OKAY, first: I had to undertake a brief AM grocery-shopping excursion before the Glorious Fifth of July Gee It Was Drizzling on Saturday So Let's Fire Off Quarter-Sticks of Dynamite Until 2:45 AM Monday Morning festivities, or, as I like to call it, Why The Fuck Aren't You In Iraq Since You So Enjoy Shit Blowing Up? And, to my surprise, there is apparently a CD collection, I'm guessing from Rhino, of Top 40 Hits From the 60s, 70s, and 80s Which Set Off Homicidal Rages and Spree Killings. And they were playing it. I heard, in succession, "Baby I'd Love You To Want Me", perpetrated by Lobo (and not to be confused with "Baby I'm A-Want You", as executed by Bread, because those involved should be tortured separately); "Spinning Wheel", from Blood Sweat and Tears, about whom one cannot possibly say too little; and "You Light Up My Life" by the Acne Statin Ramblers.
Now, surprisingly, this sort of thing doesn't bother me nearly as much as you'd imagine, because I learned a simple trick: I like to imagine that the programmer was some disgruntled Luddite who knew his asshole of a boss would have to listen to this shit for six hours. What I can't understand is this: who th' fuck is it who feels compelled to whistle along with this crap? In public? And--I am not making any of this up--it was three separate individuals, one per song. It's probably superfluous to add that none could find the key or even relegate himself to a choice of one; I think the ii, the VI, and the remarkably inventive iv of V were featured, respectively, though the particular, and peculiar, applications of random flats, augmentations, and frankly weird glissandos would have made any of 'em difficult for their own mothers to identify.
There would still be plenty of time to ease [Palin] into the national spotlight, to bone up on the issues, and to craft a persona more appealing than the Mrs. Spiro Agnew role the McCain campaign assigned to her.
Thus Ross Douthat, a man who works one day a week and can't decide which day that is.
Please, somebody, explain to me how anyone who'd subjected himself to a single one of the four-hundred-thousand displays of Sarah Palin's substantial ignorance of any and every political issue that cannot be reduced to a bumper sticker could insist she just needs to go home and bone up some? Look. The Bush II thing was perhaps understandable; GOPologists figured he'd been selected for his name recognition. By the time his idiocy was fully recognized he was already the nominee. Palin was a gimmick. Sure, no one could really have predicted the swift chain of events that led to her convention appearance, a mere forty-eight hours later, as an embattled culture warrior. But anyone who'd watched George W. Bush's first speech to Congress seven-and-a-half years earlier could have predicted the artificial hysteria of the reception. That much you're stuck with. But how does a party--even one in disarray--let this stuff go on even after the votes are counted? Sheesh, Jimmy Carter had to go build houses for the poor before anyone'd talk to him, and he was the President. Palin is apparently a draw, but isn't it more important that you have something to raise money for, other than Losing at the Top of your Lungs? And if the Party regulars have no choice in the matter, surely the right punditocracy does.
Except it doesn't; except it's even more afraid of the red-meat Right than the Democrats are, or pretend to be. Remember how fast Nooners recanted her "dead-mic" remarks?
If Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is — the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity — then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure. But this caricature has always missed the point of the Alaska governor’s appeal — one that extends well outside the Republican Party’s shrinking base.
In a recent Pew poll, 44 percent of Americans regarded Palin unfavorably. But slightly more had a favorable impression of her. That number included 46 percent of independents, and 48 percent of Americans without a college education.
That last statistic is a crucial one. 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.
Says the Hahvahd grad who wound up on the Times Op-Ed pages as the apex of a seven-year career spent giving people his opinions. We ask again: has Ross ever been west of the Alleghenies? How much time has he spent around people without a college education without placing an order? Reverse snobbery is just as bad as real snobbery. A college education is a good predictor of your earnings potential; it has little if anything to do with intelligence and practically nothing to do with wisdom. But the suggestion that we'd be no worse off handing the rudder of the USS Liberty over to people who can't find Canada on a map or pronounce the name of a restaurant without adding a possessive is either pure bunkum or a cherished night-night story clung to in adulthood out of fear of examining the reality too closely. Palin isn't leading some new class revolt, and if she were Ross Douthat would be the first person who'd break out in hives. She's polling (for whatever that is worth, in 2009, namely, jack shit) under 50% among the one national constituency where her utter obliviousness, tasteless self-aggrandizement, and artless catchphraseology has a chance of scoring points, and she's gonna have to do a helluva lot better than 48% to overcome her reputation with everyone else. Good God; the stench of those supermarket tabloids I have to pass every time I want to buy something is an argument for their popularity, too, but do you really want to be governed by a coalition of celebrity stalkers and snake handlers?
Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)
Please. The Kennedys have been tabloid fodder for fifty years, despite having the opposite background of the Working Class Hockey Mom from the Middle American Tundra, and despite all their elected officials being male. Their Catholicism was misrepresented too, and Douthat himself seems fine with the idea of using published threats of excommunication as a weapon against Catholic politicians, despite the misrepresentation of doctrine that represents. Such mockery and misrepresentation plays to a house in which 70% of the audience claims to be Christian, by the way; all those bombs hurled at Palin sure find their way to her arsenal quickly enough. (And no, good columnist, she didn't insist on abstinence-only sex ed or creationism in biology class, she merely expressed her support for them as a candidate. And yes, the special-needs budget of Alaskan public schools nose-dived under her watch).
Since Palin? She didn't get 10% of what Bill Clinton got in 1992. And if it hadn't been for the tabloid-worthy exploits of her extended brood, and the merriment at the expense of her obvious fucking unsuitability for the Wasilla Town Council, let alone the office she was running for, how exactly would you have defended her? You'd'a been forced to talk about what Republicans were saying about her, in private. And Ross? Better late than never.