While I’m not a person who scares easily, I’ll be brutally honest and say this woman scares me more than any politician I’ve known in any country. She scares me far more than the chillingly cheerful Russian leaders we were taught were our enemies when we were children. She scares me more than Franco, and I spent a fair amount of time in Spain when Franco was enjoying the last wind in his sails before his ultimate fall. She certainly scares me more than Maggie Thatcher or Ronald Reagan ever managed to do; and whilst I viewed the emergence of George Bush the Younger on the political scene in 2000 with the sort of horror reserved for observing an impossibly drunk fraternity boy opening his flies on a wintery evening to write his name in piss on the snow, I viewed Palin’s debut on the political stage with abject fright.
Just as I’d had Bush pegged as the rich frat guy you enjoyed hanging out with until he got drunk and puked on your shoes, from the minute I saw Palin, she oozed the mean girl gene. And I mean “mean.”
But what alarmed me even more, as the campaign season swung forward, was her abject ignorance. The interview with Charlie Gibson, where she had no idea what a particular foreign policy initiative was and tried to blag her way through the question (“In what respect, Charlie?” Smile sweetly, bat the eyelids.), impressed upon me the image of a woman who’d used her looks to progress as far as she had. She really was the Homecoming Queen who’d stepped up to the plate to become Queen of the Prom, and this was it. Then came the Katie Couric interview, where her answer to what newspapers she read (“some of’em, all of’em”) was a frantic clutching at straws and where her total ignorance of any Supreme Court decision was almost comical (“I’ll get back to ya on that one.”)
Then came the subtle hate speeches, where she intimated that Candidate Obama wasn’t exactly like any other candidate who’d run before, if he were, at all, like any American. After all, he “palled around” with terrorists.
In all honesty, I’m not certain whether Palin, herself, frightens me or whether what she and her followers radiate as a whole, frightens me more. It’s not just the cult of anti-elitism, it’s the ingrained idea that anyone who obtains a university degree from a quality institution, much less someone who attains a professional degree from a law school or a graduate degree is something pejorative. It’s the whole idea that they’ve almost been chosen by a cruel Christian god whom they’ve appropriated to impart their message of entitlement to take this country back to a time in which they fervently believe, but which actually never existed.
The Founding Fathers whose memories she verbally fondles in her speeches were the most elite members of society of their time. They were Deists, and some were even atheists. They were cultural products of the Age of Reason. If Thomas Jefferson or James Madison came back today, Palin would sneeringly label them “Democrats.” If Jesus Christ appeared, he’d be denounced as a Progressive and castigated. Again.
Palin’s made racism fashionable again. I guess you could say that racism is the new black this season, all because there’s an intelligent, articulate and compassionate black man in the White House. But it’s not that sort of racism. It’s the sort which leads people to make campaign adverts showing distinctly dark men hovering around a suspicious gate, intimating that Latinos are suspected of being here illegally; it’s the sort of ignorance borne of that sort of racism which leads a candidate for the United States Senate to remark condescendingly to a room of Latino students that some of them “looked Asian.” It’s a plea to “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” their inalienable right to worship as they please where they please. It’s pointing out in the worst possible and most tactless way that the First Lady of the United States is not “one of us,” whatever that means.
What frightens me even more is the attention this woman garners. Honestly, the late Princess of Wales didn’t garner this much hype at her peak. MSNBC gives her as much attention as Fox, and Fox employs her. Almost every morning, Joe Scarborough and his lackeys sit around their table and plot various ways by which this woman not only can secure the Republican Presidential nomination, they plot her course to the White House. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann certainly talk about her as much as they ever did Hillary, but without the venom; and their criticisms are such that one is left with the definite impression that if they got the opportunity and she gave them the chance, they’d fuck her. On his latest Sunday program, Matthews even compared her favourably to Bill Clinton in political acumen.
The press are obsessing about her viability as a Presidential candidate. I wish they’d stop. Because the more they obsess, the more concrete the possibility becomes, and then I’m forced to remember that this is the country who deemed Richard Nixon dead in the water, after he went down in defeat to Pat Brown in the 1962 California gubernatorial race, and Nixon stormed back in 1968 to win, not one, but two terms as President. His second Administration not only left us with the legacy of Watergate, it also left us with Roger Ailes and Karl Rove, who cut their teeth either working on media strategy for the Republican party or ratfucking the Democrats in the name of Nixon.
And this is also the country which enabled the Supreme Court to annoint George W Bush as 43rd President of the United States, and then elected him to a second term out of sheer fear, they guy with whom you’d want to share a beer. This is the country who elected a black man to clean up the mess left by the trust fund frat boy, but who somehow can’t seem to accept the fact that this President speaks to us and treats us as though we’re children.
And the big fright is that there’s just about enough of us Oedipal enough to want to throw caution and reason to the wind, conjuring up age-old images of dark bogeymen, creatures from the black lagoon and things that go bump in the night, to seek solace in the bosom of a Mama Grizzly.