I’m no conservative. And I'm certainly no intellectual. But I totally understand the freakout among conservative intellectuals over Sarah Palin. For a movement based on ideas, the former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee who sits astride the party as a powerhouse fundraiser and potential king- or queenmaker has been uninterested in setting forth a vision crafted after years of thorough study to match her outsized influence.
The Atlantic’s Joshua Green wags his finger at those worry-wart Republicans: “It's not hard to understand what these conservative intellectuals are trying to accomplish,” he writes, “They genuinely believe that a Palin candidacy would be disastrous, for their party and likely for their own influence over that party.”
The “they” include George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Heather MacDonald and Matt Labash. They should be applauded for not bowing down at the altar of Palin’s (dwindling) popularity. By criticizing her by name or by inference, they are defending the idea that those who would lead this nation should bring a whole lot more to the table than “energy and enthusiasm to what is shaping up as a torpid GOP field.”
Instead, Palin prefers to wallow in her put-upon world of grievance and victimhood. When really smart people try to keep her from sinking deeper, she ignores them. That’s what she did after Roger Ailes wisely advised her to “Lie low.... There’s no need to inject yourself into the story” after the Tucson shootings. We all know how well that worked out for Palin.
The criticism of Palin is bound to mount as the 2012 GOP sweepstakes get underway and she continues to play coy about her intentions. But Green asks a good question and raises a worrisome prospect:
When has disapproval from establishment Republicans stopped her in the past? And especially from conservative intellectuals? If the goal here is to intimidate Palin into staying on the sidelines, it seems to me the likelier effect is that it will goad her into entering the race.
Palin has been making money hand over fist since she jettisoned Juneau for television and the speaking circuit in 2009. If she does an “I’ll show them!” and jumps into the presidential race, she will have proven me wrong and proven that she isn’t nearly as smart as I think she is.