Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pit Bull with Lipstick

On the most recent Real Time with Bill Maher, NPR correspondent Michel Martin warned everybody not to underestimate Sarah Palin. She said that most male politicians don’t know how to carry themselves when forced to debate a woman—on one hand they don’t want to look condescending, and on the other hand they don’t want to be perceived as unchivalrous.

Also, Palin, Martin noted, is a tough cookie.

The choice of Palin has seemed so ridiculous that it’s hard for me to see it as anything but calculated and sneaky. It stinks of Karl Rove, in fact.

I suspect Palin exists to impress precisely the people that Obama has been less successful in impressing—redneck America. Picking up the analogy fresh on all the tongues of political commentators lately, if 2008 is a mirror of 1968, then Palin is George Wallace.

And in six short days she has moved the national debate from the war in Iraq to the struggle of a smalltown family to deal with a teen pregnancy. The hypocrisy of Palin’s pro-life, pro-abstinence posturing is clear to me and people similar to me. But to rank-and-file working whites, she has emerged, like Bush, as somebody they’d like to have a beer with.

Her candidacy has moved the debate away from which Presidential candidate can most improve the US economy to how VP candidates should be properly vetted.

My first impulse is to write her off as trashy and ignernt—and she is—but she’s finding a soft spot in the hearts of Americans who likewise turned to mush over George W. Bush’s bad syntax and ham-fisted manners. Poor speech habits and inconsistent smalltown values these folks can relate to—and they get pissed off at the “elites” who make fun of such things.

Palin is tough, and like Bush she appeals to the bitterness and magical thinking of the poorly educated masses, whose feelings are better tuned than their reasoning. She’s lying through her teeth, but people hear in her shrill barking something they like. In an odd way she, again like Bush, stirs protective feelings in regular folk.

Picking on her mannerisms and family is only going to alienate undecided voters and rile up the right wing's nutso base.

Exposing the true elitism of the incredibly wealthy Republican bluebloods and the disastrous implications of the policies she and McCain promote is perhaps our best bet.

McCain mocked Obama’s celebrity and popularity—but in Palin he (with Rove’s help, no doubt) invented a popular celebrity he can use.

He mocked Obama’s lack of experience and call for change, but he’s hit on a tactic here for recasting the Democrats as stick-in-the-mud incumbents.

Most lower middle-class Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about what the proper procedures for “vetting” a VP are. We’re making a mistake if we make too big of a fuss over trivia.

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