Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Palin's War on Elites

Ross Douthat’s latest nytimes column on Sarah Palin has sparked a big debate among the bloggers. Particularly this quote: “With her missteps, scandals, dreadful interviews and self-pitying monologues, she’s botched an essential democratic role — the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites.” Now give the conservative Douthat credit that he does articulate what has been so farcical about Palin’s appearance on the national stage. She lost any credibility the moment she gave that “I can see Russia from my house” interview. Her interviews and public statements have consistently revealed someone far too ignorant and small-minded to be let anywhere near the executive branch.

But it is interesting to break down the assumptions contained in the last part of the Douthat quote. Clearly he thinks that someone is needed to take on the “elites.” But who are these “elites”? No doubt, as a conservative he would argue they are the big government liberals and ivory tower types. But when Palin appeared on the national stage to denounce the “elites” a conservative Republican had been running the country for eight years. The Supreme Court is tipped 5-4 towards the conservative judicial view. Yet conservatives go on about this long-standing oppression of hard-working Americans by the “elites.” 12 years of Reagan/Bush. Eight years of a centrist Dem constantly pulled to the Right by congress. Eight years of the most unapologetically conservative president in U.S. History. How can big-government “elites” oppress people if they haven’t been in the necessary authority positions to do so? I’m sorry, but the only “elites” in charge of this country for the past thirty years have been the conservatives.

This whole argument about “elites” and big-government oppression goes back to Richard Nixon. He saw that he could build a majority by playing up to the prejudices and resentments of working-class whites. Palin plays the same card; though with considerably less skill. Here is the essential conservative Republican pitch to blue-collar America: "You don't like gay people getting equal rights? You don't like intellectuals in universities? You don't believe non-Christians should have a place in government? Well, we are the GOP and we agree with all of those prejudices; so vote for us and we'll do all we can to enforce them." Never mind helping working people with skyrocketing prescription drug costs; never mind helping their kids get a chance to go to college. The GOP never offers working Americans something to vote for; it only gives them these mythical big government bogeymen to vote against. At least William Jennings Bryan had legitimate policy proposals to help working-people. Sarah Palin is no William Jennings Bryan.

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