A word against Palin detractors

Let me start with a clarification that between the candidates I prefer Obama, and I hope that Obama-Biden will win this election.  I am not a fan of Sarah Palin either.  With this clarification, let me explain my criticism of SP detractors.  A lot has been made in the last few days about Sarah Palin’s poor knowledge of world affairs, of economics and it has even been floated that she does not read much, and so is unsuitable to be a candidate.  I actually don’t think that being widely read or being an “expert” is necessary for a good politician.  Some of the best politicians I have known of are people with little formal education, but thanks to their roots with the people, they had the right priorities. At the same time, “experts” are often the most misguided people about, after-all spaces that accord us the “expert” status encourage narrow understandings and conformity. Politicians who “know” a lot offer me no comfort.  Nixon and Kissinger were an acclaimed team with tremendous interest in foreign affairs, did they leave the world a better place?  After decades of experience Kissinger’s advice on Iraq before the latest war in itself was telling.

I don’t think expertise matters for a great politician.  By this, I do not support the view that we should elect presidents based on whether s/he’s great to have beer with.  What matters for me is that the person is in touch with common people, recognizes their priorities and has the commitment to push these relentlessly.  Common sense (as commonly understood) and right priorities are what I would look for in a candidate. I do not argue that Sarah Palin has these…it is likely she does not have the right priorities (after all she has the priorities of the right).  My opposition to her will be on the idea that she would not support the right causes, and not because she is not a geek.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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