31 October 2008

Some cordial dissent

To paraphrase Tina Fey, I hope to be finished writing about Sarah Palin no later than November 5th. But until then, I'll take this last opportunity to squeeze in a couple of writers questioning the popular liberal consensus about Palin's candidacy.

First, here's Richard Estes at American Leftist.

Palin is a woman of local accomplishment with no national credentials; Biden is a man of national credentials with no accomplishments. It's an old story. But there is more to it than just old fashioned sexism. Palin's social experience is too far removed from the political establishment to be acceptable. No Ivy League education, not even a respected Catholic or state school one, like Berkeley or Michigan. She didn't go to law school, as the vast majority of successful politicians have done. She certainly didn't teach constitutional law at one.

No, Palin is the worst nightmare of the political establishment: someone who was actually personally motivated to enter politics at the local level and through a combination of drive and ruthlessness, became governor of her state. Her politics are therefore heavily influenced, dangerously so from an establishment perspective, by her local, as opposed to elite, experiences. With someone like her, there is always this fear, who knows what she might do? In other words, she might not do what we say. And, even worse, she might even encourage the lower middle class to believe that they actually have power and exhort them to use it. In this respect, comparisons to the career trajectory of Ronald Reagan are apt, and she, like Reagan, will eventually find elite acceptability when it becomes obvious that she is no threat.

While I do think there's a certain amount of truth to this, I think Richard is over-estimating the extent to which Pailn is any kind of threat to established power. The very fact she was selected by the Republican Party to a non-elected position should call this into question. But let's take another look at the veep selection process. Many people, including myself, wondered why the GOP would take such a risk on an unknown politician to appease the social conservative base when Mike Huckabee, who's far more personable, talented, and has unassailable social-con credentials, was available. Huckabee is, however, many of the things Richard ascribes to Palin, as we found out during the primaries. His occasional nods to economic populism, however cursory, sent the party elites into spasms.

Here's Joe Bageant:
Sarah Palin's real coup is that she brings out the snobbery of the left in their dismissal of her as an ignorant hick typical of small town red state America. They vastly underestimate her. Just like they have underestimated George Bush for the past eight years. While they laughed, George Bush managed to get everything he wanted and assist the looting of America in his spare time. No matter that he is vastly unpopular now even among Republicans. He has fulfilled his purpose to the powerful corporations and financial institutions that animate American politics. You do not have to be smart to be president, just malleable to the greater forces at work.

I have to give Republicans credit for actually promoting someone with an almost-honest claim to representing working-class Americans. No more passing off a third-generation scion of a Connecticut political dynasty as a country-fried Texan. If Republicans felt shame, I would hope that would make them feel a little dirty inside. And they hoped the inevitable liberal response of derisive scorn would infuriate and motivate the rural conservative Christians to turn out in 2004 numbers.

It hasn't worked. In fact, many of the tried-and-true Republican distraction tactics have fallen flat in this election. Why? Because this is an economy election; more specifically, an economy election that's effecting more than the working poor. The middle class is always willing to go along with sleazy, reality-show politics when the main issues at stake are bombing brown foreigners and pretending to be a-feared of dark-skinned terrorists and gay marriage. When the dark side of the economy starts trickling up to their level, however, they'll snap to attention faster than you can say "Bear Stearns."

Finally, after expressing a dying ember of sympathy for Sarah Palin, let's stamp it out for good. The popular concession in the mainstream press that Palin is a talented politician with a national future--despite the disaster she has been in this campaign--is unnecessarily kind. Palin has shown little ability, or even intent, to appeal to anyone beyond the niche she was harvested to placate. Indeed, she's apparently trying to alienate as many non-wingnuts as possible with a steady stream of snark and sarcasm. Take away her telemprompter, and she turns from a "pitbull with lipstick" to a nervous sheepdog. If Obama looks unstoppable in 2012, she may be selected to run on the hope that she will continue to satsify the social cons while the party holds out for more favorable waters. Otherwise, there is still Bobby Jindal and, possibly, Petraeus; much more likely options for the Republican Party, provided it stays roughly in its current configuration. Which is another post..for another day.