Over at the Moderate Voice, speculation--far from the first I've seen along these lines-- that Palin's appeal is her "regular folks"-ness. That the same lack of polish and grace and knowledge that earned her derision is what attracted a lot of people to her in the first place. And, by the same token, why the people who execrate her feel so very strongly about her. Snobbery; classism, even, maybe.
Now that she's gone (please God), I can address this feeling a bit less...fraught. But yeah, still firmly of the same opinion as before:
1) Being "regular" is not, as the author of this piece seems pretty clear on at least, a qualification in itself to hold the highest office in the country, especially if part of the "regular" is not knowing what the fuck you're doing. There are some jobs that take actual skills besides likable folksiness. Airplane pilot. Surgeon. And yep, President of the United States.
2) Yeah, I do actually feel -that strongly- about a number of the religio-political positions that she'd espoused. "Oh, she doesn't really mean it" isn't much of a comfort, somehow, when you've got the religious right baying their approval and no reason to suspect she -doesn't- mean it. Yes, I'd feel at least as strongly and express at least as much fear and loathing if she'd been, o, I dunno, Ralph Reed?
3) Even besides that, though: look, your "regular" may not be everyone's "regular." I get that Palin reminds a number of people of their Auntie Betty back home or whomever. Goes to church, hockey mom, PTA in the small town/suburb... This is not my "back home," okay. This is not a -number- of Americans' back home. For some of us, "regular" -is- life in the big city; some of us laugh at old Woody Allen movies because -that- reminds us of our aunties and grannies. Have a different but equally authentic idea of homespun family values. Different but equally valid homespun -families.- A lot of people see themselves reflected better by the Obama family than anyone who came before, and no, it isn't because they love arugula so much.
This in itself wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the not-at-all subtle dog whistles coming from Palin and a fair chunk of her hardcore fans that -any- reminder that their "regular" isn't everyone's "regular" is tantamount to a declaration of war.
4) Even assuming Palin did remind us of regular folks back home, not all of have the same positive transference to this particular personality.
"Yeah, she does kind of put me in mind of my parents' next door neighbor, now you mention. Known her since I was a kid; she's at all the PTA meetings, even still, I think. Keep running into her at the grocery store every time I'm back home for a visit. God, is she ever tiresome. Never could stand her annoying ass. She's like the Pointy Haired Boss, only perky."
But back to the first point, which I think is the most important in this particular framing:
When exactly did running for political office become a reality show? And when are we going to figure out that no, giving any and every camera-hungry yutz their requisite fifteen seconds (not even minutes anymore) and then tearing them down again isn't of itself a sign of healthy democracy?
Seriously, I doubt we've ever seen so many "regular folk" get their time in the media spotlight as now. It doesn't mean jack except that we're a bunch of exhibitionists and voyeurs. And that we have a -lot- to work out, collectively, about what exactly this whole notion of "all created equal, life, liberty, happiness, yadda" actually -means- for us. Because, what with the apparently intractable ginormous wealth gap, somehow? Whatever else? Ego-salving and nicely distracting though it may be in the short run, I don't think living vicariously through "Political D-Listed" is gonna fix the problem.
"Mediocre people need representation too." --Roman Hruska
ETA: Interesting post now, also at The Moderate Voice, on how Palin is essentially channeling the same vibe as Nixon. Others had said much the same about Dubya, wealth or no wealth.
In a word, Richard Nixon mastered the art of self-pity and resentment. From his famous Checkers speech, through his “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” to his cultivation of the “Silent Majority”, to his paranoia about liberal (and often Jewish) media elites, to his selection of arch-culture warriors Spiro Agnew and Pat Buchanan as his right-hand men, Richard Nixon mastered the politics of resentment. He exploited the sneers and mockery of educated elites and made himself - and his followers - martyrs of normalcy. He was the true defender of Joe Six-Pack, who only understand the world in simple terms and distrusted all the intellectuals. Like Joe McCarthy, Nixon mastered the art of cultural paranoia and expertly pitted the mass voting bloc of middle and working class white America against various and assorted “freaks.”
But no politician has better embodied the Orthogonian spirit better than Sarah Palin. Like Nixon, Palin was driven by a sense that the elites were out to get her. Those elites could be the mainstream Alaska Republican Party. They could be Ivy League graduates. They could be national media figures who mock her use of platitudes. They could be secularist elements that see the world in more complicated moral and theological terms than the Assembly of God. Sarah Palin played on the paranoid dimension of Orthogonianism - Obama palling around with terrorists, etc. - better than any Republican in years.
That explains her appeal to the “GOP base.” It wasn’t her religion or pro-life views per se. It was her willingness to “fight back” against the Franklins - the “know-it-all” liberal elites who, like their 1960s forbears, sneer at the unironically religious and patriotic and rural and non-college educated. She was a battler, never as articulate as a Romney or, God forbid, an Obama, but with far more grit than any other “career politician.”
Well. And then you have the rather amazing spectacle of people then trying to turn -Obama- into the "elite." Because he does have the education, the smooth eloquence and style (surely a "natural" gift to be appreciated and cultivated to one's advantage at least as much as Palin's good looks, no?) and apparently has a penchant for the fancy lettuce-in-a-bag. The whole, "and he -couldn't- have possibly -earned- any of that, what's he/the Party hiding?" wasn't remotely racist, nope.
Because what this article doesn't say explicitly, although it's clearly there in the allusion to Nixon's well-known anti-Semitism: the resentment in question isn't just about being relatively "have-not." It's about people who think that they -deserve- to be, not just living well, but -on top-, and--for some reason--aren't. Hence the railing at both the Powers and Principalities and at "freaks" and assorted minorities who are taking their rightful pottage away from them. Hence the rather sig heilish zeitgeist at the McCain/Palin rallies (and in the post-election Tea Parties and so forth). Hence, a lot of us feeling just a tad wary of these people.