Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber had big weekends on TV. It seemed clear from the applause and the ratings (biggest audience in more than a decade) that Palin did well on “Saturday Night Live.” Judge for yourself: here are Weekly Standard blogger Mary Katherine Ham’s comments, along with links to Palin’s performance.
Joe Wurzelbacher, the plumber who helped frame the tax issue better than anyone on John McCain’s campaign staff, was on “Huckabee,” Mike Huckabee’s new talk show on Fox, where Wurzelbacher had a more sympathetic audience than Palin. But he, too, was excellent, and Stephen Moore, who writes about the economy for the Wall Street Journal, joined Wurzelbacher and bolstered his points.
The mainstream media has done more research into Wurzelbacher’s background and private life than it has done to plumb Barack Obama’s opacity. He’s a citizen who asked an question and had his life laid bare before the world, something about which he waxed quite eloquent on “Huckabee.” Joe has become, as Byron York points out today, a symbol for two things:
“Joe the Plumber is much more than a zinger in McCain’s stump speech. In recent days, the Joe the Plumber phenomenon has taken on a deeper meaning for McCain’s audiences, for two reasons. First, he is a symbol of their belief that Barack Obama is going to raise their taxes, regardless of what Obama says about hitting up only those taxpayers who make more than $250,000 a year. They know Wurzelbacher doesn’t make that much, and they know they don’t make that much. And they’re not suspicious because they believe that someday they will make $250,000, and thus face higher taxes. No, they just don’t believe Obama right now. If he’s elected, they say, he’ll eventually come looking for taxpayers who make well below a quarter-million dollars, and that will include them.
”The second reason Joe the Plumber resonates with the crowds is what his experience says about the media. Everybody here seems acutely aware of the once-over Wurzelbacher received from the press after his chance encounter with Obama was reported, first on Fox News, and then mentioned by McCain at last week’s presidential debate. Wurzelbacher found himself splashed across newspapers and cable shows, many of which reported that he didn’t have a plumber’s license, that he wasn’t a member of the plumbers’ union, that he had a lien against him for $1,182 in state taxes, and that he failed to comprehend what many commentators apparently felt was the indisputable fact that Barack Obama would lower his taxes, not raise them. As the people here in Woodbridge saw it, Joe was a guy who asked Barack Obama an inconvenient question — and for his troubles suddenly found himself under investigation by the media.”
You’d have to live in an igloo—no, make that a penthouse; Sarah probably has constituents in igloos—not to be aware of and perplexed by the vitriol that Palin and Wurzelbacher have stirred among out best and brightest, even among some conservatives. Perhaps most indicative of the tenor was Peggy Noonan’s “Palin is Failin’” column. The Burke-quoting Noonan concluded: “In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Palin may be Everywoman but she is not vulgar. She is uncommon in her grace, intelligence and in having a moral compass that most of our intellectual elites lack. The vilification of Joe has a root cause: he asked an inconvenient question. The vilification of Sarah has a different root: She is an inconvenient person. She is as unlike our sorry elites as it’s possible to be, a point made in a must-read article on the indispensable American Thinker blog.
The article hits on the real incentive of conservatives who denounce the “vulgar” Sarah Palin: they want to be cool. And who decides who’s cool? Why, their friends in the mainstream media and at the Upper East Side cocktail parties:
“Ms. Noonan and company have been making the rounds for weeks now asserting Governor Palin remains an affront to conservatives’ intelligence. In truth, it is Ms. Noonan and her weak-kneed colleagues carrying that banner. It is not enough for them to simply join ranks of Obama’s flock and sing his praises to Pennsylvania Ave. There is no intellectual heft to be found in that. To their liberal colleagues and friends, it is considered brave and intellectually honest of them to pile on Governor Palin instead. Simply, it is cool to kick conservatives this year. Cooler still? A known conservative kicking another conservative. Now that’s the pinnacle of cool.”
Bill Kristol has the final word on all these “cool” conservatives today in the New York Times.
“Leave aside Noonan’s negative judgment on Sarah Palin’s candidacy, a judgment I don’t share. Are we really seeing “a new vulgarization in American politics”? As opposed to the good old non-vulgar days?
Politics in a democracy are always ‘vulgar’ — since democracy is rule by the ‘vulgus,’ the common people, the crowd. Many conservatives have never been entirely comfortable with this rather important characteristic of democracy. Conservatives’ hearts have always beaten a little faster when they read Horace’s famous line: ‘Odi profanum vulgus et arceo.’ ‘I hate the ignorant crowd and I keep them at a distance.’
“But is the ignorant crowd really our problem today? Are populism and anti-intellectualism rampant in the land? Does the common man too thoroughly dominate our national life? I don’t think so.”
No, the populace isn’t always right. But we have such a crummy educated elite these days that it is almost always wrong.