Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Importance of Being Palin

I don’t think the Democrats quite know what they’re up against.

It’s taken me five days to see this, mostly because I’ve been looking in the same place as everyone else and asking the same questions as everyone else. And when I say “everyone else,” I mean pundits, Democrats, and even the Republican Party’s chosen spokespeople. Really, I was listening to some clips yesterday and the spokespeople were unable to answer really simple questions like, “What does Sarah Palin bring to the table?”

On some level I’d almost like to give them credit and say they were being dumb like foxes, but there’s a lot of dumbness out there and very little of it seemed even remotely like acting. I, and many others, initially assumed she was an attempt to pander to disaffected Clinton supporters; a move that I knew would backfire because Palin couldn’t be any more different from Clinton if she tried. I’ve also heard that it was an attempt by McCain to say, “See, I’m still a maverick, look who I picked!” Then I realized, no, Palin’s neither one of those things. She’s the Geoff Blum pick.

Back in 2005 the White Sox were on cruise control coming up on the trade deadline. They were headed for their first 100 win season in nearly a century and looked to have the postseason locked up. Conventional wisdom dictates that teams have to make a big move at the trade deadline to shore up the team, cover for any weaknesses and, y’know, show they’re serious. Names like Ken Griffey Jr. were bandied about. Then, when July 31st came and went the only player added was Geoff Blum, a journeyman utility infielder from San Diego who was, shall we say, an underwhelming choice.

I immediately declared 2005 the year of Geoff Blumania, to show my lack of excitement about the whole thing. Then everyone (except Astros fans, I guess) was excited when Geoff Blum hit a two-run homer in the top of the 14th inning of Game 3 of the World Series, putting the team one win away from a sweep. Between the end of July and the middle of October, meanwhile, Blum did a lot of little things to help make that World Series dream come true.

The McCain campaign hasn’t necessarily been on cruise control, but it has stayed even with Obama in spite of the fact that there’s really no good reason to want to vote McCain. His party was falling apart around him, most importantly the fundamentalist religious core that delivered Gee Dubs to the Oval Office not once, but twice. That same base doesn’t so much like McCain. He was dangerously close to being anti-abortion and, unlike Bush, does not know how to integrate the fundamentalist dog whistles in to his speeches without fumbling over them.

So when Obama made the safe choice of Joe Biden as his running mate, it opened McCain up to stop worrying about finding a Junior Griffey and look for a Geoff Blum. Now Obama has to deal with a completely different game, one that requires him to compete with a story that no one seems to realize is being re-told. It’s the same old story about point-headed liberal elites who want to kill babies and create communism in America. And it’s a powerful story, specifically because it’s abstract and plays off of emotions and fears, something that the last eight years have proven beyond a doubt are a powerful way to appeal to the Republican base.

It’s sad, too. Ever since, really, the House Un-American Activites Committee, certain parts of the conservative spectrum in America have been working as hard as possible to destroy two very good, very powerful words through suggestion and association. They are words that we the people of the United States of America should be holding up as good words, strong words, idealistic words. I speak of the word “liberal” and its companion “democrat.”

It saddens me that this has to be said, but we would not be where we are today without the word liberal and the word democrat. We would not be here because there would have been no Constitution. There would have been no Declaration of Independence. Thomas Paine would never have written Common Sense. Patrick Henry would never have stood up in the Virginia House of Burgesses and cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” We are who we are because of liberals and democrats.

The Republican base, however, is controlled by those who want us to associate “liberal” with “elitist” and “Democrat” with “Communist.” They want us to believe that there are two options: their candidate or The United Soviet Socialist States. The base that Sarah Palin appeals to, however, goes back farther than Jefferson, Paine, or Henry. They are by their very nature anti-democratic. They want a government run by something closely approximating the Louis XIV-style divine right of kings because they specifically believe that they can and should be ruled by the one and only divine king.

It doesn’t have to be said that this is strongly anti-democratic thinking. Former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee probably explained the idea best when he said that the idea wasn’t to change god’s word, but to change the Constitution to line up with god’s word. That’s the basis of morality, after all. Only the pointy-headed liberal elite would think otherwise. And they’re all atheist baby killers.

Sarah Palin fits perfectly in to this odd little but disproportionately influential world. She’s not there to pander to Clintonites. She’s there to be the anti-Clinton for the Beverly LaHaye Concerned Women for America set. She espouses every single one of the neoconservative and fundamentalist Christian ideals down to the letter. She’s anti-choice, in favor of banning books that don’t espouse Christian values, in favor of drilling in ANWR, and apparently more than willing to don a stars and stripes bikini and hold a machine gun (is there anything more offensive to the flag, by the way? As I recall the flag code says that only army and police personnel are allowed to wear flags as part of their uniforms. Don’t t-shirts, boxer shorts, and swimsuits with stars and stripes designs that are obviously evocative of the American Flag violate the flag code?).

More than that, Sarah Palin, unlike that upstart Hillary Clinton, knows her proper place in the social order. See the woman, your average fundamentalist will admit, is a capable, beloved creation and child of god. But they’ll also point out that god created the woman second, to be the helper, and that a proper Christian (and, therefore, proper universal) household is one in which the man is the head of the household and the one who makes all the tough decisions and the woman is number two and therefore stays home and raises the children.

This is why the first woman to run in the Republican party for the high end of the Executive Branch is running not for President, but for Vice President.

If you look at Sarah Palin from a political perspective, her resume is pretty much crap. The Republican spokespeople I’ve heard have admitted as much even if they don’t know it. The answer to the question, “In what way is she qualified?” seems to be, “Well she’s more qualified than Obama.” The answer to the follow-up, “That’s not what I asked, I asked you to tell me about Sarah Palin,” seems to be, “Why are you attacking me? Stop being so combative.” This comes from the party that prides itself on being the party of facts and proper citations.

When you’re saying that “international experience” comes from being the head of the Alaska National Guard for two years and having to look out across the Bering Strait at Siberia, what you’re really saying is, “Our candidate has no international experience.” However, that doesn’t matter to the fundamentalist base. This is a group that believes that god puts certain people in certain places and then downloads the necessary skills, Matrix-style, in to the brains of a previously completely unqualified person. This is a group who thinks that someone with the title of “pastor” is completely qualified to handle any one of life’s issues simply because they’re closer to god.

Hell, her opinion on Iraq is something to the effect of, “I don’t know much about it, except I know its god’s work.” That should scare the shit out of anyone who takes the time to realize that if McCain wins she’s a coronary embolism away from taking over this country. Then again, she’d be taking over from the last holdout of the, “Stay in Iraq forever,” camp after even the Bush Administration has talked about timetables with Iraq. Of course, it should also scare the shit out of anyone who remembers that Bush went in to Iraq in the first place because it was apparently god’s will. Imagine what would happen if a true believer and not a cynical political operative with a good speech writer were the one saying that about Iran or North Korea or, perish the thought, Russia.

Over on the other side we’ve got the corporate friendly centrism of Barack Obama that’s somehow been turned in to an off-kilter combination of, “Ahh, Communism!” and, “Hussein, that’s one o’ them terrorist names, right?” But that’s how the story goes. Third verse, same as the first.

Somehow a world citizen who literally espouses the notions of the American Dream has had those things turned in to a liability in the face of the “international experience” of someone who hasn’t done a damn thing outside the borders of this country. Barack Obama’s rags-to-riches story of the kid who’s mom was on food stamps to Presidential Candidate is somehow trumped by the tale of the hockey mom/bikini model who somehow managed to get by in a state that pays people to live within its borders. Then again, this is the political machine that somehow made George W. Bush in to a greater American hero than John Kerry. And if you can destroy the military reputation of a Purple Heart recipient for political ends, then you can do anything.

The Republicans know how to change the story by changing the words. These are the ones who actually believe Fox News is “fair and balanced,” after all. It’s those words and that story that Barack Obama has to deal with from here on out.

It’s the story of America as told through the eyes of those who consider “liberal” and “democrat” bad words. It’s the story of America as told by those who think “freedom of religion” means “freedom of my religion to do whatever it wants.” It’s the story of America as told by those who do not know and do not want to know what America stands for.

Those words, “liberal,” and “democrat” are grand old words. They are the hope of America, the right of all who wish to live free. They are the words behind the ideals that launched the French Revolution and toppled the most divine of the divine line of kings.

But they go back much farther than 1776. They go back to the Magna Carta, signed in 1215. They go to the fights between Oliver Cromwell and the British Parliament, a fight the Parliament ultimately won, and which we see now in the way the House of Windsor does nothing while the Prime Minister runs the nation.

The word “liberal” should be on the lips of anyone who says, “Maybe we shouldn’t let the Bible tell us how to run our nation.” The word “democrat” should be in the heart of anyone who says we should choose our leaders and not let them be chosen for us.

They are good words. They are strong words.

They are not American words, for they belong to all who yearn to determine their own fate and create their own better world. But they are words at the core of what it means to be American.

We are a democratic nation, founded on the principles of liberalism.

So to say that all Democrats are Communists is to say that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were simply proto-Stalins. To say that all liberals are out of touch elitist baby killers is to say much the same thing.

We need to take those words back. First we need to take them from the Republicans, because as long as the fundamentalist base controls the party they are a clear and present danger to the American ideal. Then we need to take them back from the Democrats because they have dropped the ball.

We need four years of McCain/Palin like we need a kick to the ribs. But four years of Obama will be disappointing, too. He’s showing his true colors now, not as an idealist, but as a shrewd political operator. Hillary Clinton isn’t the answer, either.

We need another Thomas Jefferson, but not a Jefferson for the 1700s, a Jefferson for today. One who calls out the American ideals and embodies them. One who is not perfect, but calls our nation to be better.

We need a true liberal. We need a true democrat.

It would be nice if we had one.


GailVortex said...


If only we could devise a concrete plan of action to implement it.

Anonymous said...

Teams that make big trades in July never win the World Series. Last one was Boston in '04, and that was more of a big subtraction. Teams that win the World Series are the teams that are forgotten in August and September, only to get unbeatable in October.

As for the other stuff, I got yer plan.

Step one: On any issue, do what works for the greatest number of American people instead of however the decision are being made now.

Step two: Reliably check the people running things, to make sure they're doing that instead of what they're doing now.

Pretty sure that's what Jefferson was about.

suzy-q said...

A. For the record, I don't sit around all day worrying about you... How much of a loser would I be then??!

B. WHERE CAN YOU GET THIS PUBLISHED?!?!!? In print. Would Newseek take it?

C. She goes to Wasilla Bible Church. WBC. All I need to hear.

D. Her church, I just heard on CNN, believes that Alaska will be a refuge for people before the end of days and will welcompeople with open arms to care for them before the rapture.

E. Shiver.