Truman Truman everywhere. For an election that everyone agrees is about change, there sure is a lot of nostalgia for dead, irrelevant Presidents. First Steven Hayward in the Weekly Standard, then the Journal's Bret Stephens in "Palin and the Experience Canard" tells us that Sarah, in her small town inexperience (ie: innocence and ignorance) is the second coming of Harry Truman.
On August 1st, in the distant prepalin age, I wrote about Trumanostaliga -- but this is getting ridiculous. Why do well educated people in the most sophisticated and powerful place on earth pine for an inexperienced president? Hayward, for example, seems to think that there's something healthy about the fact that Truman didn't go to college -- even though the very foundations of America's meritocracy is built upon the idea of an openly competitive educational system. While Stephens tells us that "qualifications" don't matter much for a vice president because "the job is political."
In "Given 'em hell, Sarah", Hayward dredges up a correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson over "natural aristocracy" to argue that American politics has become a closed shop of Harvard educated insiders who attend Aspen Institute seminars and the World Economic Forum in Davos. What Hayward is really dredging up, however, is the ultimate canard -- the utopian attack on representative democracy by the anti Federalists:
The issue is not whether the establishment would let such a person as Palin cross the bar into the certified political class, but whether regular citizens of this republic have the skill and ability to control the levers of government without having first joined the certified political class. But this begs an even more troublesome question: If we implicitly think uncertified citizens are unfit for the highest offices, why do we trust those same citizens to select our highest officers through free elections?
For an answer to why experience is valuable in politics, Hayward should read the Federal Papers which clearly explain the value of a representative over a direct democracy. Both Hamilton and Madison were deeply steeped in the violent history of ancient Greece and Rome and, more than anything else, they feared the rule of the mob. Thus the American system is based on the brilliantly simple idea that the people vote and the elite rules. As David Brooks reminds us, the word "experience" was used 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Yes, even Brooks -- whose heart is with Sarah but whose mind is somewhere else -- agrees that experience matters.
It's not so much hell that Hayward, Stephens and his fellow utopians on the right want Sarah to deliver, but the other great Christian lie. Give 'em heaven, Sarah, is what Hayward is really saying. Give 'em the great seduction that the most sophisticated and complex country in the history of the human race can be governed by a simpleton. In 1979, those cultural elitists in Hollywood made a movie about this. It was called Being There.