Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catching Up On Old News

I had meant to link to this Peggy Noonan column in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, when it was published in the wake of Sarah Palin's abrupt resignation from the governorship of Alaska, but never actually got around to it. But better late than never, here it is. I've included Noonan's discussion of the right's myths about Palin below.

McCain-Palin lost. Mrs. Palin has now stepped down, but she continues to poll high among some members of the Republican base, some of whom have taken to telling themselves Palin myths.

To wit, "I love her because she's so working-class." This is a favorite of some party intellectuals. She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary. They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they're working class "tropes." Because, you know, that's what they teach in "Ways of the Working Class" at Yale and Dartmouth.

What she is, is a seemingly very nice middle-class girl with ambition, appetite and no sense of personal limits.

"She's not Ivy League, that's why her rise has been thwarted! She represented the democratic ideal that you don't have to go to Harvard or Brown to prosper, and her fall represents a failure of egalitarianism." This comes from intellectuals too. They need to be told something. Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College. Richard Nixon went to Whittier College, Joe Biden to the University of Delaware. Sarah Palin graduated in the end from the University of Idaho, a school that happily notes on its Web site that it's included in U.S. News & World Report's top national schools survey. They need to be told, too, that the first Republican president was named "Abe," and he went to Princeton and got a Fulbright. Oh wait, he was an impoverished backwoods autodidact!

America doesn't need Sarah Palin to prove it was, and is, a nation of unprecedented fluidity. Her rise and seeming fall do nothing to prove or refute this.

"The elites hate her." The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites, from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.

"She makes the Republican Party look inclusive." She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.

"She shows our ingenuous interest in all classes." She shows your cynicism.

"Now she can prepare herself for higher office by studying up, reading in, boning up on the issues." Mrs. Palin's supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone. She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan. Why do her supporters not see this? Maybe they think "not thoughtful" is a working-class trope!

"The media did her in." Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it's arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.

"Turning to others means the media won!" No, it means they lose. What the mainstream media wants is not to kill her but to keep her story going forever. She hurts, as they say, the Republican brand, with her mess and her rhetorical jabberwocky and her careless causing of division. Really, she is the most careless sower of discord since George W. Bush, who fractured the party and the movement that made him. Why wouldn't the media want to keep that going?

I particularly enjoyed the point where Noonan points out that all the studying in the world may help Sarah Plain memorize the names of Pakistan's leaders, but will not teach her how to actually think about Pakistan. This isn't about insulting anyone's intelligence, nor is it ultimately about what makes an individual a capable political leader. What it's about is wanting our political leaders to be more than just politicians- to be political thinkers who can lead ideological movements and move politics away from the BS and towards the concrete. Perhaps that's asking too much, but at the least I'd like our politicians to be good policy wonks. Palin has neither, not motivated by policy or ideology. And good riddance if the Republicans hope to reclaim the mantle of limited government and once again be a political force.


Blogger McMc said...

I hate that Sarah Palin is seen as a beacon or savior or whatever for the Republican party. This is why I can't stand politics. Important issues are just cast aside for awful reasons. In this case, there are Republicans who love Palin simply because she annoys Democrats. That's pathetic. Who cares what she stands for, right? As long as she pisses off a few tree huggers along the way.

12:33 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home