E.J. Dionne writes an anti-intellectualism-comes-home-to-roost column today. A couple of things: 1) Liberals always say conservatives have been making a populist appeal for decades, and at the same time that the Right used to be intelligent in a way it isn’t anymore. Well then, populism must be compatible with intelligent conservatism, if they lived together for 30 years. 2) Gov. Palin is supposedly the apotheosis of populist conservatism and shows how low we’ve been brought by our anti-intellectualism. But this is reading way too much into an accident of circumstance. It’s not as if the entire history of post-war conservatism was building to the moment when McCain settled on Palin. The McCain team selected her because they thought she’d be energetic and fresh and they wanted to be bold–that’s it. And the real split over Palin isn’t between conservatives who think knowledge is important and those who don’t. It’s between those who think she doesn’t yet know enough (and/or never will know enough) and those who think she knows more than she’s given credit for and/or will learn more as she goes along. 3) Dionne writes “conservatives came to believe that if they repeated phrases such as ‘Joe the Plumber’ often enough,” they could appeal to working-class voters. Again, this is reading way too much into an accident of circumstance. Conservatives embraced Joe the Plumber because he was a symbol of aspiration and could help make the case against the Obama tax plan at a time when the Republican candidate wasn’t doing it very well. 4) Finally, I would note that several of the pro-Obama, anti-Palin pieces that have gotten so much attention have hardly been models of close reasoning. It’s just that they confirm the prejudices of people itching to declare the end of intellectual conservatism.