Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Level of Competence

Hilzoy comments on the continuing question of what it takes to run for a national office.

People who don’t follow politics closely often assume that candidates meet some basic level of competence. They have to, right? Otherwise, wouldn’t someone have said something, or somehow stopped them?

As far as the Republican Party is concerned, the answer is clearly ‘no’. It’s not that no one has the power to keep obviously incompetent candidates from being nominated. Obviously, John McCain could easily have not nominated Sarah Palin. But other people could have blocked her as well — recall that McCain supposedly wanted to nominate Joe Lieberman, but was told that the party would not accept it. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a Lieberman fan, but the idea that there is some standard for Vice Presidential nominees that Sarah Palin meets but Lieberman does not, and that enough people accept that standard that Lieberman could not be nominated but Palin could, is frightening.

Someone should have said: no, this is just unacceptable, and if you nominate her, I will say so publicly, and oppose her nomination on the convention floor. Apparently, people said this about Lieberman. But no one said it about Sarah Palin. And that’s just astonishingly irresponsible.

But it was clear back in 1999 that Republican elites were irresponsible in just this way.


They let their party nominate Bush. They let McCain nominate Palin. Who knows who they’ll try to foist off on us next time: Joe the Plumber? The latest winner of American Idol? Fred Flintstone?

I know we’re all tired of hearing about Sarah Palin, but as Andrew Sullivan noted, she still matters because she is the icon for a Republican Party that thinks the most important thing is winning an election, not governing after. And they have a cynical view of the electorate: give ’em red meat and they’ll follow you anywhere.

If the election just finished is any measure, the GOP should have gotten the hint that the majority of Americans are not falling for it. But it doesn’t get rid of the unease I feel whenever I see yet another “exclusive” interview with Sarah Palin. And she’s the star of the Republican Governor’s Conference this week on Miami. Maybe she’s just here to see if she can see Cuba from her hotel room.