What Kind of Elites Do We Want?

Over at Andrew’s place, Conor Clarke writes:

There’s absolutely nothing wrong, much less “arch,” about criticizing Sarah Palin for being an anti-intellectual demagogue while simultaneously demanding respect for Sonia Sotomayor. Palin’s whole shtick is that she’s an ordinary American with ordinary American concerns. Which is completely fine. But I’m of the mind that our leaders should be exceptional people — hard-working Type-A meritocrats with actual expertise — and I think Sotomayor is one of those people. (Palin, not so much.) That’s my preference, of course, and not necessarily the country’s. But I like to think it’s a perfectly legitimate distinction, not a “hate crime.”

Fair enough, though I am one of those people who is suspicious of government by “hard working Type-A meritocrats with actual expertise.” It isn’t that I object to any of those qualities in particular. Are all laudable. But should they be the basis for choosing leaders? What about wisdom and prudence?

A question I’ve been struggling with: the right used to pride itself on defending the leadership abilities of a certain kind of elite, one distinct from the kind preferred by the left. Those were hardly “the good old days,” insofar as the right had some pretty odious reasons for supporting some of these elites. But I don’t think all the reasons were odious. So a question. If the right has a populism problem right now — if it should appreciate a certain kind of elite, but a different kind than what the technocrat loving left lauds — what are the specific qualities it ought to seek? Wisdom and prudence, sure, but who is against those things? Seems too vague to be an answer. Does this make any sense? This makes 72 blog posts since Monday. So crowdsourced insights? I hope so.