Palin as Populist Chic

I am enjoying the news post election, because what was once news media “liberal bias” about Sarah Palin is now simply common sense.

Even more fun is the frank conversation about the conservative movement. Today’s Journal has a must read by Mark Lilla on how the very conservatives who valued intellectualism and elites were corrupted by “populist chic.” Lilla recalls Jane Mayer’s recent article on Palin, noting how conservative intellectuals chose Palin as a candidate that was appealing to the masses. But in so doing, conservative intellectuals mirrored their liberal rivals. Lilla explains:

Back in the ’70s, conservative intellectuals loved to talk about “radical chic,” the well-known tendency of educated, often wealthy liberals to project their political fantasies onto brutal revolutionaries and street thugs, and romanticize their “struggles.” But “populist chic” is just the inversion of “radical chic,” and is no less absurd, comical or ominous. Traditional conservatives were always suspicious of populism, and they were right to be. They saw elites as a fact of political life, even of democratic life. What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience, and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward.

He concludes:

…As for political judgment, the promotion of Sarah Palin as a possible world leader speaks for itself. The Republican Party and the political right will survive, but the conservative intellectual tradition is already dead. And all of us, even liberals like myself, are poorer for it.