geniuses.