Saturday, March 14, 2009
John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin to be his running mate set off a fiercely contemptuous reaction. The chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party said Mrs. Palin's sole qualification for high office was that she had never had an abortion. The comedian Bill Maher scoffed at the idea that "this stewardess" would be first in the line of succession. The scorn moved The Atlantic Monthly's Clive Crook to write that "the metropolitan liberal, in my experience, regards overt religious identity as vulgar, and evangelical Christianity as an infallible marker of mental retardation. Flag-waving patriotism is seen as a joke and an embarrassment."
The denunciation of Palin took place 45 years after William F. Buckley Jr. wrote: "I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University." From Richard Nixon's invoking the "silent majority" to Mrs. Palin's campaigning as a devout, plainspoken hockey mom, conservatives have claimed that they share the common sense of the common man. Liberals—from Adlai Stevenson to Barack Obama to innumerable writers, artists and academics—have often been willing foils in this drama, unable to stop themselves from disparaging the very people whose votes are indispensable to the liberal cause. The elephant-in-the-room irony is that the liberal cause is supposed to be about improving the prospects and economic security of ordinary Americans, whose beliefs and intelligence liberals so often enjoy deriding.