This year, the conservative intelligentsia doesn’t just tend to dislike Palin — many fear that her rise would represent the triumph of an intellectually empty brand of populism and the death of ideas as an engine of the right. ~Politico
This wouldn’t be much of a change from the intellectually empty brand of pseudo-populism that prevails right now. What makes some of the new movement conservative anxiety about Palin so amusing is that the people cited in the article continue to perpetuate the fiction that there are well-formulated ideas rather than slogans and talking points that inform movement conservative arguments. Here is a quote from Pete Wehner:
Wehner, now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, cited the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous 1980 declaration that the GOP had become “a party of ideas.”
“Conservatives are very proud of that,” Wehner said. “But she seems at best disinterested in ideas or least lacks the ability to articulate any philosophical justification for them. She relies instead on shallow talking points.”
It’s true that Palin relies on shallow talking points, but where do these come from? They come from the institutions and leaders of the movement that is supposedly so concerned with ideas. Palin is uninterested in ideas, and she has flourished in the conservative media for years. She does rely on shallow talking points, and legions of conservative pundits have repeatedly defended her against charges that she is ignorant and incurious. Everything about her public persona since she received the VP nomination has been built up around tapping into resentment, grievance, and identity politics, all of which are in one way or another antithetical to critical thinking and substantive discussion of policy, and for a while most of her new detractors said nothing or gushed about how wonderful she was.
As long as she was useful prior to the midterms, the institutions, magazines, and leaders of the movement not only tolerated her, but actively promoted her and gave her typically glowing coverage. Those that couldn’t bring themselves to praise her went out of their way not to criticize her. Now that Palin may represent a political threat to Republican chances of regaining the White House, they are suddenly very concerned about her impact on the quality of conservative argument. Their concern would be interesting if it weren’t so belated and narrowly focused on Palin. When Moynihan made that statement about Republicans 30 years ago, it was true. Thirty years later, the label “party of ideas” has simply become another slogan that Republicans trot out in lieu of any policy ideas.