A mad love of mediocrity

Sam Harris is not entirely impressed by Sarah Palin, or by the fact of her candidacy.

However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride…and, above all, upon the “liberal elites” with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.

This is what always infuriates me. Whence comes this conviction that ignorance is a terrific quality for a president to have? Nobody wants a plumber who can’t find the sink, or a pilot who never learned to fly, or a doctor with a fake diploma, or an amateur engineer. Why is the presidency considered a job for ignorant and dim-witted people? I get that ‘likability’ is a huge factor, but I don’t get why people don’t insist that it at least be paired with above-average brains and education.

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington…The point is that she 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. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation…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. “They think they’re better than you!” is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. “Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!” Yes, all too ordinary. We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.”

Several women in the US know what it’s like to be a ‘mom’; that by itself is not a reason to elect any one of them to the presidency. Yet apparently people think it is. Is it too late to return to aristocratic government?

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