Re: the supposed intolerance alleged by Mr. Douthat (whom I don’t know and have not read) toward those conservatives who suddenly bolted to Obama: I don’t think anyone holds any animus toward them. Why should one — when the whole point of free ideas is, well, free ideas? (I think a straw poll of the Hoover Institution might well find Obama support far more widespread that the public would dare imagine.)
Everyone is disappointed by reckless spending over the last eight years, and there are plenty of culprits — the Bush administration, the larger popular culture of buy now/pay (or often not pay) later, both the Republican and Democratic Congresses, and the necessities of two wars and the need for homeland security at home.
Deranged email that maverick conservatives and independents get is regrettable, but I think we can all attest that all those in the public zoo get their share of creepy swarms of it, from both left and right. When I wrote Mexifornia, angry email was a relief in comparison to the daily obscenity-laced threats, or the occasional public temper tantrums of strangers I encountered in central California.
The points instead I was making were three: one, the attack on Palin was not just an expression of mild disappointment, but often her person was unnecessarily denounced in vitriolic terms with nouns like “cancer” (and worse, well beyond the normal condescension);
Second, most of these issues of the campaign were well known for months, and the VP selection known back in early September, so the sudden rush now to endorse Obama seemed to coincide with a sudden jump in the polls and reflected the influence of perceived momentum;
Third, there is apparently a philosophical difference about what constitutes wisdom in the political sense: while one is impressed that Niebuhr and other thinkers may well be instantly referenced by Obama, that familiarity does not necessarily translate into common sense or ethical judgment (cf. everything from the apparent prior admiration for Wright and Ayers to the wisdom of expanding taxation in times of financial uncertainty), nor does it suggest that Palin’s own story as a working mom, without connections or capital, who pulled herself up through the rough world of Alaskan politics, is not reflective of an equally valuable practical knowledge that is too often ignored.