Friday, October 31, 2008

In defense of ignorance

Tom Fleming at Chronicles:
Dan Larison on his Eunomia blog now on AmCon has drawn attention to our old friend Stacy McCain’s defense of ignorance. Palin and her supporters are virtuous, he is arguing, precisely because what they don’t know won’t hurt them. I fear, however, that it will hurt us. This is worth an entire issue of the magazine. Since Socrates (at least) we have understood that to pilot the ship of state requires skill, not just a good heart, especially when that ship is no longer a simple republican skiff but a nuclear powered submarine armed with missiles carrying nuclear warheads. Besides, it is easier to make a judgment of someone’s experience and competence than of the soundness of his heart.
The joy of limited government is that the ordinary citizen should be able to ignore politics, and most Americans do so. They are, therefore, generally ignorant of politics -- and certainly they are ignorant of the internecine disputes among conservatives. The average Republican voter in Pennsylvania sees Sean Hannity on TV and likes him. The same voter sees Pat Buchanan on TV and likes him, too. To this average voter, Hannity and Buchanan are both conservatives, allies against liberal Democrats, even though Buchanan and Hannity have very different philosophies and policy ideas.

Sarah Palin is the governor of Alaska, a very popular and for all I know a very good governor. She apparently focused her attention on the job she was doing and, prior to being chosen as McCain's running mate, had paid little attention to the national and international issues that the presidential campaigns were talking about. Very good, I say -- I wouldn't want my governor to be obsessed with presidential politics, but rather to concentrate on doing his job as governor.

Palin's honest ignorance of presidential-level issues was held up as evidence that she is, or was, unprepared for the vice-presidency -- as if years of studying such issues were in itself qualification for the office. Evidence contradicts this idea.

Sarah Palin is extraordinarily shrewd and is a natural as a politician. She figured out early on that some people on the McCain campaign are profoundly incompetent (hello, Tucker Bounds) and that other people on the McCain campaign are selfish and arrogant beyond words (you know who you are, sweetheart).

Sarah's shortcomings on Aug. 29 have been rapidly remedied, and by 2011 could be remedied entirely. Considering that she is the strongest, most viable alternative to Jeb Bush, I would suggest that some of her conservative critics should try to befriend her, and not merely join the sneering  snobs.


  1. Umnnnhhhh....there's also something called "the Cabinet."

    You know, Wise Men.

    Is Romney suddenly a Foreign Affairs expert? More than the ex-Sec-State who held the office for what, a week--? Larry Whatshishamurger?

  2. "The joy of limited government is that the ordinary citizen should be able to ignore politics, and most Americans do so." Well put.

    And absolutely, "the sneering snobs". Most of the antipathy toward her is snobbery, pure and simple. Very sad.

  3. Most of the antipathy towards the choice of Sarah Palin is that she has yet to distinguish herself in life. She is getting the choice now, as Governor of Alaska.

    She should have been left alone to learn how to lead, govern, and manage a complicated environment.

    2011, 2012 lets see what she has.

    I have to disagree that part of the beauty of our government is that we can ignore politics. I suppose one could stretch the concept of a representative democracy to include that, but the argument would hold most true for fascism. You can ignore politics because you have no choice.

    If I count my school district, city, county, state, and federal elected officials -- representatives, judges, and executives I find around 20-24 offices I have to vote for.

    I for one cannot expend the energy to keep track of what these people are doing, whether they are qualified or not, ... or even their names.