December 27, 2008 12:30 P.M.
The Game is On:
I have struggled for months with getting my mind around Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate. I can’t do it. It was a colossal blunder that cost McCain any remote shot he might have had.
Palin was poison for McCain for several reasons starting with the fact that she was completely unqualified. Now it can be said that no candidate is or could be prepared for the rigors of the office, but Palin goes far beyond that. She lacked even a rudimentary understanding of our system of government (“the Vice President is in charge of the Senate”??!@!), and her foreign policy outlook was downright frightening -- “I can see Russia from my house” (that’s not fair, I know, but it’s irresistible).
True, I am cherry-picking some great, classic Palinisms, but no one can argue that the Governor of Alaska has any qualification for the office of President other than her political acumen (which is admittedly quite well-developed). Yet, there is serious talk of a Palin 2012 bid for the office and I’m certain by that time she can prepare for a few of those dreaded media interviews. Then again, she may need until 2016.
Ruben Navarette, Jr., writing for CNN and the San Diego Union Tribute recently wrote of Palin’s appeal being a function of her “small town” roots and her “small town values.” Navarette seems to think that Palin’s appeal lies in the perception of her by rural Americans as a “real person” who “reflected their values.” I simply don’t see it. What’s more, I see Palin as a caricature of rural Americans. Certainly, Palin appeals to a section of the population, and her lack of any connection to the mainstream of national politics is a part of that appeal. Despite this, I believe that, for the most part, Americans in small towns and cities alike want to rest assured that their President has foreign policy experience beyond the sidelines at a kid’s soccer game.
As for her core “values”, I don’t pass judgment, but I offer a few insights. Palin as Governor of Alaska, used that office to travel her family around the country to further her own political agenda and to punish her political rivals. She did these things before she hit the national stage (and then tried to undo them), but make no mistake about it, this woman is a classically trained politician. If she does not burn out her “every person” image in the next few years she might be a force to be reckoned with. After all, look at our current (thank goodness, only for a few more weeks) President. He’s living proof that you don’t have to be all that bright to get elected. I sincerely hope no one bets Karl Rove that he can’t get this person elected or we could be in for a real race.
The real point of Navarette’s piece seems to be setting up some sort of urban v. rural conflict as the next Republican strategy. It’s really not a new idea, but an evolution of the red state/blue state “values” argument that has been employed since 2000. It’s a divide and conquer strategy that the Republicans hope will be their answer to the 50 state strategy that put Obama in office without a reliance on the traditional base.
This whole “country mouse/city mouse” idea is nothing more than a continuation of the politics of division preferred by Bush Republicans. The fact is that they are just setting up the next round and using Palin as their poster child. I don’t liven in a big city and never did, but I also don’t think that dads my age in Brooklyn, Watts, Hyde Park or Gaston Park feel any less strongly about their families, the future or the opportunities and challenges their children will face. We are all in this together, and by diminishing Palin’s shortcomings in order to use her lack of sophistication, education and ability to create the mythical “every person” is condescending and insulting. Let’s not allow rural to become a euphemism for stupid, or urban for elitist.
This is precisely the argument the Republicans want to set up. Rush Limbaugh is already trumpeting it. They want to divide us by saying that city folk look down on country folk and therefore they can’t be trusted. It’s all politics and it was not successful this time around because Barack Obama was smart enough, or more precisely, his thinking was sophisticated enough, to not play the game.
To say my values are better, more pure, more American, or more appropriate (God, I hate that word) is to judge and divide. If you think the last election was long, fasten your seatbelts. The game is on.