I’ve been wading through hate mail for the last week after referring to the governor of Utah’s “raging ignorance” on climate science in an AP news story. The mail doesn’t come from defenders of the governor, (he’s denying climate science in a state known for, and economically supported by, some of the best powder west of Aspen) but from the climate denial community.

One of the common themes in the hate mail has been that solving climate change is a plot by East Coast liberal elites to stay employed, push their agenda, etc. The subtext is that to understand climate science, you have to be educated. And if you’re educated, you’re an elitist. And that doesn’t square with the Palin-populist worldview that running this country requires no advanced training, education, or experience. Running a family gives you all the skills you might need.

(My response is that solving climate IS about the little guy, it’s about the common man and woman, because they are going to get pounded by this problem. Think about the people of low-lying Bangladesh … and lots of Americans of all backgrounds.)

But in effect, the old Buchanan/Gingrich culture wars have, after going somewhat dormant during the last election, spilled over into the climate battle, and it’s a perfect fit. The climate denier community is precisely what the Palin-right is today: fundamentally anti-intellectual. The less educated you are, the more common, the more “real” you are. What you think might be true IS true, because you can back it up with the internet. And the notion that science has some level of truth or a role in the governing of the country is the arrogance of a secular, white collar, lotioned and collar-popped elite.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

It’s odd that our country has gone from revering education (my father, who grew up poor in the Depression, thought it was the holy grail and came from a culture that skipped kids through grades to get to college at 16 or sooner; my Grandfather, a Republican born in 1901 in Fargo, insisted that his grandkids go to college…) These bootstrappers, who used to represent the core of conservative values, have fallen out of style. Now, to be a “real” person, you don’t educate yourself, you go into the trades. Nothing wrong with the trades, mind you. It’s just too bad that people who go the white collar route are villified as un-American — because my Dad and Grandpa Joe were about as real as it gets, and about as American as it comes.