Okay, so this may be a cheap shot … wait, no. Strike that. It is a cheap shot, but it’s also awesome.
Okay, seriously, Palin is a joke, and her supporters are laughably ignorant. It hardly needs saying, and isn’t some huge revelation.
That being said, it does point to a larger problem though, that there is great appeal in the modern political climate for oversimplification of issues, and for the idea that there are simple solutions to complicated problems. The appeal of this worldview is twofold.
First, of course, if there are easy solutions, then hey, we’re not that bad off! Drill, baby drill! Ignore the complications and context! Just do it! It’s easy!
Second, if there are easy solutions and your political opponents are not taking them, but are instead insisting on complicated trade-offs between competing values … well, it becomes much easier to believe that they’re not just mistaken but actually malevolent.
I think this POV is poison to democracy. It exists across the political spectrum, and (of course) there have been times historically when it concentrated on the left, but I think modern day it’s fair to say that it’s far more concentrated on the right.
It’s what lay behind tarring Al Gore and John Kerry as ‘eggheads.’ It’s what lead ‘policy wonk’ to become something of a slur, rather than the compliment it ought to be. It’s what lead pundits to wonder if Barack Obama might just be too smart for his own good1. It’s the reason Glen ‘oligarhy’ Beck has a job. This surging anti-intellectualism, as I said, isn’t exactly new, but that doesn’t stop it from being worrisome.
EDIT: Steve Benen makes some great points on this very topic here, while riffing off of Ross Douthat’s recent column.
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- Well, that and racism, I mean. [↩]