Conservatives used to fret about the dumbing down of our society and how we were all headed for the lowest common denominator. Now they’re leading the way.
Why should we pretend not to notice when Gov. Palin’s ideas make no sense? Having said last week that “it doesn’t matter” whether human activity is the cause of climate change, she said in debate that she “doesn’t want to argue” about the causes. It doesn’t occur to her that we have to know the causes in order to address the problem. (She was very fortunate that moderator Gwen Ifill didn’t ask her whether she truly believes that human beings and dinosaurs inhabited this planet simultaneously only 6,000 years ago.)
Why should we ignore her inability to string together a series of coherent thoughts? As a foe of Wall Street greed and a late convert to the gospel of government regulation, along with John McCain, Palin promised to clean up and reform business. But when her programmed talking points about “getting government out of the way” and protecting “freedom” conflicted with that promise, she didn’t notice.
Why should we give her a pass on the most important issues of the day? Supposedly sharing the fears and concerns of the average families who face the burdens of mortgages, healthcare and economic insecurity, Palin simply refused to discuss changes in bankruptcy law and proved that she didn’t know the provisions of McCain’s healthcare plan.
All the glaring defects so blatantly on display in her debate with Joe Biden — and that make her candidacy so darkly comical — would be the same if she were a hockey dad instead of a “hockey mom.” In fact, the cynical attempt to foist Palin on the nation as a symbol of feminist progress is an insult to all women regardless of their political orientation.
As Biden showed quite convincingly when he spoke about his modest background and his continuing connection with Main Street, perceptive, intelligent discourse is in no way identical with elitism. Palin’s phony populism is as insulting to working- and middle-class Americans as it is to American women. Why are basic diction and intellectual coherence presumed to be out of reach for “real people”?
And why don’t we expect more from American conservatives? Indeed, why don’t they demand more from their own movement? Aren’t they disgusted that their party would again nominate a person devoid of qualifications for one of the nation’s highest offices? Some, like Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker, have expressed discomfort with this farce — and been subjected, in Parker’s case, to abuse from many of the same numbskulls whom Palin undoubtedly delights.
The ultimate irony of Palin’s rise is that it has occurred at a moment when Americans may finally have grown weary of pseudo-populism — when intelligence, judgment, diligence and seriousness are once again valued, simply because we are in such deep trouble. We got into this mess because we elected a man who professed to despise elitism, which he detected in everyone whose opinions differed from his prejudices. That was George W. Bush, of course. Biden was too polite and restrained to say it, but the dumbing down is more of the same, too.
The answer is pretty simple, actually. The Republicans know that if they actually talked about the issues such as the economy, health care, education, global warming, and things that really matter, they lose and lose big.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald pretty much nails it.
That the Right believes in the fundamental stupidity of the American voter while simultaneously pretending to revere and speak for them them is reflected in their belief that they can successfully blame the financial crisis and the country’s woes generally on Democrats, who — while hardly covering themselves with glory — haven’t had any meaningful power in this country for as long as one can remember. Ponder how stupid you must think Americans are to believe that you can blame the financial crisis on the 2004 statements of House Democrats about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when that was a time when the GOP controlled all branches of the Government and nothing could have been more inconsequential than what Barney Frank or Maxine Waters, languishing in the minority in Tom DeLay’s tyrannical House, said or did about anything.
In sum, Americans hate the way the country has been ruled, the economic crisis is making them hate that more by the minute, and the country has been dominated by Republican rule for the last eight years — at least.