Rabid Intellectualism and Sarah Palin


In a scathing review of Sarah Palin and elitism,presented in his piece When Atheists Attack, Sam Harris has exemplified all of the flaws of the intellectual movement from contradictions, short sightedness, to a platitudinal attitude towards most “ordinary” people.

Starting his diatribe off, Harris says, “The point is that she (Palin) comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her.” What are the exact intellectual requirements for the job of Vice President, or for that matter, President? I would like the criteria. Realistically, there is no amount of education, training, or experience that can get you ready for the enormity of these jobs. What you can judge is the experience of the life that person has had and what potential do they bring to the table.

Interestingly enough, by his argument, Harris automatically disqualified Obama from seeking the Presidency. Obama is a lawyer, by trade, a legislator; he does not fit the intellectual mold for being President. He does, however, fit the intellectual requirement for a Senator. Palin, on the other hand, is an executive officer by trade, a decision maker. The only difference between the two is that Obama is running for the office that requires the greatest need for experience as a decision maker, experience he does not have, and Palin is running for 2nd in command.

Another point that is quizzical is Harris’s angst, in existentialist terms, towards the electorates’ support of Palin. Harris states, “The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country.” As noted above, if Palin is an exercise in mediocrity I would not even venture to think what the Obama candidacy is.

Ironically, while trying to make a point about Palin’s supposed dogmatic beliefs, Harris contradicts himself on his accusation of her mediocrity and half of America’s love affair with it. “It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska.” So, on one hand, it is wrong to admire and support her but, on the other, you can see why people admire and support, her. Which is it? The other point of contention is that this is a direct contributor to her intellectual capacity to govern, she is a multi-tasker and generalist, able to shift gears at a moments notice. As, Vice President, or maybe even President one day, she will be required to take on different responsibilities at the drop of a hat, she has already proven her capacity to do this successfully.

Harris also seems obsessed with presenting evidence that paints Palin as some sort of religious zealot and nut, teetering on the brink of insanity. Harris states, “I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events.” He draws this ridiculous conclusion based on this particular statement, “that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan.” One of the greatest men in US history made a similar quote as Sarah Palin, “.Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.” That man was George Washington.

Closing out Harris asks this very poignant question, “Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence.”

Every example that Harris has made is one which requires a specific area of talent or study. The office of POTUS deals with a myriad of issues ranging from economics, national security, infrastructure, cultural issues, science, technology, and everything in between. I do not want an intelligent specific elitist running this country, I want a pragmatic generalist, which Palin actually might be. I want someone who is familiar with all the issues but has enough common sense to know when they might need the opinion of a particular expert in that field. In other words, I want a leader.


[1] When Atheists Attack



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