One theory I have about Sarah Palin (one among many, because she fascinates me more than I’d like to admit) is that people like her because she doesn’t make them feel stupid.
Being too smart is a liability for politicians, especially in this country where sometime back in the Spiro Agnew days someone came up with the idea that you can get people to support you, and not someone who’s smarter than you, by ridiculing intelligence.
Elena Kagan was the smartest person in the Senate hearing room, but she tried really hard not to show it. Obama can’t quite pull this off.
The real question about Sarah Palin, though, is how smart she really is. Pretty pretty smart, as Larry David would say, but I also wonder if she suffers from anosognosia, a terrific word I learned from that most thoughtful, and therefore, ipso facto, elitist, New York Times.
Originally, it referred to people who had some neurologic disability they were unaware of, like a paralysis. The Times article told a funny story about a bank robber who believed he was invisible because he’d painted lemon juice on his face. A Cornell psychology professor, reading this, hypothesized:
If Wheeler was too stupid to be a bank robber, perhaps he was also too stupid to know that he was too stupid to be a bank robber — that is, his stupidity protected him from an awareness of his own stupidity.
He went on to write a very interesting paper, called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties of Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-assessments.”
I present to you: Sarah Palin.
Or, realizing the basis of her support, is she even better than Elena Kagan at intellectual disguise?