“Salon”’s Gary Kamiya:
Palin represents the reappearance of the one part of Bush that never died — the culture warrior. Democrats may have forgotten about the notorious red state-blue state divide, or hoped that the failures of the last eight years had made it go away. But it hasn’t. It’s been there all along. If Palin catapults McCain to victory, it will be revealed to be the most powerful and enduring force in American politics. And that fact will raise serious questions about the viability of American democracy itself….
It’s terrifying that so many Americans are so driven by resentment that they will vote against more qualified candidates simply because they seem “different” from them. For what this means is that anyone with expertise, unusual intelligence, mastery, special knowledge, is likely to be rejected by voters who are resentful of “elites.” This constitutes a rejection of the very idea that it matters if someone is better at something than someone else.
To conservatives, the left’s shrill, sometimes dishonest attacks on Gov. Palin’s background, family, faith, and political principles feel like culture war tactics. But the left thinks Sen. McCain picked a culture war just by naming her. When someone argues, as Kamiya does, that a GOP victory will threaten democracy itself, to conservatives that sounds like the worst kind of scare tactics. But the left says (unceasingly) that it’s Republicans who traffic in the politics of fear. Andrew Sullivan, Alan Colmes, and other post-boomer commentators said Republicans would lose by playing red-blue politics. And yet their efficacy has just been rediscovered by Sen. Obama’s friends and Palin’s opponents, their primary-season rhetoric about a new kind of politics notwithstanding.
Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, argued that Richard Nixon institutionalized the politics of resentment and anger. If RN were here, he’d send Perlstein clippings showing what his enraged critics said after the Hiss case. One person’s politics of resentment is another’s truth, which is why politicians never get anywhere accusing the other side of going negative first. The mutual finger-pointing would go all the way back to Cain and Abel. In public affairs, as in many human endeavors, people have often tended to be at their worst when convinced they’re doing the right thing. Liberals are as prone to this effect as conservatives — more so when they decide their advanced insights are vital to the survival of democracy.
Hence Kamiya’s standing up for elites’ unusual intelligence, mastery, and “special knowledge” — one translation of the Greek work gnosis. The Gnostics were a Christian sect whose members believed that true knowledge of God and the means of achieving salvation in a broken world were only given to a select few. Political and media Gnostics think the same way, hence their resume fixation. That’s why they’ve spent nearly a week dancing on the head of a pin engraved with the words “Bush Doctrine” as though they believe the bulk of the American people are paying attention to what Sarah Palin knows instead of who she is.