Sunday, July 12, 2009

Article(s) Of The Week

A post on dailykos by Laura Clawson and a column written by Peggy Noonan for Saturday's Wall Street Journal say most of what there is to say about Sarah Palin. No, not specifically about Palin's resignation but more generally about Palin, whose resignation, in retrospect, is just another erratic and narcissistic chapter in her political career.

The accusations among many Repubs and even members of the mainstream media about alleged sexism directed toward the Alaska governor may be ludicrous (and are), but there has been little effort to rebut them. Clawson, though, does it effectively, remarking

Sarah Palin got to the governorship of Alaska on her own. At that point, political geeks and people in Alaska knew who she was, and that was about it. Palin became a national figure because John McCain selected her as his running mate. Why did he select her as his running mate, despite having barely spoken to her and not having vetted her? Because she was a woman. Because she would shake things up and get attention and seem unexpected. Out of the hope that PUMAs would flock to her. Because, more generally, the McCain campaign hoped that having a woman on the ticket would be an adequate stand-in for taking issue positions that women would vote for.

That's where the real and massive sexism in how Palin has been treated lies, and while she was certainly affected by it, the real victims are women who have worked hard to get somewhere in politics, and women voters who were assumed by a major party presidential nominee to be stupid enough to vote for a woman without consideration of her positions

Clawson notes that only four of 40 Republicans in the United States Senate voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Those would be the the Senate's four female Republicans, each of them more qualified to serve as Vice-President though, probably not coincidentally, none as physically attractive as the Alaska governor. Almost as if the GOP, not oblivious to the value of responding to the election as President of a serious black man with election of the same demographic as RNC chairman, would select a silly black man. Almost.

A former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and lifelong Republican, Peggy Noonan was none too amused at the selection of Sarah Palin as her party's vice-presidential candidate. Noonan repeats, much more eloquently, the common criticism of Palin:

In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.

But Noonan makes a more important point, demolishing the argument many conservatives make about Palin, here promoted by Ross Douthat of The New York Times:

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.

Noonan, en route to quashing Palinphile myths, explains that the Alaska governor

continues to poll high among some members of the Republican base, some of whom have taken to telling themselves Palin myths.

This is a favorite of some party intellectuals. She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary. They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they're working class "tropes." Because, you know, that's what they teach in "Ways of the Working Class" at Yale and Dartmouth.
What she is, is a seemingly very nice middle-class girl with ambition, appetite and no sense of personal limits.

"She's not Ivy League, that's why her rise has been thwarted! She represented the democratic ideal that you don't have to go to Harvard or Brown to prosper, and her fall represents a failure of egalitarianism." This comes from intellectuals too. They need to be told something. Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College. Richard Nixon went to Whittier College, Joe Biden to the University of Delaware. Sarah Palin graduated in the end from the University of Idaho, a school that happily notes on its Web site that it's included in U.S. News & World Report's top national schools survey. They need to be told, too, that the first Republican president was named "Abe," and he went to Princeton and got a Fulbright. Oh wait, he was an impoverished backwoods autodidact!

America doesn't need Sarah Palin to prove it was, and is, a nation of unprecedented fluidity. Her rise and seeming fall do nothing to prove or refute this.

Sure, Sarah Palin does a little better among those without, than those with, a college education. Still, there is something unsettling about conservative elites who have benefited from their educational pedigree waxing populist about political figures who didn't go Ivy League. Graduation from the University of Idaho, having a large family, or being famously incoherent does not qualify someone as symbolizing the "democratic ideal." And this is especially true if that public official has proudly voiced contempt for the lifestyle of so many hard-working Americans:

it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: "Sit down and shut up", but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out. And a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and “go with the flow”.

Nah, only dead fish "go with the flow."

Sarah Palin, who equates innumerable Americans with "dead fish," a feminist heroine or working-class hero? Laura Clawson and Peggy Noonan are having none of that.

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