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Apparently an elitist is someone who knows that Africa is a continent.

Just think about this for a second:

44% of the people who voted for John McCain believe that a person who doesn't know that Africa is a continent is qualified to be vice president, while believing at the same time that Joe Biden is not qualified.

And you thought the Know-Nothing Party died with the Civil War. Wrong – it’s been in charge of the White House for the past eight years. After eight years of celebrating ignorance – actively, enthusiastically, methodically, remorselessly celebrating ignorance - under the reign of King George the Numbnuts, Americans on Tuesday rejected the Party of Stooopid and went with the Smart Guy.

This, of course, is extremely disconcerting to Republican strategists and pundits. "Who’s at fault?" they demand to know. "How can we tweak our message?" Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times wrote today,

[T]he Republican Party [is] no longer the party of George W. Bush.

See, and that’s just the problem (for Republicans, that is; myself, I’m perfectly okay with it) – the Republican Party is exactly the party of George W. Bush – and Sarah Palin is the perfect embodiment of it.

Regardless of whatever platitudes it might espouse about its priniciples and ideals, in practice the party of George W. Bush for the past eight years has defied the law, denied reality, denigrated knowledge, devalued science, demonized dissent, dismissed deliberation, derided diplomacy and – cynically – deified dominionism.

Sarah Palin quite comfortably embraces all of those practices (although it can be argued that – to the horror of the GOP establishment - her belief in the latter is genuine and fervent). As much as FOX News and Charles Krauthammer might want you to believe that she is some flukish outlier, some anomalous one-off that doesn’t truly represent the Republican Party, the fact is that Sarah Palin is the new GOP standard-bearer.

And she doesn’t know that Africa is a continent.

Sarah Palin is no fluke. John McCain chose her, very deliberately.

Not only did McCain choose  her ("The vetting process was completely thorough, and I'm grateful for the results"), he actually said this about the woman who doesn’t know Africa is a continent:

"I think she is the most qualified of any that has run recently for vice president."

And the Africa, such as.

And don’t think for a moment that that kind of ignorance – the kind that would flunk you out of middle school – bothers the great mass of the Republican base. On the contrary - these people celebrate their ignorance.  They revel in it. They wear their ignorance like a badge of honor. They don't want to clutter their beautiful minds with information.  The mere thought of having to conceive of a time span greater than 6,000 years gives them a headache.

And why shouldn’t they celebrate ignorance? Ignorance has worked extremely well for the Republicans for a long time, especially in the last eight years. Why? Simple: ignorance leads to fear. And as we all know, Republicans loooove a terrified electorate – terror makes the people compliant and more likely to agree to handing over money and power to Big Daddy government – and, as long as that Big Daddy Government is run by the GOP so they can control where their hundreds of billions of dollars go (invariably into the pockets of their Big Business cronies) – why, then, Big Government is OK with us.

So the fact that Sarah Palin doesn’t know that Africa is a continent only serves to confirm to the average Republican that – hey, just like Joe the Plumber – she’s just like me!

Which, of course, is absurd: Joe the Plumber isn’t even like Joe the Plumber. But that’s okay with Republicans, because they have at best a tenuous relationship with reality. In fact, a central pillar of Republican strategy for the past 20 years has been the denial of reality and the creation of an utterly artificial reality.

A conversation with one "senior adviser to [George W] Bush" - thought by many to be Karl Rove – on the subject prompted this classic reporting from Ron Suskind:

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

As the past eight years have so richly illustrated, Republicans reside in the Ignorance-Based Community, commonly known as Unreality. And no wonder - Reality, as Colbert has brilliantly pointed out, has a well-known liberal bias. And once the bubble of Republican Unreality bursts – and it will, no matter for how long and how carefully Republicans might have worked to puff it up - and its damage is too overwhelming for almost everyone to ignore, those who insist on trying to maintain it merely look ridiculous.

Exhibit A: Sarah Palin.

So the Republican Party got exactly what it deserved when it chose Sarah Palin for the presidential ticket.  While some might excoriate Palin for her white-trash grifting, her coast-to-coast pillaging of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, her going off the reservation, and her unabashed touting of herself for 2012, I frankly find it amusing.  When you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.  Sarah Palin is and always has been an opportunist, a power- and publicity-grubbing provincial small-town girl with a small-minded view of the world and the universe.

When she was tapped, like Cinderella, to be John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, never having done anything differently, knew immediately that this would be her One Big Chance, and she has made the most of it.  By firing up the ignorant faction of the Republican Party, Palin has brought out into the open the hypocrisy and cynicism of the modern GOP, which, like John McCain himself, will do literally anything to win an election in order to further its (corporate) self-interest.  

And yet Republicans eat this up.  Until the exit polls came out, I had charitably believed that most Republicans were intelligent enough to see Sarah Palin for what she was: a gimmick, a tool, a widget whose sole purpose was to garner votes and generate excitement among a portion of the Republican Party, in order that John McCain might have a snowbird’s chance in Tempe of beating Barack Obama.

I figured that, being good Republicans, they would hold their noses and cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket, at the same time keeping their fingers crossed that the 72-year-old senior senator from Arizona would remain fit enough to govern for the next four years, leaving Tundra Spice to (God willing) attend other state funerals and fall asleep during Senate hearings.

But when the exit polls showed that 44% of those who voted for John McCain believe that not only is Sarah Palin qualified to become president, but that Joe Biden is not, why then, all I could do was shake my head in disbelief and thank God that the sudden alarming appearance of Sarah Palin in our political firmament has so unnerved and terrified the American electorate that they said, Hay-ull, no! at the ballot box Tuesday.

If the 2008 elections have a theme, that theme might well be, The Defeat of Ignorance.

One can only hope that some good will come out of all of this. Perhaps The Shocking Display Of Ignorance Formerly Known As Sarah Palin will startle America into taking strong, positive steps to bring all of the people of this country out of the 14th century.

In 1957, Sputnik I was launched by the Soviet Union, the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth. Its eerie presence in the night sky over the U.S. unnerved Americans so much that the country united in a concerted effort to revamp our schools and produce more scientists and engineers in order to meet the threat represented by the beeping, blinking, at once annoying and terrifying reminder of Americans’ educational inferiority.

Sputnik I’s career was meteoric and short-lived. Its batteries died after 22 days aloft. Voiceless and impotent, it pointlessly circled the Earth for nine more weeks. Three months after it was launched, Sputnik I went out in a blaze of silence, burning up upon re-entering the sphere that embraces all known intelligent life, and was never heard from again.

Which, naturally, brings us to Sarah Palin.

Now, in 2008, as another beeping, winking, at once annoying and terrifying reminder of the shortcomings of our educational system – call her Spunky One - rears her beehived head in the airspace over Alaska, Americans once again have responded to the threat, turning out in numbers never before seen to send a message to the purveyors of Ignorance: Are You F-ing Kidding Me?

Sputnik I served as a shot across America’s bow, a reminder that complacency could threaten the nation. America responded by resolving to improve its schools to meet the threat. Six years after Sputnik sailed across our nation’s skies, President John F. Kennedy declared that the United States would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.  Six years after that, Kennedy's promise was made good.

It may well be that Sarah Palin’s candidacy, as meteoric as it was, will provide the same kind of impetus: that America will resolve to do better, to improve our educational system, to eliminate the threat that ignorance poses to our very way of life.

And if that is the case, then Sarah Palin’s candidacy will not have been a total waste.

Originally posted to Important if True on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:18 PM PST.

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