The politics in this country is like a simmering pot. The boiling water represents the desire of people to be left alone and to make their own way in life. The cover on the pot is the set of liberal assumptions which tells people that they have no right to lead life the way they want, and that those who have assumed the reigns of power know better. My sense is that the tighter that lid is pressed -- by attacking people like Sarah Palin, by forcing government into every aspect of our lives, by appointing people like Tom Daschle who have milked the system dry -- the more likely it is the pot will boil over.
Applied to politics, the worldview of the intellectual elite begins from an unstated assumption that governing is fundamentally an exercise of the mind: an application of the proper mix of theory, expertise, and intellectual distance that calls for knowledge and verbal fluency more than for prudence born of life’s hard lessons.
Sarah Palin embodied a very different notion of politics, in which sound instincts and valuable life experiences are considered sources of knowledge at least the equal of book learning. She is the product of an America in which explicit displays of pride in intellect are considered unseemly, and where physical prowess and moral constancy are given a higher place than intellectual achievement. She was in the habit of stressing these faculties instead—a habit that struck many in Washington as brutishness.
This is why Palin was seen as anti-intellectual when, properly speaking, she was simply non-intellectual. What she lacked was not intelligence—she is, clearly, highly intelligent—but rather the particular set of assumptions, references, and attitudes inculcated by America’s top twenty universities and transmitted by the nation’s elite cultural organs....
It is for this reason that Barack Obama, who actually has far less experience in executive governance than Palin, was not dismissed as unprepared for the presidency. Palin may have been elected governor of Alaska, but his peers in Cambridge had elected Obama editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is thoroughly fluent in the parlance of the college town, and in the eyes of the new American elite, Washington is the ultimate college town.
The reaction of the intellectual elite to Sarah Palin was far more provincial than Palin herself ever has been, and those who reacted so viscerally against her evinced little or no appreciation for an essential premise of democracy: that practical wisdom matters at least as much as formal education, and that leadership can emerge from utterly unexpected places. The presumption that the only road to power passes through the Ivy League and its tributaries is neither democratic nor sensible, and is, moreover, a sharp and wrongheaded break from the American tradition of citizen governance.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Every now and then, someone writes something that says exactly what I wanted to say had I said it. An article by Yuval Levin in Commentary Magazine, titled "The Meaning of Sarah Palin" so well expresses my disgust at the treatment of Sarah Palin, that I'll simply give you some of the better passages from the article:
Posted by William A. Jacobson at 10:07 AM