Sarah Palin: Creationist, Therefore Populist?

AS THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign progresses — well, as it moves closer to the end — our thoughts about Sarah Palin continue to develop. Each morning, as we scan perhaps fifty or sixty news items churned up by a search on Palin creationism, we have to decide what to read and what to skip.

We skip the blogs. They’re almost all crazed and ranting. Most of the traditional press items are also skipped, and for the same reason. When we see a news article or opinion column that repeats the same old cliches — gun-toting, moose-hunting, creationist, anti-gay, anti-abortion — we know there will be nothing worth reading that we haven’t already seen hundreds of times before, so we move on. Our readers deserve better.

We found two items in this morning’s press that attracted our attention.

The New York Times has a column byDavid Brooks, a regular contributor to their Op-Ed page: Why Experience Matters. As we might expect, he’s not enthusiastic about the Republican Vice Presidential choice, but he has some interesting things to say:

The narrow question is this: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be vice president? Most conservatives say yes, on the grounds that something that feels so good could not possibly be wrong. But a few commentators, like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat demur, suggesting in different ways that she is unready.

The issue starts with an evaluation of Palin, but does not end there. This argument also is over what qualities the country needs in a leader and what are the ultimate sources of wisdom.

Those are good questions, and it’s certainly fair to raise them. We must point out, however, that something seems to be missing here. Surely you, dear reader, have already spotted the problem. No? Okay, we’ll help out. What’s missing from Mr. Brooks’ column is the obvious — to us — applicability of these same questions to Mr. Obama. But having noted that deficiency, we’ll put it aside and move along:

There was a time when conservatives did not argue about this. Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said.

Excellent. That’s what really attracted us to this column. Conservatism is, or at least was, the intellectual position. Things certainly do seem to get shifted around. The columnist may be trying to hint that all the intellectuals are now in the other party, but there’s no evidence of any brain activity whatsoever in Congress among the leaders on the liberal side. Let’s not dwell on that, as it would be drifting too far away from our purpose here.

One more excerpt from the column in the Times:

But, especially in America, there has always been a separate, populist, strain. For those in this school, book knowledge is suspect but practical knowledge is respected. The city is corrupting and the universities are kindergartens for overeducated fools.

True. This probably started back with the election of Andrew Jackson, and that populist strain runs right through American politics to people like William Jennings Bryan — one of our personal picks for the top ten most idiotic and disastrous politicians in American history.

The columnist goes on and on about the frontier-like simplicity of Palin, compared to the experience that’s really needed for the job. Good points, and worthy of consideration. But as we said, the columnist somehow exempts Mr. Obama from this kind of analysis.

The other article that we noticed this morning is in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, by Paul Mulshine: Palin’s a populist, not a conservative. Same theme as above. Some excerpts:

I confess that from the beginning I didn’t get the Sarah Palin nomination. Everything about it seemed wrong …


But now I get it. It represents the last gasp of the effort to turn the Republican Party of 2008 into the Democratic Party of 1896. Or at least I hope it does.

The 1896 presidential race represented the high point of populism in America. The Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, represented many of the urges that have since migrated into the Republican Party, such as a distrust of Darwin.

We’ve discussed this metamorphosis of the Republicans before: Creationism in Politics: Time for Benign Neglect?

Anyway, the author quotes some acidic commentary by H. L. Mencken on the Scopes Trial, and then — surprise! — says: “I think that nicely summarizes the thrust of the Palin candidacy.”

The article goes on a bit, and finally ends with this paragraph:

But as Mencken said, you’ll never go broke underestimating the taste of the American public. I just liked it a lot more when it was the Democrats who were doing so.

Not much — not any! — analysis in either column about the inexperience of Mr. Obama, or the way he expresses socialism and class warfare — the populism of his own party’s direct historical ties to that ignorant and pompous fool — William Jennings Bryan.

Also, as perhaps you noticed, there’s something else missing from those two columns. Neither one discusses Mr. McCain. One might think that when writing about the issue of experience in an election that is, after all, between McCain and Obama …

Perhaps, dear reader, you begin to understand our frustration as we scan through the news each morning. But we shall carry on.

[Our related articles are here: Sarah Palin & Creationism.]

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2 responses to “Sarah Palin: Creationist, Therefore Populist?

  1. You’re like the Comics Curmudgeon, who reads the comics so I don’t have to, except you read the articles so I don’t have to! Thanks!

    That said, you start off well by saying “AS THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign progresses — well, as it moves closer to the end — our thoughts about Sarah Palin continue to develop.” But then there is nothing in the entry about how your thought about Sarah Palin have actually progressed. Have they? I doubt it, since you’ve previously said that you’re waiting (as are all of us) to see what her real stance(s) are on issues relevant to science and technology. Not to be completely picky since I obviously like this Blog so much, but maybe your topic sentence should have been “While scanning articles about Sarah Palin I found yet more reason to be annoyed about the media coverage of Barack Obama” (or maybe just about Barack Obama himself). Because it seems that’s what the piece turned out to be about.

  2. You have a point. My thoughts about Sarah haven’t changed since I wrote my “Open Letter,” but there was definitely some development leading to that. Now I’m just waiting.

    If I were to re-write that article, I might begin it the way you mentioned, but I toss these things out rather quickly, and it’s done now. The RSS feeds have it, and I don’t think they go back to capture revisions. I do edit to fix typos, but otherwise I just live with these things.