Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Varieties of Palinphobia

In reply to Pat Buchanan's musings expressed here, which closely resemble Joe Queenan's musings expressed here (starting roughly 1:40 in, renewed at around 3:04), it's worth clarifying two distinct strains in the fear and loathing of Sarah Palin:

(1) That Palin is the next Reagan. This is the fear that she is a powerful political force that, with the benefit of several hundred thousand more dollars in stylish clothes and less craven handling from party hacks who insist on preparing her for interviews, will bring the GOP back to electoral viability. Under this view, she's the Wide Stance party's emerging superstar, the attack dog in lipstick who barks with a pitch-perfect voice for uniting Americans behind the idea that the Democrats are socialistic terrorists unworthy of power.

This first version of the Palinphobia narrative comes from resentment: we would have won without those meddling kids and their insistence that political candidates not only can read, but have actually chosen to do so from time to time.

(2) That Palin is unqualified. This is subtly different from the first version, but worth distinguishing from it. This is simply the recognition that Sarah Palin represents the worst of American politics -- certainly the worst that can get away with calling itself respectable. She doesn't know enough to hold high national office, and she lacks the curiosity to correct that, or even to regard it as a deficit. She is all but proud of her ignorance and openly celebrates a belief in unblinking American exceptionalism. The fear is that this form of nasty, defiantly ignorant, know-nothing politics has not been extinguished by the recent election but will grow a fresh new Palin head and make another valiant try in 2010 and 2012. And it may succeed.

To be clear, I don't want the GOP to return to power, not even if represented by one of its less anti-intellectual standard bearers. But it would be far worse for it to return, if it must return, in the form we have seen in Sarah Palin.

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