Chuck Hagel, Viet Nam veteran, and conservative Republican, decries the anti-intellectual trends in his party that have driven so many of us from its ranks:
"...Hagel said, he’s been “very disappointed” by McCain’s campaign. “He gave one unifying speech and then has spent fifty million dollars to destroy his opponent.” Hagel may be the only senior Republican elected official who has publicly criticized McCain’s choice of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. “I don’t believe she’s qualified to be President of the United States,” Hagel told me. “The first judgment a potential President makes is who their running mate is—and I don’t think John made a very good selection.” He scoffed at McCain’s attempts to portray her as an experienced politician. “To try to make the excuse that she looks out her window and sees Russia—and that she’s commander of the Alaska National Guard.” He added, “There is no question that this candidate is arguably the thinnest-résumé candidate for Vice-President in the history of America.”
For Hagel, almost as disturbing as Palin’s lack of experience is her willingness—in disparaging remarks about Joe Biden’s long Senate career, for example—to belittle the notion that experience is important. “There’s no question, she knows her market,” Hagel said. “She knows her audience, and she’s going right after them. And I’ll tell you why that’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because you don’t want to define down the standards in any institution, ever, in life. You want to always strive to define standards up. If you start defining standards down—‘Well, I don’t have a big education, I don’t have experience’—yes, there’s a point to be made that not all the smartest people come out of Yale or Harvard. But to intentionally define down in some kind of wild populism, that those things don’t count in a complicated, dangerous world—that’s dangerous in itself.
“There was a political party in this country called the Know-Nothings,” he continued. “And we’re getting on the fringe of that, with these one-issue voters—pro-choice or pro-life. Important issue, I know that. But, my goodness. The world is blowing up everywhere, and I just don’t think that is a responsible way to see the world, on that one issue. "
Indeed. There is a lot of space between the kind of populism that scorns the elitism that thinks no one without the right family, breeding, and school can be an intellectual, and the know-nothing populism Palin pushes, which considers a Harvard Law graduate the equivalent of a plumber in all things intellectual. America has always been about the average person being able to achieve high intellectual status. Palin would have us believe everyone has that status without the achievement, with her at the head of the line.