Thank you for spitting!

In a comment to yesterday's post about Chris Buckley's "defection" (if it is that), Sissy Willis quoted in part from a comment left by Gerard van der Leun at Roger Kimball's PJM post on the subject:

"Friends such as Roger will criticize him 'more in sorrow than in anger,' but he will still be welcome at dinner parties and other festivities. He will still be welcome in most meaningful conservative circles. He will not be thrust out into the howling winds as he would be if he had been long on the left and declared for McCain."
To which Sissy responded:
"I don't know nothin' 'bout 'meaningful conservative circles,' but I, for one, won't be soon forgiving or forgetting the cravenness of young Buck and his fellow 'Northeast Corridor Conservatives.'
I agree with Gerard that young Buckley will always be welcome at conservative parties. As I explained in the reply to Sissy, I think that perhaps this is not a bad thing. Civility is lacking in politics, and one of the reasons for that is that the left tends to excuse its own rudeness by pointing to the rudeness of the other side. In my muddled meanderings back and forth across what passes for the political spectrum, I learned that in general (sorry to be general; I know there are exceptions), people on the left are far less tolerant of people on the right. But where it comes to defectors (former leftists who became libertarian or conservative), they can expect to be ridiculed, shamed, scorned and shunned, in a way that Chris Buckley never will be by the right. If you don't believe me, try going to a leftie cocktail party and let it slip in conversation (as I have) that you are a member of the NRA. If you're lucky, they'll stop talking to you. At the trendy Philadelphia party when I told a young radio producer for NPR that I was an NRA Life Member (and also an ACLU member), her immediate reaction was a combination of disgust and shock -- as if I told her I was with NAMBLA. She walked away as if I simply did not belong there and would give her the cooties.

But when I have disclosed my ACLU membership at conservative events, yes, I have gotten a look that suggests "Ah! A liberal!", but yet what I said is seen as an opportunity for polite debate.

This is not a new observation. The right generally hopes to convert people, while the left looks for heretics to condemn. A conservative will regard me as "half right" for saying I belong to the NRA and the ACLU, while a liberal will regard me as completely evil simply for belonging to the NRA.

Anyway, if Buckley is welcomed anyway at conservative parties (which I suspect he would be), it would be another illustration of how the right wing is in general a lot more tolerant and even forgiving than is commonly believed. I've attended a number of conservative events, and I've noticed that even bona fide flaming liberals are welcome. (Assuming they've gone there to be polite and not to engage in Code Pink-style disruptions.) Not that most liberals would ever attend such events, but conservatives are remarkably tolerant in that regard. They are more likely to have liberal friends than liberals are to have conservative friends, and I suspect that polling would bear this out.

As to the Northwest Corridor Conservatives, while I don't know what to say about the shoes, I think Sissy's point is well taken. There is a certain elitist clubbishness that goes beyond the normal liberal versus conservative dichotomy, and which definitely looks down on the little people, even as it patronizes them.

I wrote about this phenomenon in "Oh my God! A real Joe Sixpack in our midst!," and I was shocked to see this morning that syndicated liberal columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. (writing in the Detroit Free Press, but not at the web site) is quite threatened by the Joe Six-Pack barbarians at the gate:

Every politician wants to be seen as Everyman or woman. That's why every primary season brings the curious sight of millionaires in plaid shirts wandering through county fairs eating fried things on sticks. It's why Hillary Clinton hit that bar and Barack Obama went bowling, badly.

In that sense, Sarah Six-Pack is nothing new. The ''g''-droppin', moose-shootin', eye-winkin' hockey mom has plenty of antecedents. But there's a difference. Those antecedents were smart, wonkish people pretending to be one of us. Sarah Palin ''is'' one of us.

And by ''us,'' I don't mean you, necessarily, or me. I mean the lowest common denominator us, the us of myth and narrative, the us of simple mind, the reactionary, ill-informed, impatient with complexity, utterly shallow us.

You think that's mean? Go back and look at the Katie Couric interviews again. Or the Charlie Gibson interview. I don't know about you, but I want a vice president who can identify Supreme Court rulings she disagrees with. Or define the Bush Doctrine. Or name a newspaper. Or - heck, I'm not picky - construct an intelligible English-language sentence.

Even many of her most ardent admirers no longer dispute that Sarah Six-Pack is, shall we say, incurious. What's striking is how little that seems to matter. A McCain spokeswoman suggested before the vice presidential debate that it would be unfair to question Palin, ''a woman who could be president,'' too closely on foreign policy. And when thinking conservatives (remember when the adjective was not necessary?) like Kathleen Parker and David Brooks declared Palin unfit for office, they were shouted down by their ideological brethren. Parker got e-mail she called ''vicious and threatening.'' Brooks was dismissed by another pundit as a ''conservative intellectual.''

You're left to wonder when intellectuals - thinking people, for goodness sake! - became the enemy. Are we to regard unthinking conservatives (will that adjective soon be superfluous?) as the only true conservatives? Indeed, the only true Americans?

Bottom line: she is not of our culture!

She is a real Joe Sixpack!

That the media elites (and all pretenders thereto) fear a Joe Sixpack in their midst was precisely the point of my post, and I am amazed (even flattered) to see it openly admitted by a self-styled member of the intellectual classes.

But this is not new either. Back when Andrew Jackson was elected president, elitists worried about the coonskin cap crowd spitting tobacco juice on White House carpets.

I'd love to see Sarah Palin spit some juice in the right direction.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Before anyone jumps on me, let me say that I realize that Sarah Palin probably doesn't chew tobacco, nor would she spit on the White House carpets.

(But even if she or one of her less couth supporters did miss hitting one of Andrew Jackson's official White House spittoons, surely the stains wouldn't be any worse than those left behind by certain previous occupants....)

MORE: If the comments here are any indication, liberals are already having fits about spit.

posted by Eric on 10.14.08 at 11:27 AM










Comments

I can't imagine why any serious person, no matter their position on the political spectrum, would read the Huffington Post.

tim maguire   ·  October 14, 2008 12:34 PM

I would! But then, I'm always looking for comedy.

Eric Scheie   ·  October 14, 2008 12:43 PM

This sort of Republican is the reason I have recently changed my voter registration to Anarchist. They are Socialists turned inside- out. They are like cafeteria- catholics, or children playing dress-up with daddy's wing-tips. They are weary and cynical, they are posers. The Republican brand should be dead to any thinking American. I blame GWB as much as anyone.

Remember, these people aren't new, they supported Bush 1 over RR in 1980. They thought the world would end with Ronnie's nomination. They prefer to play the part of the loyal opposition. It doesn't interfere with golf lessons.

dr kill   ·  October 14, 2008 1:25 PM

Sarah Palin is peddling anti-intellectualism masquerading as populism. Everything Sarah Palin has done demonstrates that she is not only ignorant, but *proudly* ignorant.

I know that our President does not have to be a biochemist, a legal scholar, an engineer, a historian, and a mathematician rolled into one to be an effective leader, but our President should *value* biochemists, legal scholars, engineers, historians and mathematicians.

One of the most tragic features of the Bush era has been the sneering contempt of "elites" Republicans have encouraged. Sarah Palin is the natural product of that strategy: an incurious Miss. Congeniality that thinks winking at the camera and sprinkling her speech with "you betcha's" makes her qualified to lead the most powerful nation in the world.

Dr. Nobel Dynamite   ·  October 14, 2008 4:58 PM

Doc, over and over I hear people read from that same Obama talking points cue card that Palin is "incurious." (Amazing that so many of you independently started using that fairly obscure word at the same time, isn't it?)

What's your evidence? The fact is you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. To the extent that you make statements about Palin as though you knew them to be true, you are a liar. Someone with nothing to add and an inability keep quiet about things you know nothing about. (Wonderful P.J. O'Rourke quote: "I don't know. I'm not a liberal so I'm not an expert on stuff know nothing about.")

Sorry doc, but I'm tired of the BS.

tim maguire   ·  October 14, 2008 9:31 PM

Tim

Incurious: showing absence of intellectual inquisitiveness or natural curiosity.

What is my evidence that Sarah Palin lacks intellectual inquisitiveness? Good god, man...have you heard the woman speak? Have you heard her try and answer the most basic questions about the world around her? It's like watching a not terribly bright high school sophomore who thought she could wing it through her book report on Dickens.

She couldn't name a *single* Supreme Court case with which she disagreed (until she was given a list by her handlers), she couldn't name a *single* newspaper or magazine she reads (because she doesn't), and when she tried to talk about Alaska's proximity to Russia as a foreign policy credential, her answer required no modification to become parody. I'd give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a bad night, but the fact that her handlers have sequestered her after only her second interview certainly suggests that the problem is not with an isolated interview, but with Sarah Palin.

Tim, I will put the question to you: what in Sarah Palin's tenure as a candidate for Vice President of the United States has led you to believe that she has anything approaching an above average intelligence?

You betcha!

Anonymous   ·  October 14, 2008 10:11 PM

Boys, boys- I was sneering at elites long before the Bush administration. That's what anarchists do.

And read some American history, children. Elite sneering is a national pastime older than baseball. Cut and paste character assassination is new, however. Enjoy your superiority, and your government cheese. Surely Obama will pat your head as he rides by. Such good boys, noble boys, progressive boys, intelligent boys.

dr kill   ·  October 14, 2008 10:26 PM

dr kill

There is a world of difference between sneering at the aristocracy and sneering at anyone who values intellectualism.

The former should be encouraged, while the latter has been turned into basic Republican strategy.

Dr. Nobel Dynamite   ·  October 14, 2008 10:52 PM

Young Buckley?
While he may be the Younger, in relation to his deceased father, Young Buckley is 56 years old.

Gringo   ·  October 15, 2008 6:43 AM

Anonymous - Palin put the oil construction contract out to bid and negotiated the deal with the Canadian government. The people with high intelligence forgot to do that. Do not confuse cultural cues with intelligence.

I think all four of the candidates are about 1SD above average this election, which is a good deal lower than Bush, Kerry, Gore, and (Hillary) Clinton, who go in at an estimated 126, 125, 132, and 140. Palin's a quick study, that should count for something. She has been doing local and state issues for years, functioning as a manager, and is suddenly put into an arena among people who assume that what goes on in Washington is of surpassing importance.

Naming SCOTUS cases is not as important as the general principles behind the discussion. It was not accidental that the question was about names of cases than about principles. It is not just a set-up slyness on the part of journalists, it reflects their belief that being a news junky is one of the qualifications for working in DC. But that belief is erroneous.

Barack Obama is likely to forget that Syria and Venezuela are more enemy than friend. I don't think Palin would forget that. I use that because I think Bush's greatest error was in overestimating Putin's reasonableness, and this strongly influenced what he thought the US could accomplish internationally. (For comparison, imagine the lead up to the UN Resolutions and the Iraq confrontation if Russia had indeed been a consistent ally. That overestimation cost us.)

Incidentally, I was the president of the Prometheus Society 20 years ago, an international IQ group with a cutoff of 164. I know these high-IQ, curious, seeking, intellectual types pretty well. Some are great, and should be president. Some are just friggin' nuts, and arrogant to boot. They are surpassingly dangerous people to give any sort of power to. Intelligence is overrated. Adaptability is more important.

Dr. Nobel Dynamite. As an ex-socialist, I can assure you that the sneering by elites starts much earlier - middle-school perhaps - than the sneering back. It is a gradual dawning on the doers of life that these elites don't actually know that much. So the doers get irritated.

Signed, Former Elite

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  October 15, 2008 8:54 AM

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