Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Palin, Expectations, and the Need for Elitism

As previously discussed, there was a rumor that Palin had failed spectacularly on a question from Katie Couric regarding Supreme Court decisions other than Roe v Wade. Well, today, we have the video, and transcript:

It's pretty bad. Palin's half of the clip starts at 2:00, where she discusses Roe v Wade, and at 2:57 Couric asks about other cases. Definitely worth two minutes of your time, and the contrast with Biden is worth another two.

But it's not nearly as bad as I was expecting. She pauses for about 7 seconds before launching into a generic response about leaving decisions to states. It's a really bad response, and I remain convinced that at that moment she could not think of another Supreme Court case. But to anyone expecting a disaster, it's not awful. She might not come off too terribly to a non-committed voter.

It is in this way that the shockingly low expectations for Sarah Palin in tomorrow's VP debate. It appears, based on the testimony of an opponent of hers in the Alaskan gubernatorial debates, that Palin is not completely without skill at debates. She is "she's a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the nonanswer, the glittering generality." Now, we can argue if that statement is true, based on her terrible, transparent nonanswers during the interviews with Couric and Gibson, but she might be able to not completely embarass herself.

Palin takes pride in being "Joe Six-Pack" and talks about "those Washington elite who don't like the idea of just an everyday, working-class American running for such an office." I would hope that I speak for all of us when I say, if we're going to get a working-class, or any other class, American, I want them to be far from "everyday".

Why in God's name would we want an average American to lead us? We live in a complicated world, and while no one's close to having it all figured out, I'd rather put our best minds on the problem than our most average. Doesn't that make sense?

Why is elitism bad? The sort of elitism that I think most people are thinking of when they think of "elite" as a perjorative term is the caste-like, nepotic systems whereby the "common man" can't get ahead. And I think we can all agree that that form of elitism is bad. But the kind of elitism where we want our best to lead us is ok, I would hope.

Sarah Palin's candidacy represents a false sort of populism in opposition to "the elites". She comes from a middle-class background (though, relative to her surroundings, she's doing more than ok), which is, I'll admit, preferable to someone who comes from a wealthier home, all other things being equal, as she is more likely to understand how government affects the average (i.e., plentiful) American. But she also seems to take pride in being average in her thoughts, knowledge and ideas. When will we start seeing the latter as a bad thing in a leader?

It's as if the Cleveland Browns signed me to be their quarterback (for my non-sports readers, the guy who throws the football) and the fans decided to judge me on the scale of an overweight 26 year old who hasn't touched a football in years, instead of on the scale of an NFL quarterback.

Palin's embrace of her image as the everywoman, in every aspect, means she has ridiculously low expectations to live up to in the debate. What would be a dismally bad performance for a qualified candidate would be a great performance for an everywoman. The genius of Palin's candidacy is that her supporters believe that an everywoman makes just as good a leader as someone who, ya know, can name more than one accomplishment of the Judicial Branch of Government.


Alexandra said...

Palin's gaffe with the court cases made wonder how many I could come up with. The answer was not that many, but more then Roe. Then I came up with a better test your American knowledge game. How many presidents can you name in a 1-2 minute period? I suggest you do it with pen and paper. I got 26, which I felt good about until Paul got 34. Elitist ass.


PoliticalDoctor said...

I got 42 in 1:16. I forgot someone around 10-15.

PoliticalDoctor said...

And just for fun.... Madison v Marbury, McCollough v Maryland, Dred Scott, Plessy v Ferguson, Brown v Board of Education, Miranda, Roe v Wade, Bush v Gore, Lawrence v Texas. I think that's it for me.

Alexandra said...

42? That's just showing off. I was off on Paul's number, he got 31, Rob got 34. My 26 is looking sadder and sadder. I blame a poor public education. I came up with roughly the same supreme court cases, minus McCollough and Lawrence. That would seem less embarrassing if I wasn't a law student. At least I can name all of the states.