Razib, in a link roundup, wrote:
A Grand Unified Theory of Palinisms. Jacob Weisberg, Yale grad and Rhodes Scholar, wonders why Sarah Palin says “stupid and ridiculous things.” An easy answer is that she’s stupid. But I think the truth is that Sarah Palin is closer to the norm in intelligence and polish than the typical American politician. In fact she’s probably somewhat above average in intelligence. The fact that she’s a social conservative means that it’s easy for Left-leaning elites to mock her, but if you go to a liberal college town in the Berkshires I’m sure you could talk to plenty of people with the “right” ideology who are totally incoherent and obviously have no grasp of what they’re trying to talk about. I’ve met plenty of liberals, as an example, who regurgitate Paul Krugman columns in a manner which makes it pretty clear they have no idea what he was trying to say (they make errors in transmission which would be obvious to them if they actually understood how the pieces of the argument cohere together, so it seems likely they’re repeating verbatim without any real comprehension).
In comments, Razib then argues that Palin is probably smarter than average, at least in terms of IQ. I agree (no, really, I do), which then leads to the question “Why does she say such stupid things?”
It’s tempting to say that she’s out of her depth because she is a policy ignoramus. While that’s partly correct, Palin, and many like her, don’t see politics as a way of fixing mundane, even if severe problems. For Palin, politics is a form of identity politics–a nasty, exclusionary kind of politics:
Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans (think about the phrase “red blooded American”) and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers (obviously, if you’re not a ‘real’ American, you might view this as a bad thing…). Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?
What government actually does is secondary to self-justification. And from her perspective, it’s something that’s probably boring, since that’s not what motivates her*. I would argue she should find another line of work–total boredom due to public policy is like being a mechanic who doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.
But I don’t think she’s low IQ, or otherwise ‘stupid.’
*Based on recent actions, it would appear that fame and fortune are her primary motivations.