All too ordinary

Great piece in Newsweek this week by Sam Harris about Sarah's cult of the amateur. Harris argues that it's her very carefully packaged ordinariness that gives her candidacy such populist potency:

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

I'm not sure, however, that Harris is correct to suggest that it's only in politics that there's a "mad love of mediocrity" in America. One can find identical attacks on the supposed "elitism" of mainstream media all over the blogosphere. But where Sam "End of Faith" Harris is particularly persuasive in his focus on the connection between Sarah's religious beliefs and her cult of the amateur.

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy "baptism in the Holy Spirit," "miraculous healings" and "the gift of tongues." Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin's spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of "the final generation," engaged in "spiritual warfare" to purge the earth of "demonic strongholds." Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?

The point, of course, about Sarah's church is its radically democratic inclusiveness. Anyone can be a member and anyone can immerse themselves in this apocalyptic hysteria. The miracle infested nature of Sarah's church fosters her own myth of superwoman. As Harris recognizes, she is a believer and thus can do anything: be Vice President, wrestle Putin, perform pediatric neurosurgery:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."                 

It if wasn't so scary, Harris' critique would be hilarious. The only good news is that the American people seem to have woken up and caught onto the outrageous Sarah fraud. The polls don't lie. McCain's pick has achieved the near impossible -- making Obama appear sufficiently experienced to be President. All options might remain on the table for now. But, after 4 November, the American people will no longer require Sarah and she will be free to fly herself to Mars in a homemade space rocket and charm the Martians with her mediocrity.