Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sense and Ressentiment

I like Julian Sanchez's writing a lot; I think I've thrown up links to his stuff frequently enough here. But I was underwhelmed about this column about ressentiment and the right. I suspect I probably agree with most of his substantive points about why Palin shouldn't advance further in the political world -- despite her obvious oratorical talents and homespun charm, she has a dangerous lack of interest in governing and in policy.

Still, I don't quite buy the thesis that ressentiment primarily drives the people who support Palin. I'm the wrong member of my household to beat this particular tocsin, I know, but what about rational political ignorance? The details of policy are boring! Mastering an issue isn't likely to gain you personally much of anything; you only get one vote, mastery of public policy or no. So it's rational to remain ignorant. But colorful personalities like Palin are fun! As are the colorful personalities of the radio talk hosts who promote her. Note that, while the rational ignorance and ressentiment explanations are not necessarily mutually exclusive, a rationally ignorant voter need not suffer from ressentiment.

This column would also be better if it named names. Of course, I understand why that might be impolitic. But it's one thing to say that there are two or three pundits somewhere who suffer from this problem - I can buy that easily -- and another altogether to say that some large percentage of a popular politician's fans do. The latter's necessarily difficult.

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