Diagnosing the Palin Problem
Down in the comments of my own splenetic expression of annoyance with the conservative movement, pmm gives us some good things to think about, but I’ll probably be addressing some of his points in a post later on down the line. For the moment, I want to say something about Jacob’s comment about the spectacle of right-leaning writers endorsing Obama for no reason other than an “atmospheric dislike” for Palin.
In the case of some individuals, this is true. They don’t like Palin because, to them, she’s wearing the costume of a know-nothing populist boogeyman. Take, for example, John Patrick Diggins piece in the same AmCon symposium I linked to:
McCain claims he is thinking only about the good of the country, then chooses as his running mate a gun-happy huntress who supported the Alaskan independence movement, which advocates secession from the United States.
Now, I know academics are often badly out of touch, but didn’t even Professor Diggins get the memo about Sarah Palin and her non-membership in the AIP? Or has the Ivory Tower he’s living in just shot up like a rocket and gotten lost in the Empyrean? This seems like exactly the kind of “atmospheric dislike” of Palin that Jacob is criticizing—and rightly so.
As Ta-nehisi Coates points out in the quote from my o.p., you don’t win elections by painting candidates much of middle America has fallen in love with as gun-happy huntresses or troglodytic book-burners or demon-exorcising creationists, anymore than you win them by painting the preferred candidates of other swaths of America as latte-sipping, wife-swapping, bomb-throwing, crypto-Muslim surrender monkeys. And if you’re a conservative, you sure as hell shouldn’t buy into these neatly packaged media consumables.
Yet Fukuyama’s critique (“we have suffered under the current president who entered office without much knowledge of the world and was easily captured by the wrong advisers.”) and Dreher’s (“Though plainly a politician of real talent, the parochial Palin is stunningly ill-suited for high office, and that’s a terrible mark against McCain’s judgment.”) don’t get lost in childish speculation about Palin’s IQ—and they have the added virtue of being right. Palin’s not stupid; Palin’s not scary; she’s just hasn’t been engaged on national-level issues in a sustained or serious way—or at least not to the extent we should expect from a potential vice president.