But I really want to take issue with a narrower point, about how Douthat frames Palin's agenda:
Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.
That is genuinely a nice distinction on Douthat's part and the tension between small-d democratic impulses and meritocratic impulses go all the way back through our history. (Part of my Independence Day reading has involved the election of 1800; 'nuff said.) But Douthat is collapsing another important distinction: that between hostility toward class and hostility toward education per se.
One can dislike Harvard and Columbia for class-based reasons, as bastions of elitism, and that's an eminently reasonable position, even for Harvard alumni with columns at the New York Times. But some dislike Harvard, Columbia, and the rest of the Ivies because they dislike education itself. There's an anti-elitist position and a know-nothing position. One has merit. One does not. Richard Nixon might legitimately scorn Harvard, where he could not afford to go although he earned admission. But Nixon never scorned learning itself. Lincoln, the greatest of our up-by-the-bootstraps politicians, valued education tremendously.
The question here is whether Palin is the class warrior Douthat imagines or a simpler, less laudable, know-nothing . Douthat feels that she's a failed or incompetent Andrew Jackson:
he’s botched an essential democratic role — the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites, the up-by-your-bootstraps role embodied by politicians from Andrew Jackson down to Harry Truman.
But perhaps she's "botched" this role because she's not trying to perform it. Perhaps she isn't fumbling Douthat's agenda, but has one of her own that Douthat himself could not embrace.
It's very clear from her public words and actions that Palin does not merely resent educational privilege, but education itself. She resents knowledge. She resents learning. She resents anyone who is smarter than herself, which is a very significant slice of humanity. Palin doesn't simply view Harvard and Columbia as elitist; she views state colleges as elitist. She's against knowing stuff.
How can we test this? We could look at her education policy. How does she support the University of Alaska system? Surely, the University of Alaska is not about eastern snobbery or old-money prestige. It's about students learning things.
And while we're at it, we should consider, as the best evidence of all, Palin's hostility to public libraries in her state. Public libraries are anti-elitist education at its purest and best. They give no degrees. They have no cachet. They have no lacrosse teams or school ties. They're just about information, about learning for everyone. They are the places where many of our greatest American autodidacts, and there's a glorious tradition, have begun to pull themselves up by the public bookplates.
Palin, naturally, hates them.