regarding Sarah Palin

A longtime reader (hi, Dad!) wrote me to express his surprise that I hadn't written anything about Sarah Palin in this space. Perhaps I've been attempting to ignore her so as not to feed the troll.

I would write Sarah Palin off as a cartoon, a self-parody and a caricature if it weren't for two things: the success of her demagoguery and the insult to women she embodies.

The former is, of course, the reason she was brought onto the McCain ticket. In addition to transparently and cynically attempting to attract disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, McCain's campaign realized that Palin was perfectly cast to play well to white suburbanites and rustics suffering from Authoritarian Personality. She's somebody they can "relate to" who is "like them". While McCain had to attempt to appeal to the majority of Americans, Palin was tasked with currying the favor of reactionaries, racists, medieval-minded Christianists, jingoists and homophobes. Her affected "golly-goshdarnit" aspect puts an apple-cheeked mask on the grinning demon of insinuation, hissing at us to wonder "who Barack Obama really is". Let's not forget that the base she is pandering to isn't merely the bedrock of a political party, but the lowest and meanest parts of human nature.

Her candidacy is an insult to American women, particularly those who've devoted their lives to achieving some kind of political parity with men. However, it's not merely the fact that she was chosen specifically because she is a woman which causes offense, or the attempted manipulation of the female electorate evidenced by her selection. Rather, it is the particular stereotype of femininity she chooses to adopt as her public persona.

It's popular to characterize Sarah Palin as stupid. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can achieve political success, especially on the national stage, by being staggeringly unintelligent. Even George W. Bush, who is by no means an intellectual, clearly has a type of fratboyish social smarts. However, it is clear that Palin is more than happy to appear, accurately or otherwise, like a rampaging airhead. Proudly oblivious of key foreign policy ("what's the Bush Doctrine?"), unable to name credible news publications that she reads to inform herself, inability to speak in public without clumsily relying on GOP talking points... the list continues to grow. She epitomizes two of the most contemptible aspects of modern right-wing politics: the populist appeal of total ignorance ("hey, she's an idiot like me! I really relate to that!"), and the denial of responsibility via rejection of reality as evidenced by her reaction so far to Troopergate.

As an aside, this may be brilliant positioning for her role as Vice President, since under Cheney it has become clear that the new purpose for the VP office is to manage all the outrageously illegal activities that the White House cares to undertake. The Republicans, via Alberto Gonzales and many others, have clearly demonstrated their belief that public expressions of abject incompetence are a viable legal defense against charges of criminality. Perhaps by installing as Vice President a woman who goes out of her way to cultivate an aura of ditziness the nascent McCain administration is merely taking the next logical step to cover the ass of the Imperial Presidency.

In sum, the women of the United States have been offered as their political champion a picture perfect cliché of the subservient, ignorant, photogenic Conservative Woman. Her politics, of course, are also essentially anti-woman, what with her refusal to recognize that the decisions to carry her daughter's pregnancy to term and to essentially force her daughter into a loveless marriage with the mullethead who knocked Bristol up are choices. Palin's antique religious philosophy doesn't do her gender any favors, either. I shudder to think of the impact her election may have on a generation of American girls, and that's sad. Her elevation to office should be a cause for celebration, and it would be if her place was taken by any number of other, vastly more qualified women.

For me the possible election of a McCain/Palin ticket smacks far too heavily of a dystopian sci-fi novel in which the President dies in office to be replaced by a moronic religious zealot who decides that launching all our nukes at Canada is exactly what Jesus wants.

Remember, everbody: turnout, turnout, turnout. Go vote.

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