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Palin Fantasies

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By Ben Cohen

In response to a dreary piece by Ross Douthat on Sarah Palin's rise and fall in American politics, Andrew Sullivan makes a point about the Right's inability to get beyond class warfare:

The column is yet another rehash of the Nixonian class resentments
and Rovian cynicism that dominate what passes for the GOP's thinking
classes: if only she'd waited and "boned up" on the issues, she could
have had a real future. Er: How about nominating someone who actually
knew something about some issues before she was picked? Or
someone who could at least give a passing imitation of even being
interested in them? Did that ever occur to Ross?

He mentions
not a single policy issue, nor a single actual accomplishment this hood
ornament of a candidate can be credited with. He mentions not one of
her increasingly fantastic delusions and lies. But somehow it's her
elitist enemies' fault that she came acropper!

Modern politics is a cynical game based on image, perception and sound bytes, and the public has become increasingly disinterested as the stakes get higher. Every year the media and political parties invent new dramas, new stars and new bogeymen, yet dissatisfaction with the political classes has become demonstrably higher. Sarah Palin is about as pure a media creation as we have seen in the modern era, perhaps trumping George W. Bush himself. Anyone with a vague understanding of the issues reeled in horror when Palin began to speak her mind, terrified that she may actually have had a chance in the election. The Right though, didn't seem to care and were proud of the fact that Palin had no fucking clue what she was doing. To the Republicans, dumb is simply another demographic, and Palin appealed massively to them.

Obama was also largely a media creation, but the difference was there happened to be an awful lot of substance behind it. This may, or may not have been deliberate, but it doesn't really matter now - we have someone in the Oval Office with the intellectual capacity to handle complex, difficult and potentially dangerous situations. Had McCain and Palin been voted in, the world would appear a considerably darker place (difficult to imagine, I know).

Many of the intellectual Republicans still harbor hopes that Palin will run in 2012, pedalling the Rovian horseshit that she has what it takes to beat the 'liberel elite' Obama. Writes Douthat:

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.

Douthat reduces the Presidency of the United States to a battle of image rather than substance and one of competing narratives rather than ideas. It is cynical beyond belief, and apparently passes for political commentary. Douthat should be an image consultant rather than a columnist for the New York Times. At least then he could be honest about his profession.