The importance of the people who make the politics

Scott H. Payne critiques Andrew Sullivan's attacks on Sarah Palin, suggesting that criticizing Sarah Palin the person, instead of her (lack of) ideas, is problematic.

[W]e ought to fashion our political discourse around an analysis of ideas, not an appreciation (or lack thereof) of particular personality traits. It is consistently astonishing to me how little one sees a serious discussion of ideas present in any number of political foray. Perhaps I’m just waxing naive, but isn’t it just a given that a thorough debate about the merits of the ideas presented by differing viewpoints renders us better off within the context of democratic machinations? So why does it seems as though one has to dig so deeply and widely to hit upon just such a debate within the analysis of different political actors?

I have posted recently at some length refuting this view, and I won't rehash it. Suffice it to say that ideas do not get implemented without implementers, that is, human actors. The qualities of the human actor is directly relevant how and why and with what success those ideas, or other ones, get implemented. And the ideology a politician supports often does not tell us as much as character does about how that politician will react to novel situations.


  1. Agreed Elizabeth, Given the choice between Mitt Romney and ex. Gov. Blago for President of course I would pick Romney, (pre Blagos impeachment) even though politically I am far more agreement on the issues with Blago, Blago is far too crazy. People knew this for a few years now. Well, the same thing is true about Palin. She is too crazy.
    As a general rule I do vote for the person; their character, intelligence, etc. over party or ideas. I have voted for Kean and Whitman for Gov. in NJ, Reagan over Mondale and Bush over Dukakis, even though I am a Democrat.
    The US is not a Parlimentary system where we vote by party blocs, if it were then and only then does Payne make much sense, otherwise he is getting on a bit of a high horse.
    Even in primaries, I did not support Obama over Clinton because I agreed with him on the issues 72% of the time overs Clintons 69% (this is just an example) for all I know if I did an analysis it could have been the reverse. I voted for Obama over Clinton only because I believe he would have been a better leader than Clinton, and more likely to be elected.