Ricci Levy

Palin: A serious dose of reality

Filed By Ricci Levy | September 04, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Drew Westen, election campaigns, John McCain, reaction to palin, religious right, Republicans, Sarah Palin, sarah palin's convention speech, speech

This morning I had one of those ah-ha moments that leaves you slightly ill and trembling as you confront a reality of which you were aware but had somehow managed to avoid.

In so many places, on lists and on blogs, from pundits to activists, a kind of celebration of Palin's candidacy as a gift from above for the Obama campaign. There is a special delight in her lack of experience. There are intelligent discussions of her possible ethics violation. There have been days of discussions of her family's decisions around her unmarried, pregnant 17 year old. All of these no-brainer "we win" discussions have had me nodding my head while holding my breath.

There's no question in my mind that choosing Palin was a serious mistake. I mean, what was he thinking? How could anyone put her up there a heartbeat away from that phone that could ring in the middle of the night? No brainer. Obama wins the election.

Until this morning and a phone call from someone close to me....

The call began innocently enough with a discussion of the weather, how the children are doing, how work is going for this person. And then came the moment that is still giving me palpitations.

This person asked if I had seen Palin at the convention last night. And then went on to tell me how excited she is that she finally - for the first time in her life - has a hero in politics. She could barely contain her joy in sharing with me all of the amazing, wonderful things about Palin. She has five children. She's opposed to birth control. She is 100% opposed to abortion. She belongs to the NRA. She's in the union and so is her husband. She supports the oil industry. She's beautiful, intelligent and a good mother.

When I raised the issue of whether this is the person you want to have step into the office of President, the response was that no one person really runs the country. Presidents have cabinets and they know what they're doing. She also challenged me by asking if anyone questioned Pelosi's ability to run the Senate when she could end up running the country if something happens to the President and Vice President.

She is elated. She is 42 years old. Her entire church is celebrating Palin's nomination. All of her friends and family are celebrating. She is, for the first time in her life, going to go out and campaign for someone.

This is reality. It's not beltway reality. But it is reality. While we're turning up our noses at Palin as a bizarre choice for office, folks like this person with whom I spoke this morning are celebrating the coming of the political messiah.

If we don't recognize this reality we will lose this election. If we repeat the mistakes we made of counting on facts to counter emotion, we will lose this election.

For anyone who hasn't read it yet, I recommend Drew Westen's book, The Political Brain. It addresses this very issue.

I don't even have a snappy close to this post - just a deep sense of fear that I can't seem to shake today!

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First, I have to ask what your friend's political persuasion is and have to respond to this with a line from Zora Neale Hurston.

'All My Skinfolks Ain't My Kinfolks'

Yes and yes. I've had the same sort of "ah-ha" moment you're talking about over and over again.

Although I personally feel as though Palin's nomination is a mockery of the political process (but then again, what's new?), a surprising number of Americans not surrounded by the ever digging, ever researching, ever posting blogosphere seem to have been stunned by her speech. And not in the "stunned to silent disgust" sort of way. People seem to love her as a candidate.

Her nomination should have been a handout to the Obama/Biden ticket. It should have automatically been a "we win" scenario. But it's not. Even those that aren't on the Obamarama train (I'm certainly not - Green Party!) need to wake up and get behind the Obama/Biden ticket and stop the premature celebrations. Otherwise on Nov. 5th we could all be waking up to a very different reality.

She is a staunch Republican. She is a very religious person. She believes that abortion is murder - no ifs, ands of buts.

HOWEVER, she and her husband, and her husband's family (all staunch Republicans) were going to vote for Obama. They felt (this was early on) that McCain and Obama were pretty much the same coin toss, but that Obama had been able to engage youth and really might make it possible for us to do some good over the next 4 to 8 years.

Needless to say, that's no longer accurate for them.

Wolfgang E. B. | September 4, 2008 2:00 PM

The only way Obama can lose this election is if his supporters get discouraged by the Republicans' illusion of strength. And that's all it is: an illusion, meticulously crafted by the Republican powers that be. Don't be fooled by their temporary buzz of heightened morale. Conventions have that effect on people.

Ah, but it isn't an illusion. Palin really is that gun-toting, friend of oil, union member, mother of five AND mother of a downs child with an unmarried pregnant daughter.

And that's all before she opened her mouth and gave a good speech!

Wolfgang E. B. | September 4, 2008 5:02 PM

A well-delivered speech perhaps, but one that exposes her incompetence. Her degrading comments about community organizers, her lies about Obama, her lies about her own policies--It's all going to come back to haunt her and the Repugnican ticket.

The Reich may be Mc. "raisin'" Cain and reveling in the hoopla of their new beauty queen, but Obama's just Biden his time, waiting for the convention balloons to settle and deflate. And deflate they will, because the R. ticket will Palin comparison when the debates begin, and the press-war heats up, and blood pressures rise...

Fear not.

The only way Obama can lose is if there are enough sub-prime voters out there - the kind who would elect George W. Bush (a one and a half term governor of Texas who had proclaimed a state "Jesus Day") and then re-elect George W. Bush after four years of intelligence, military, economic, and constitutional incompetence.

And there are.

I don't want Palin anywhere near the White House, but I have to concede after last night that she can certainly deliver a speech. I can also recognize that McCain traded the ability to pick on Obama's background, for the solid support of conservatives, and particularly conservative women.

The last few days, I've been asked what I think of Palin, and of course, my response has been that I think she's a totally unqualified Religious Reicher who shouldn't be any closer to Washington than Juneau. The response is 50/50 - literally - half agree, the other half think she's the most wonderful candidate they've ever seen, echoing what your friend told you.

I originally thought McCain was crazy to pick her, but crazy like a fox might be more correct, not that I'd ever support that senile old coot. But this one's going down to the wire, with every state being in play. I work until 2AM Eastern time, and fully expect this election to still be undecided by the time I get off work that night.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 4, 2008 3:58 PM

Ricci, if the Democrats don't go negative toward the Republicans and start getting personal, we can kiss the election goodbye. The Republicans have made it clear they're going to take the gloves off, lie, make this election about personality, and do everything they can to appeal people's gut reactions and fear. Meantime, the Dems keep prefacing any mild criticism they dare to make with something along the lines of, "McCain/Palin are admirable people, but..." American voters don't hear beyond the but.

"American voters don't hear beyond the but."

Shouldn't you have spelled that with two "t?"

No, that's what McCain was staring at when he announced his VP pick - her ass.


Well, you know what they say. "After the "but" comes the bullshit. :)

Well....I would have said yes - we need to be right back at them, but do we?

We can respond with facts that counter their rhetoric, but it's been proven over and over that voters from from emotion, not fact (the vast majority) and they will sometimes even vote against their self-interest to limit someone else's freedoms.

What we keep hearing is how much people like Palin. Those aren't folks who are considering her ability to deal with war, an economy that's in the toilet, etc.

We've been down this road before - over and over - as we use our intelligent, fact-laden responses to try and make our points. And even though people hear what we're saying, it isn't absorbed in a way that would compel them to vote for the facts. They vote for the person.

I feel myself slipping towards a state of irrelevance in this country's politics.

First, as a gay man, an black man, and an upper-middle class, college-educated, white collar worker, and a non-Christian whose far enough to the left as to be completely out of the mainstream, I am already among the least relevant, least important voters in this election. I'm not one that either party feels the need to win over or pander to; one because they wouldn't dream of it, and the other because they know I have nowhere else to go.

Now it seems that fact-based arguments about political policies and their real-life consequences have no place in our politics.

If that's true, then neither do people such as myself. Unless I can learn to counter unreason with unreason.

And if that's what it takes to win an election, is that what it will take to govern? If so, I fear we are further gone than I feared.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 5, 2008 11:52 AM

I feel myself slipping towards a state of irrelevance in this country's politics.

Terrance, I feel your pain. And while I don't share the mix of details that make you feel irrelevant, my own mix is making me feel right there beside you.

I'm glad to see someone taking this "gimmick" pick seriously. Her choice significantly changes the nature of the race by firing up the right-wing base that was lukewarm toward McCain. Veep choices (like... oh, Biden) usually don't make much difference one way or another in an election, but McCain's choice of Palin looks different to me.

With her help, he's managed to "rebrand" himself yet again (to use a dreadful campaign metaphor that's popular with some Obama supporters who thought the whole "branding" thing was his alone). McCain 3.0 (or is it 4.0) looks a little more like the "maverick" McCain 1.0 of the 2000 campaign, except that this time he gets the fundy-right on his side.

Palin is clearly a savvy politician who will be able to draw more than just the right wing of the party toward McCain. Because she can talk in the libertarian tones that are popular there, she might, for instance, have assured McCain more room for comfort in the Mountain States where the Obama campaign thought they had at least a fighting chance.

And the GOPers have been very good so far at turning the "experience" talking points back on the Obama campaign. It does, in fact, seem to be a debate that the McCain camp wants to encourage because they think they can win it.

I think you're right to be very scared of this pick and not just because it would be frightening to have Palin a heartbeat away, but because she makes it more likely that it will be McCain's cranky heartbeat that actually gets to beat in the Oval.

Nice to see some one finaly woke up that this is not a done deal.Not all Americans are liberal or yellow dog Democrates or for that matter card carring Republicans. Each party now has there base set and the die hards won.Its time to try and court the vast muddy middle of folks like me who tend to be in the center on most issues.Yes and we even go with they make me feel good to when picking our leaders after all who wants to vote for somebody that your afraid of?

Politics is a contact sport with no rules.

Well I for one am neither a Democrat or a Republican but I do lean right but not far enough to be a fan of Governor Palin.I don't see my vote for Obama up for grabs because McCain chose a lying pitbull in lipstick.Keep plugging away trying to dig up the real Sarah Palin and showing why she's not a real choice.While I've seen some digging on her and her husbands involvement in the Alaska separatist movement I haven't noticed if anyones been doing any digging on her parents.Idaho is a hot bed for hate groups, militia minded people and nutcases so is New Hampshire and Arizona.I'm not real savvy at the digging for facts part but I'm willing to bet there maybe some damning evidence to be found in Idaho and I'm smelling a separatist rat in the Republican Party.

But what will we do with that information? Folks don't care about the bridge to nowhere. They've already moved past the ethics violation. They don't care if she has an awful reputation in her home state.

They like her.

That's the reality.

I don't know the cure.

She is proof that Republicans are superficial and ouly care about the person's physical attributes and how well they can read a speech written by Karl Rove rather than real experience or knowledge. Palin only knows what they have been spoon-feeding her from the last week.

Oh, and my comment on the pit bull line. Palin needs to be reminded that pit bulls are banned in some communities in this country . . . as should she.

Ricci people are all fired up right now but as the days and weeks before the election pass they'll wear down.As their coming off that high you have to bombard them with the facts.I live in a house with a 77 year old Korea vet who absolutely loves McCain and a mother who's a man follower.I'm working my mother over on the sidelines and him in front of her.Make them think in his case he just watches baseball, old movies, and fox news.You've got to coach them out of their comfort zones and get them to see the real picture.The one way I'm going to start on him is to point out how the Palin type people gave us Tim McVeigh (Oklahoma city bombing)as he came out of that militia crowd.Monica my take on her pitbull line was if I see her without her lipstick on I'm calling the dog Catcher.

You always have a way of making me smile. Thanks.

It's more than enfuriating that people are attracted to her candidacy because she delivered a good speech. She didn't write it, of course (these sorts rarely do anyway, I'm not holding it against her), she delivered a good speech. Any actress worth her salt could have done the same.

And while I know this is all theater, it shouldn't be. So the bigger question is, I think, how do we get the electoral process to stop being about theater?

Well, first you'd have to convince the 85000 viewers not to watch the convention. Then you'd have to convince....you get the point.

Politics is about theather. I think that the closest we've come to someone who doesn't offer a platform taylored to win an election is - or rather, was - Obama. And the press and even "we" have insisted that he do "this" differently, say "this" differently....

There are things that everyone wants to hear (just think of the endless posts and debates about whether it's partner or spouse in a same sex relationship or whether there was enough attention paid to the LGBT community by name, etc.) The same thing is going on in the reproductive justice movement, in all the social change movements.

Given that your friend thinks that Nancy Pelosi runs the Senate, my expectation of political sophistication is fairly low.

However, if she agrees with McCain/Palin on the issues, I don't begrudge her support of them. I disagree with their opinions, but given what they are, there's no reason to expect them to support Obama.

If she disagreed with Palin, but was so smitten with her that she was changing her vote, then I'd be worried.