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Knowing Stuff Is Elitist

October 15th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Things like this, from one of Ross’ readers, make me want to tear my hair out:

The problem is that I really do think the George Wills and the Brooks and even (a little) David Frum, would exclude such people [as Sarah Palin] from high office because they have never seen a copy of Foreign Affairs and do not even know it exists …

High office? High office? That’s a basis for excluding someone from a fucking internship at the State Department. I know it worked out awesome in Dave and Head of State, but knowing something about the issues you’d have to deal with daily is actually almost as relevant to one’s fitness for the vice presidency as being a pure-of-heart maverick who understands middle America.

Let’s try a little Stuart Smalley style mantra, OK?  I’ll go first: I am not qualified to be vice president. Very likely, you are not qualified to be vice president. And that’s OK. Because the vast, vast majority of people in this country, though hard working and brimming with fine values, are not qualified to be vice president.

The tiny number with the requisite knowledge and skill set do, in fact, constitute an “elite.” If that’s what people mean by “elitism” now, then the “elitist” position is just obviously correct. Or, if you prefer, “common sense.”

Tags: Horse Race Politics · Sociology



5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kevin B. O'Reilly // Oct 15, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    The primary qualification for high office is the ability to attract political support. That usually has little to do with *policy* knowledge and skill. Now, I’ll grant you, politicians’ boosters don’t usually go around arguing such skills are superfluous because normally politicians try to convey the idea that they are in fact knowledgeable whether they are or not.

  • 2 Jay C. // Oct 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Julian, I’m not going to argue Governor Palin’s qualifications for the Vice Presidency in your comments section. What I would rather see is an actual list of the qualifications that you believe are required for high office.

    Take note that I would agree that not knowing that that Foreign Affairs exists is a disqualification for internship at the State Department, because that’s what the State Department is about. Its qualifications have been written by its bureacrats of old. Common sense isn’t elitism, either.

    But what do you think should be the qualifications for a vice, or a prez, for that matter? You mention about knowing something about the issues one would face daily as one. Setting aside, of course, the smartass answer of referring to the three line items in the Constitution, then the qualifications really are whatever:

    Whatever you got to bring enough supporters together to get you into national attention. Whatever you offer to sell what you’re selling to as many voters as possible in every state in order to tip the EC your way.

    There is no fixed laundry list of things that a presidential candidate needs to have aside from what is mentioned in the Constitution. It’s the voters who decide what is most important to them and the candidate who can speak to that need will get victory. Honestly? I would rather have this “whatever works” situation than being ruled by a constant parade of Patricians whose inability to lead will lead us nowhere.

    I may be a Sarah Palin supporter and a McCain bitter-pill swallower, but I knew that attacking BHO’s inexperience wasn’t the way to go. No one really cares about inexeperince among us sheep, Julian. It’s record, achievement, and character. The BHO campaign almost lost its cool when they denigrated his record as a community organizer. They have been at their best trying to downplay the attacks on his character. But when HRC and JSM attacked BHO’s “inexperience?” Not a dent.

    I wish you the best I hope that you have some hair left come Nov. 4.

  • 3 Brian N. // Oct 16, 2008 at 8:55 am

    It is absurd to suggest that one could be qualified to rule others. Such a thing requires knowledge which is frankly Godlike, and no one had, has or will ever have such knowledge.

  • 4 David // Oct 16, 2008 at 9:33 am

    “a fucking internship”

    That’s the sort that Bill Clinton used to offer, right?

  • 5 Steven Maloney // Oct 20, 2008 at 12:24 am


    Your commenters seem to raise an interesting point: you seem to have some sort of notion of public good — that’s practically un-libertarian, isn’t it?

    The objections raised sort of force your hand: you’re not Downsian, and you’re not supporting the idea that anything not deemed illegal counts as sound public reason. I’m curious, what ARE your standards for good public reason? Are you a Popperian? Piercean?

    In all seriousness (not that I’m not curious in your epistemic leanings, Julian, because I am), are all of you who object actually relativists? If you aren’t relativists, then you would need to believe it was true that NOT knowing about foreign policy is at least as good a reason to vote for a Vice Presidential candidate than knowing about it. Otherwise Julian’s claims seem pretty unassailable.

    If you are relativists, then why are you trying to move people through argument?

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