On a purely emotional level, I wanted to like Sarah Palin. She’s energetic, she’s interesting, she’s my age, and she talks about the things I care about, namely reform of government. And I suspected that her approach to governing included a healthy dollop of civility. Also good, in my book.
On the other hand, I’m a Democrat, and there’s no chance I’ll be voting for Palin and John McCain.
My party has a point when it notes Palin’s lack of national experience, and the briefness of her executive experience. And yes, this “goes to judgment” where John McCain is concerned, since he seems not even to have known the governor before choosing her to be his running mate.And, oh yeah, she’s a lot more attached to guns and creationism than I’d like. But my interest in this story, and I have a lot of interest, is really in the frenzy about it, and the peripheral questions.
It has been an article of faith in the Republican political apparatus that Democrats should be painted as radical, strange, and, if possible, foreign. Foreign is really good because despite the cliche that “anyone can grow up to be president”, the anyone had better fit within a pretty narrow range of beliefs, experiences and physical characteristics.
There’s a way in which including black and female candidates in the ranks of those being considered for high office makes those parameters even more narrow, because the “minority” candidate must devote a large amount of time to proving how, despite being “different” he or she is really just like “the rest of us”. I bring this up here because, as I watch my side dissect everything Sarah Palin has ever done or said, I see what the Dems have learned from Republican thuggery over time, and how their vows not to get fooled again have created skills and scars.
The freelance muckrakers of the lefty blogosphere have wasted no time doing things John McCain seems not to have done, like using Google and reading up on Alaska politics. Everything that looks promising has been thrown out onto blogs for examination, and TV networks and newspaper reporters have scrambled to catch up. We’ve learned that Palin was once a member of an outlaw political party, that she was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it, and that her 17-year old daughter is pregnant. Those who have dug up these tidbits are fired as much by the unfair attacks on Democrats by their opponents as they are by the details of these stories. The founder of the Alaska Independence Party said he wasn’t an American, but an Alaskan. The folks who dug that up were doubtless thinking of guilt by association attacks on Barack Obama. “For it before she was against it” is quoted directly from the attack on John Kerry’s explanation of his votes on Iraq war funding. and best of al, if you’re angered by hypocrisy, is the pro-life, arch=conservative, family values Republican who, like so many parents, has learned that her daughter, still in high school, and unmarried, is pregnant. Oh yeah. And troopergate? Snicker snicker.
What makes it even sweeter is that Palin, as new kid on the political block, is completely fair game, and the Republican defenses of her, a person, they do not know, sound hollow and scripted. For the same reasons, Palin herself has not yet fought back. In fact, she has had no public events since Sunday, which is just plain odd. She has not sat down for a heart to heart interview with Oprah, Barbara Walters or Rush Limbaugh. Barely moments after her appearance on the campaign stage, she is hidden away as the damage control//post-selection vetting process proceeds. And this should worry her supporters, and Republicans generally. Because that one-on-one sit down interview, preferably with husband and champion snow machine racer Todd by her side, is an essential part of her acceptance into the political world. The longer she delays doing it, the more likely it is that we will be greeting a new Republican vice presidential candidate before two weeks are out.
My least favorite part of the Palin drama is the bottom-feeding pundit class, and the way television-centric coverage sustains and perpetuates this vile form of discourse: standard practice in politics these days is to invite roughly equal numbers of liberals and conservatives into little boxes on the teevee to debate the merits of a person or issue. As it has come to be practiced, this means that each side parrots the views of the political party with which they are affiliated, leading to boring, inside the box conversation. The Palin situation puts this appalling situation on prominent display, as invited Republicans ignore questions of her experience, praising someone they know nothing about, and Democrats slip in jabs that are just this side of sexist. At no time does an actual voter gain the floor, or express an opinion that is at right angles with the political parties. And at absolutely no point does someone say, “You know Larry, I just haven’t made up my mind yet.”