Gerard Baker, the United States Editor of the (London) Times, has been gamely sticking up for the Republicans during this election. Even among the employees of that relatively conservative paper I imagine he feels like a bit of a beleaguered minority, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the tone of his articles has started to get a bit hysterical and defensive.
Still, this bit from an article about Sarah Palin really annoyed me:
As for the anti-intellectualism she seems to represent, this is a favourite old saw not only of the Left but also of the whole Establishment crowd. There’s an unshakeable view among the coastal elites that real wisdom is acquired only by circulating between the ivy-encrusted walls of scholarship and the Manhattan and Hollywood cocktail set.
But there’s real wisdom among those derided Americans who have never even ventured to the coasts, but whose steady consistent voice and values have been truly responsible for America’s many successes.
Now, I’m quite sure that there is genuine snobbery aimed at rural America by people from ‘the Establishment crowd’, and that the hostility towards Palin is partially fuelled by that snobbery. And I’m sure there’s real wisdom among landlocked Americans, and I even think it’s important that any culture has a strand of conservatism: stability and continuity are real and important political virtues.
But the real story is not that stereotypes about small-town America have undermined Sarah Palin; it’s that Sarah Palin has done great damage to the image of small-town America. Of course there should be many routes to political power; it shouldn’t be necessary to go to an Ivy League university — or any university at all — to qualify for high office.
But however you get there, once you’re running: you have to be able to talk coherently about politics. This is not an unreasonable demand. Palin’s Couric interview was genuine car-crash TV, and although her performances are getting less panicky, she still answers questions with a freeform stream of low-content babble.
She doesn’t have to be an expert on every subject, or speak in elegant, delicately wrought paragraphs. In fact, given her populist image, that would be a mistake. But she’s not even very good at being a populist. She’s no Ronald Reagan. She’s not even a Mike Huckabee. All those folksy colloquialisms are a good start, but she needs to develop a line in snappy, memorable bullshit for all the bits in between.
Thankfully, it looks like the Democrats are going to win this one, so I’ll soon be able to return to that happy state I was in before, when the only Palin I ever had to think about was the ex-Python, and Gerard Baker can be left to cry into his beer and nourish that sense of victimhood on behalf of the poor oppressed people of the Real America™.