David Brooks's column today isn't half bad, and it's not often you'll see me write those words. Publius wrote a nice post on it that deals with the deal that the Republican party made with the anti-intellectual part of the country and how it has come back to bite them in a very uncomfortable place, but I want to focus on what migh tbe considered a throwaway line from Brooks's column.
Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.It's interesting that Brooks uses the term "class warfare" to describe the battle between the intellectual and anti-intellectual classes, because I've always heard that term used in reference to economic class. In fact, when Republicans are decrying means testing for social programs (like Medicare and Social Security) or tax hikes on the rich, their rallying cry is "Class Warfare!" as though the rich haven't been successfully been waging war on the poor for, well, the last ten thousand years or more.
Which makes Palin's invocation of the class card that much more egregious. She conflates the working and middle classes with the anti-intellectual classes in her speeches. It's the way that she's selling out her own--economically, as opposed to intellectually--that grates on me the most, I think. Conservative economic populism, at least the way it has been pushed for the last thirty years, is an oxymoron. Every conservative economic policy since Reagan introduced "trickle-down economics" to a wider audience has had the effect of openly shafting working class people while telling them they'll get rewarded if they're patient. (No wonder it works so well on evangelicals--plays into the "your reward is in heaven" line of thinking.) Palin is simply that idea wedded to an actual ignorance of how the world works. She's Reagan without the sneering contempt for the poor and working classes, which is frightening.