I know Matt Continetti pretty well, and so I was struck by this blog post about Continetti. It starts off with a reference to Fred Thompson giving a mostly-charming, homespun answer to a question about college loans. To my mind, the answer wasn't quite anti-intellectual, but rather a boilerplate reference to his hardscrabble upbringing. It nevertheless prompted this reaction:
Directly above the post is a drawing of Continetti--the young man is wearing a suit and tie (not to mention reading glasses). This is his campaign blog, of course, where all day long he writes about politics and policy and the issues confronting the country. Just the other day, in fact, he was on MSNBC with a bunch of other talking heads.
Though I consider Matt a good friend, and though I once worked in television news, I actually didn't know about this. It seems our correspondent is keeping close tabs, which suggests an admirable attention to detail. As for the caricature, I can attest to the fact that Matt does generally wear a suit and tie and glasses. For the record, I'm supposed to wear glasses, but I haven't since the 4th grade. That could be why I'm going blind. Good for Matt, I say.
My question is, belatedly, this: Why is Continetti, in his post on Simon's article, so clearly thrilled with Thompson's (non) answer? Why does a young journalist who devotes his whole life to the ins and outs of Washington (and presumably thinks the details of policy are important, or else he's wasting his time)--why does he enjoy this sort of anti-intellectualism? I don't need a primer on why (some) busy and cynical voters find Thompson appealing, but why does Continetti? I remember Rush Limbaugh, a man who spends three hours a day talking about politics, loving every second of George Bush's occassional cluelessness in 2000. If there is a deeper answer here than, "Because it drives liberals crazy," I'd be curious to read it.
Having read the post in question, which ended with,
And you gotta wonder whether elite media circles in New York and Washington are seriously underestimating the power of Thompson's cultural appeal to Sunbelt conservatives.
I have my own working theory. Here goes: "I'm writing 8-10 blog posts a day on a new campaign blog and this seemed mildly amusing, and I thought Thompson seemed funny and charming and I also thought this would resonate with Sunbelt conservatives." Continetti is very much an intellectual with catholic and fairly highbrow tastes, but if I understand correctly he is the son of a small businessman and a schoolteacher who grew up in suburban Virginia. That he would find something to like in Thompson's remarks seems ... utterly unstrange. It should be obvious that we're all a complicated, jumbled-up mix of qualities and prejudices and preferences.
Now, I think the threat of climate change is extremely important, and so I read a lot about it. I certainly don't expect my parents to read a lot about it. Moreover, I don't think less of them because they don't. And while I'm glad they seem to think the threat of climate change is real, I'm confident that I would enjoy their company even if they did not. Imagine the following exchange:
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER: But yesterday was 35 degrees!
CANDIDATE: Yes, but scientists say climate change is real. Look, guy, I'm no climate scientist. All's I know is that I read the papers, Iisten to smart people, and I think there's some clock missin' a cuckoo -- that's you-you!
[AUDIENCE erupts in laughter.]
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER: But I've brought these ice-cores for you to investigate for yourself!
CANDIDATE: Okay, have fun, Tex!
[SECURITY GUARDS rush to "tase" CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER.]
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER: Don't tase me, bro!
I mean, I really do care about the science, more than the candidate, but man, I'd think that's pretty funny!