The Popularity Contest—American version

(Originally posted 9/16/2008, 10:12 a.m.)

You gotta love Tina Fey. Even better, you gotta love Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Bang on. It’s scarily funny just how accurate that Saturday Night Live skit was, with its message about politics in America: In a nation where anything is possible, you can hurdle out of obscurity and lack of merit (Palin), right past those who are more capable and brighter (Hillary Clinton), to potentially win the most important role in the world. Here’s someone who’s taking advantage of being in the right place at the right time (a token women politician at a time when her party needed one to corral the millions of still-bitter female voters), sashaying in with her “Tina Fey glasses”, to take what rightfully should have gone to more deserving politicians with more substantial experience.

I’d been meaning to jot down my thoughts on the whole Palin-McCain fiaso since the day her nomination was announced, and by now, everything that needs to be said has already been said by political commentators far more experienced than I. Nonetheless, I do need to get this off my chest . . .

Sarah Palin scares me. No wait, Sarah Palin annoys me. She and her kind bother me to no end. By “her kind”, I don’t mean women, or women politicians, or working moms. Nor do I mean Alaskans, hockey-supporters, former beauty queens, small-town mayors, or even moose-hunters. I mean those who want to have their cake and eat it too. I mean those who want it both ways. I mean hypocrites.

Here’s someone who parades her family as part of her core values, and supposedly hands her infant to supporters “like the Stanley Cup”, but demands privacy for her family.* Here’s a politician who complains that her private life is being unduly scrutinized and attacked, knowing full well that her party especially, relished delving into candidates’ personal and sexual past. Here’s a woman who calls herself a pitbull with lipstick, yet decries the supposed sexism in politics, as it pertains to her. (Can you imagine the ruckus she would have kicked up if any other commentator, especially male, had made that lipstick comment?) Here’s a party who, only weeks ago, claimed that Barack Obama’s weakest point was his supposed lack of experience, yet is putting forth as a candidate someone who has for only 21 months been governor of the fifth-smallest state (population 670,000, the size of Little Rock, AK), and previous to that, was mayor of a town of 9,000 souls.** Here’s someone who’s proud of, and relies heavily on, her “Aw shucks, I’m just one of the average common folk” background to win the popularity contest that is American politics, but cries that the “media elite” is shutting her out of Washington, whenever any commentator questions her suitability and experience for the White House.

This last point is most worrisome, because it means that Palin sees no wrong in herself and her candidacy, and questions anyone’s right to question her. Whenever anyone legitimately questions her suitability to be in the top leadership role, she and her party claim that it’s a “personal attack.” Case in point: Matt Damon, while in Toronto, expressed to the media that it’s scary knowing that a woman who thinks dinosaurs existed only 4,000 years ago (read, ignorant) could potentially have access to nuclear codes. Said he, a politician lacking in experience can’t just sail into an important job and bring her folksy hockey-rink attitude to the table with Vladimir Putin. How does Palin’s rep respond? By calling Mr. Damon’s opinions a case of “name-calling.” Sounds like the pitbull with lipstick isn’t so strong and capable of defending valid objections against her candidacy. That merely makes her a pitbull with lipstick . . . minus the pitbull.

Sigh. There’s so much wrong with the whole Palin situation that makes me really worried about living next-door to a population that could possibly think that she’s suitable to be President. Don’t get me wrong—I know plenty of hockey/soccer moms. And I’m sure that they’re intelligent, and resourceful, and highly-accomplished multi-taskers. But if saddled with Palin’s laughably weak political resumé, none of them should (potentially) be President of the United States. Let’s hope the American voters get it right, and vote in a team based on capability and smarts, not on how popular they are with the common folk, or how good they look in stylish glasses.

* I’m sorry, but when you accept to be the candidate for one of the top jobs in the world, you have to know that your past, and everything and everybody that’s every been linked to you, will be dug up and viewed under the microscope of the American voting public. Such is the nature of the beast in politics. You accepted the rules of the game when it came to other candidates, so you have to accept it when you yourself play the game. That means that if your husband was arrested for drunk driving; if there was ever any question of petty political wrongdoing against family members; if you’re accused of library book censorship—all of this is being used against you when your electorate is judging the character of a person that they want to represent them. So you can’t have it both ways–privacy and “Hey, look at me and how wonderful my family is.”

** Palin can claim that that gives her “executive experience”, but I live in a small town, and I know of the type of petty, outrageous, scratch-my-back shenanigans that can take place at the level of small-town politics. The type of shenanigans where firing your brother-in-law because he pissed off your family isn’t unheard of. And that’s not the type of “executive experience” that you should be bragging about, or bringing into the White House.


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