But there is an even more compelling reason to support Barack Obama: Sarah Palin.
If you are a conservative like me, you guffawed when you heard John McCain announced this declasse rube as a running mate, followed by good-natured applause, thinking it was some sort of whimsical campus prank he was reenacting from his Annapolis years. This was, of course, quickly followed the shock of realizing that he wasn’t joking, and all that Hanoi unpleasantness had finally driven him around the bend.
It’s an inescapable conclusion that this woman has, in 6 short weeks, single-handedly destroyed the Republican party. Certainly George Bush may share some of the blame; but we conservatives must remember how our hopes were buoyed by his impressive bloodlines and Yale degree before we realized his excursion to Texas had caused him to “go native.” But la Palin offers true conservatives no such extenuating graces. I mean, my God, this woman is simply awful; the elided vowels, the beauty pageantry, the guns, the crude non-Episcopal protestantism, the embarrassing porchload of children with horrifying hillbilly names, the white after Labor Day. As fellow conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan quipped to me the other day outside a Martha’s Vineyard antique shop, it’s gratifying to know the Gipper isn’t alive to see what has become of his party.
Having read the thing, I’ll admit I giggled once or twice. But I suspect the author was at least partly inspired by Jeffrey Hart – one of the founding editors of National Review – and his views on “authentic” conservatism:
“Like the Whig gentry who were the Founders, I loathe populism,” Hart explains. “Most especially in the form of populist religion, i.e., the current pestiferous bible-banging evangelicals, whom I regard as organized ignorance, a menace to public health, to science, to medicine, to serious Western religion, to intellect and indeed to sanity. Evangelicalism, driven by emotion, and not creedal, is thoroughly erratic and by its nature cannot be conservative. My conservatism is aristocratic in spirit, anti-populist and rooted in the Northeast. It is Burke brought up to date. A ‘social conservative’ in my view is not a moral authoritarian Evangelical who wants to push people around, but an American gentleman, conservative in a social sense. He has gone to a good school, maybe shops at J. Press, maybe plays tennis or golf, and drinks either Bombay or Beefeater martinis, or maybe Dewar’s on the rocks, or both.”
It’s a shame Hart felt the need to describe good haberdashery as a necessary precondition for becoming a conservative, because the rest of the interview includes several trenchant criticisms of the Bush Administration. Reform-minded conservatives aren’t doing themselves any favors by descending into snobbish self-parody, and calling Sarah Palin a “religious crackpot” certainly isn’t the best way to go about attracting converts.