Monday, July 06, 2009

Personally, no, I honestly don't think that's it.

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.


Kristen said...

Alas,at the end of the day, politics have become a reality show. I mean my mother in law voted for HRC in the primary because she thought HRC and WJC were "at least entertaining". That, and working with juries during the last few years, has destroyed my faith in the common sense of humankind.

[Seriously, a jury acquitted a guy last week who "dropped" his 2 year old in a pot of simmering water because they could see how her "falling" into a stockpot could have been an accident.]

So people are stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

On a less depressing note, my dog hates Palin. When she comes on...Abbie growls and hides under my legs. I suspect she's picking up on our revulsion, but its funny to watch.

belledame222 said...

She's not a...pit bull, by any chance, is she?

belledame222 said...

per that jury: oh dear God.

Anonymous said...
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CrackerLilo said...

When commentators describe Sarah Palin as being "like regular folks", I wonder exactly what they think "regular" Americans are and why they hate us so badly. You make an excellent point about how urban Americans are "regular" Americans, too. During the 2008 election, a NYC born-and-raised plumber I've worked with and I joked about how he's such an "elitist" because he's urban and, unlike Joe the Plumber, he actually has a fancy-schmancy certification. You make a *really* excellent point about how many of us who came from small town or exurban settings may not exactly want someone like that busy PTA mom in high office. Thank you.

Ceridwen said...

There's also the fact that you don't get to hold public office by being dumb. You especially don't get to the point of being a candidate for the Vice Presidency by being dumb. So any of that "regularness" she might be exhibiting is an act (see also: George W. Bush's vacillating accent). It's not classist or elitist to find fault with the woman, because that's not her. It's an act, it's her own classist, elitist parody of what she and her political handlers think "regular" Americans are like.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

It's got nothing to do with her "regularness" that deranged far-right-wing sick-fuck scumbags think she's just peachy. The reason they love her is that she affirms and validates their most depraved racist, misogynist, theocratic impulses. It's not that she's regular; it's that she makes them feel regular, and not like the moral degenerates they actually are.

EthylBenzene said...

I hate it that Americans seem to think "which one is most like me" is a perfectly fine way to pick a candidate. Didn't Jon Stewart do a bit about how he wants someone ~smart~ and ~competent~ and how that is not necessarily a bad thing? Sheesh.

belledame222 said...

Seriously. I don't -want- a neurotic, strangely obsessive, prone to going off on complete strangers and screaming at the printer for President ffs; -I- certainly wouldn't trust me with international diplomacy!

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in small town bumfuck Oregon, I was pretty horrified that Palin/McCain would actually win last year. I grew up in a town roughly the size of Wasila, and I couldnt believe supposedly serious people were saying that being mayor of Wasila qualified her to be prez. The GOP needs to get over its fetishization of small town America.

Alon Levy said...

To me, Obama's entire appeal is that he's a normal person: calm, socially adjusted, and with an uncomplicated family relationship. He has a legal and intellectual background, but that's not a problem to people who don't define themselves as being against the urban intelligentsia. In fact a lot of his campaigning was based on this principle, from the way he conducts himself with political opponents to the way he talked about his family. I think that's why he had Biden rewrite his personal story from "corporate politician who's been in the Senate since the Jurassic period" to "Catholic single dad from Scranton who lives in Wilmington and commutes so he can be close to his children."

The same goes for Stewart's call for an intellectual President. Stewart is talking to his audience of people who think they're smarter as a class than everyone else. If his audience were veterans, he'd say he wants a President who has a distinguished military record.

The problem with Palin isn't the identity politics. It's the coupling of identity politics and resentment of people of higher social class, which then leads to resentment of competence. She's the national equivalence of Marion Barry or Al Wynn.

Kristen said...

She's not a...pit bull, by any chance, is she?

Alas no...just a tiny little min pin mix.

Nick said...

Hey Belle,

Miss reading you more frequently on here. Any chance you'll be interested in posting more often again?

Brown Shoes said...

As someone whose entire extended family is "regular, everyday" folks I
'm insulted that anyone would assume they're like Sarah Palin.

littlem said...

"Now that she's gone (please God)"
Don't count on it.
IMO Wailin' Palin loves attention way too much to just *vanish* altogether from the public eye.

(Yes, I know Professor Moody said something similar. And look what happened to him.) :/

"politics of resentment"
This is why.

"It's about people who think that they -deserve- to be, not just living well, but -on top-, and--for some reason--aren't."
See? There you go answering your own questions again.
And if you don't want to deal with the answers right this minute, (at least for now) that's okay too.

(You may just want to take this comparatively quiet station break to check and make sure the extra oxygen tank is in working order, for the overnight legislative campaigns when you need that extra stamina, though.)

P.S. Yes, even though I have a really good excuse for prolonged absence, I am writing you an apology as we speak. So lurkers will be supporting you in email.

belledame222 said...

omg!! hi!!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

littlem, where the fuck you been!?

littlem said...

You all do not want to know, I don't think, and I'm not sure how much you'd believe if I told you. I'm still have splashback, and there are still days I don't believe it myself.

bd222, I do need a favor though. I emailed you at the address you gave me; I accepted the bounceback as appropriate punishment. Would you mind terribly emailing me at the address you have filed here with your new preferred contact? (I might even be able to lure you with potentially lucrative information. All good MFTs and their ilk need that, I think.)

CPP, I'm thinking you're golfing and roasting the populace as appropriate, as the weather is lovely. Instead of using your comment time, can I hit you on chat?

littlem said...

OT: if I'm not mistaken (I will double check), B-roll footage potentially includible in the reality show -- mmm hmm -- is surprisingly up to date!

And Ms. -- excuse me, Mrs. -- Thing holds a quiet fundraiser in southern Indiana, even as we speak.