The amateurist

The Guardian's Jonathan Freeland is nervous that Palin will win the election for McCain:

Yet somehow none of this is yet leaving a dent. The result is that a politician who conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan calls a "Christianist" - seeking to politicise Christianity the way Islamists politicise Islam - could soon be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Remember, this is a woman who once addressed a church congregation, saying of her work as governor - transport, policing and education - "really all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God".

But I'm not convinced that Andrew Sullivan's "Christianist" perspective get to the heart of why Palin is so potent and dangerous. Yes, of course, she's a Christian populist who is using a highly personalized reading of the bible to win votes. But in this sense she's no different from countless Republican politicians from the Bible Belt who have deployed Christian ideology to win political power.

Where, I suspect, Palin is revolutionary is as an amateurist. She has tranformed the cult of the amateur into a political art. Thus her exaggerated pride in her outsider status. Thus her statement questioning what the vice-president does. Thus her lack of policy experience and knowledge. Thus her focus on the "heart" rather than on concrete policy.

Democrats may, therefore, be wrong to focus on Palin's inexperience and lack of qualifications. Amateurism is a vote-winner in an America suspicious of all forms of professionalism. The more you know you less you know is how most Americans judge their despised politicians. Sarah Palin could turn out to be the country's first amateurist vice-president.

Ironically, then, Obama needs to compete with Palin as an amateurist. Stick Biden out there as the guy with experience, the expert, the professional politician. But Obama needs to counter Palin's amateurism. He needs to convince the American people that he'll be the first amateurist president.