Palin Is Ignorant, Not Stupid: For Palinists, That's a Feature, Not a Bug

Razib, in a link roundup, wrote:

A Grand Unified Theory of Palinisms. Jacob Weisberg, Yale grad and Rhodes Scholar, wonders why Sarah Palin says "stupid and ridiculous things." An easy answer is that she's stupid. But I think the truth is that Sarah Palin is closer to the norm in intelligence and polish than the typical American politician. In fact she's probably somewhat above average in intelligence. The fact that she's a social conservative means that it's easy for Left-leaning elites to mock her, but if you go to a liberal college town in the Berkshires I'm sure you could talk to plenty of people with the "right" ideology who are totally incoherent and obviously have no grasp of what they're trying to talk about. I've met plenty of liberals, as an example, who regurgitate Paul Krugman columns in a manner which makes it pretty clear they have no idea what he was trying to say (they make errors in transmission which would be obvious to them if they actually understood how the pieces of the argument cohere together, so it seems likely they're repeating verbatim without any real comprehension).

In comments, Razib then argues that Palin is probably smarter than average, at least in terms of IQ. I agree (no, really, I do), which then leads to the question "Why does she say such stupid things?"

It's tempting to say that she's out of her depth because she is> a policy ignoramus. While that's partly correct, Palin, and many like her, don't see politics as a way of fixing mundane, even if severe problems. For Palin, politics is a form of identity politics--a nasty, exclusionary kind of politics:

Her policy ignorance isn't a bug, it's a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the 'real' America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of 'real' Americans (think about the phrase "red blooded American") and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers (obviously, if you're not a 'real' American, you might view this as a bad thing...). Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?

What government actually does is secondary to self-justification. And from her perspective, it's something that's probably boring, since that's not what motivates her*. I would argue she should find another line of work--total boredom due to public policy is like being a mechanic who doesn't want to get his hands dirty.

But I don't think she's low IQ, or otherwise 'stupid.'

*Based on recent actions, it would appear that fame and fortune are her primary motivations.


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Sarah Palin is smart enough to realize that the above article was composed (or composted) by those two brainy liberals Phanaeus vindex MacClachlan & Onthophagus gazella Fabricius.

By Stanton Parker (not verified) on 21 Aug 2010 #permalink

She may not be stupid, because she sure did figure out pretty quickly how to promote herself. Once she was on the national stage, and did her speechy thing in St. Paul, she realized that she had no interest in governance but more in being a political figure. A wink here, a tough talk there, and America was hooked, bless our hearts.

She's not gonna run for president. It would be too much work.

There's a rogue italics tag left open somewhere. I feel like what I'm typing is about to get undue emphasis. Maybe I can close it myself, let's see. Ah, that's better.

It seems to me like the next logical step of the Southern Strategy, to have a Palin in a high position. It doesn't especially matter if she's smart or not - whether she acts on purpose or by accident she has been elevated way, way up the GOP hierarchy because she is useful. And as Mike correctly points out, the gimmick here is anti-intellectualism.

I think the assertion that Palin is of above-average intelligence is a stretch (of course, I suppose that depends on the operative definition of "above-average"). She is clearly (astoundingly) ignorant, and not just of policy, but I certainly have not seen any evidence to support the notion that she is of above-average intelligence. If anything, the evidence points to the converse.
In either case, she is definitely (to quote George Costanza) "Right in that meaty part of the curve."

Yeah, she pretty much proved in Alaska that actually doing her job is not on her agenda.

Self-promotion hits the nail on the head. It's all about Sarah, the self-proclaimed Center of the Universe.

So, given she's a natural-born, incoherent, right wing bloviator, why doesn't she have a radio talk show?

I think it's becuase she couldn't handle the responsibility of being a big-time radio jock on the order of a Limbaugh or Beck.

You know, again, that thing about being able to hold a job. That always seems to trip her up.

So I'm seeing some kind of personality disorder. She exhibits symptoms like grandiosity, manic episodes, inability to focus. I have no info on this, but I'm willing to bet her sleep patterns are pretty disrupted too. That usually goes along with the other symptoms.

She's pretty much consigned herself to cult-of-personality status. She'll be an oddball for People magazine to cover. She'll be followed around by the crowd who thinks Elvis is still alive.

So I'm seeing some kind of personality disorder.

Agreed. The idea that Palin has a personality disorder - specifically narcissistic personality disorder - is often dismissed as politically motivated, a "remote diagnosis," or an internet meme, but I think (as do many others, clearly) that it is an entirely reasonable conclusion. The argument that it's politically motivated doesn't hold any water, particularly given the patently absurd claims from the right about President Obama, and that it's astronomically improbable that any of the Palin cultists would even entertain the idea. The remote diagnosis bit is probably a valid point, but the internet meme tag (clearly appended to discredit the idea by equating it to something like lolcats) is a straw man; a meme is not somehow false by definition.
Whether the diagnosis of a personality disorder is remote or amateur, it is arguably consistent with her public behavior.
That said, I also think that a diagnosis of "batshit crazy" is much more satisfying.

Palin thinks she can make a useful contribution. Are you telling me telling me that's not stupid?!