Thursday, 4 September 2008

Assembled Ramblings On Palin

I was going to put up some thoughts on Sarah Palin last night, but ultimately I decided that getting out the truth about the Fraggles was more important.

In the end I'm glad I held fire, since I've come across a few more things since yesterday. Man, slogging through the liberal blogosphere's output on the woman is hard work. Even the whole "torture is OK and only traitors don't agree" shit-storm didn't generate this level of activity.

A few disclaimers first.

1) Sarah Palin was never a member with the Alaskan Independence Party. Her husband was, though. Obviously, I couldn't care less if Mr Palin is too stupid to realise Alaska demanding independence from America is like me demanding independence from my teeth. It might just be possible, given sufficient planning and effort, but it would involve a spectacular amount of sucking. Ba-dum tish!

On the other hand, any Republican out there who complained Michelle Obama didn't love America enough should now be legally forced to either apologise, make the same fuss over Mr Palin, or simply withdraw from human society.

2) I'm not going anywhere the fact that Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant. Sure, in an ideal world America would have a birth rate amongst teenage girls of less than 5.3% (though that figure covers all teenagers, so that's includes women who give birth the day before they turned twenty). Trying to link this situation to the Republicans' ludicrous abstinence only ideas is just lazy, though. All the situation proves is that there is a subset of teenage girls who have sex, and a subset of those that then get pregnant. In other words, it's a chilling reminder that hormones exist, and make people do stuff.

I also think people are missing the point when they wonder why McCain and Palin would make such a big deal about the girl choosing to keep the baby when they want to ban women from having the choice at all. To me it's just one more strand to the anti-choice argument; namely that all the sensible white-bread girls would never choose an abortion anyway. It's exactly the same kind of non-reasoning that led people to celebrate Juno and Knocked Up as "pro-life" because the pregnant protagonists of both films chose not to have abortions. In short, it's an appeal to people who are stupid, and we ain't running out of them anytime fast.

3) Everyone pointing out that claims of sexism against Palin are just Republican hypocrites need to be careful. This is one of the problems with campaigns, and frankly ideological arguments in general. I mean, consider the following progression. Dave says Clinton is a bitch, and Clinton claims sexism. This leads to Palin calling Clinton a whiner. Months later Fred calls Palin a bitch, and Carl claims sexism.

Is anyone involved actually a hypocrite? Unless you prove Carl was sexist towards Clinton (or racist towards Obama, frankly; sexism and racism aren't interchangeable of course but I'm happy to label bigots who hate slightly different bigots as hypocritical) and who is objecting to sexism against Palin, surely the answer is no. Of course, trying to paint liberals in general with the comments of a few outspoken idiots within their midst is pretty despicable, but in all truth I'm not sure that isn't a game that we've played from time to time.

So, with those out of the way, what can we say about Sarah Palin? Aside from the fact that she freaks me out.

I guess the most salient point I read today can be found here, from comments made by Mark DeMoss, former chief of staff to Jerry Falwell:

"Too many evangelicals and religious conservative are too preoccupied with
values and faith and pay no attention to competence. We don't apply this
approach to anything else in life, including choosing a pastor." Imagine, he
said, if a church was searching for a pastor and the leadership was brought a
candidate with great values but little experience. "They've been a pastor for
two years at a church with 150 people but he shares our values, so we hired him
to be pastor of our 5,000 person church? It wouldn't happen! We don't say, 'He
shares our values, so let's hire him.' That's absurd. Yet we apply that to
choosing presidents. It blows my mind."

Whoever thought I'd post something by a former Falwell flunky without drowning in my own bile?

It's an excellent point: why would anyone be less discerning in their choice of Vice President (and remember kids, McCain has around a 15% chance of not surviving to see the 2012 campaign trail) than they would be in their own pastor? The article I linked to above suggests the problem lies in a desperate struggle for relevancy. That's quite possibly part of it, at least. After all, DeMoss' analogy is arguably flawed in the sense that one assumes when choosing ones' pastor you're already limited in your choices to people who have similar beliefs to yourself. Obviously everyone is different, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest that pastors of any given church will vary less in their choice of values than potential picks for VP. By picking Palin McCain has sent a signal to the American Religious Right that he's not hoping they'll all go away.

There is another interesting line of argument that part of Palin's appeal is precisely because of her inexperience. This (horribly depressing) theory runs that the American Dream itself has shifted in the minds of many citizens, re-arranging itself from "Work hard to become rich" to "Get to the top ASAP". Essentially, Prins suggests that the endless iterations on American Idol have left people under the impression that a victory for "the common man" is somehow a victory for all "common men", that somehow electing someone so egregiously unqualified to be Vice President is a rag-to-riches/loser-comes-good style story that proves to everyone that "it could happen to you". It's the Presidential equivalent of King Ralph, basically, which is a fairly chilling notion.

Frankly, even I'm not sure I'm cynical enough to believe that anyone would use that as a basis for their vote, although it isn't too hard to believe that it might be a subconscious factor in their weighing of the decision.

For my part, though, I think the reason why the phenomenon DeMoss describes is so commonplace is due to something else. The major difference between picking a pastor and a VP is obvious: you are going to constantly interact with your pastor. My parents spent years languishing under a minister they despised, and given all the time and effort my mother invests in her church, it ended up stressing the hell out of her.

Chances are, though, that you'll never meet your Vice President. Now, just because you don't interact with someone doesn't mean they don't affect you, obviously, but the people Palin has been chosen to appeal to (hypothetical Clinton bitter-enders aside, whom I continue to maintain do not exist) don't really want or expect a Republican administration to come anywhere near them in the first place. Changing a few "liberal" laws to make them more friendly to the faith may well be all that a great deal of them want their White House to do in any case.

In that sense, this is less like choosing a pastor and more like choosing a dog-catcher. So long as the stray dogs get rounded up in the way you want, you don't care if you never see them ever again.

That, I think, is why Palin is so popular amongst a certain slice of the American citizenry.

And finally tonight, a video that can be filed under "Palin is rubbish" and cross-referenced to "political talking heads are liars and scum". This is an off-mic conversation that was accidentally recorded, and comes just after the people involved were singing Palin's praises.

h/t to Hullabaloo for the links (including the one they messed up).

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