I have been very reluctant to put up a post about the former Governor of Alaska. It's somewhat off-putting to me all the attention this woman has captured for actually doing very, very little. Consequently I feel like I'm feeding the machine saying anything about her. So, I'll do my bit as a blogger and comment. But rather than direct all my points specifically at Ms. Palin the person, I would take issue with Sarah Palin the phenomenon and this country's fascination with her.
First of all, let's get past some of the basic criticisms I have of her.
- She was (is) absolutely not qualified to be vice-president of the United States. To be VP (seriously folks) you have to be qualified to be the president of the United States. Ms. Palin, for all of her "Mavericky" statements aside can't really be thought of as having the bonafides to become president. I want to make a distinction here. She is eligible. She fulfills the requirements relative to naturalization and age to be eligible for the office. My issue is qualification. This woman has extremely limited knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs and the office of the presidency spends a significant amount of its time focused on world affairs. This is a person who confuses Iraq and Iran, calls Africa a Nation instead of a continent. Please people. If you can't pass 7th grade geography, you can't be president.
- She knows she isn't qualified but took the gig (VP Candidate) when offered to her. That is either: Ignorance and a complete lack of understanding of one's capabilities and skills or; a monumental ego thinking she can sail into the job because she actually got elected governor. I would have had so much admiration for her if she had told the McCain campaign: "No thank you. I'm seriously flattered you considered me but I am not ready. I do want the job but in the future, after I've done more work for Alaska. Perhaps a Senate run soon, but I need to focus on my state and understanding the issues better on a national issue before I throw my hat in the ring." Now, think for a minute about that. Even you Sara Palin acolytes. What a fresh and genuine statement that would have been. She could have become a serious student of world affairs over the next 4-8 years and been a formidable candidate for Senate, VP, or yes, even president by then. So, she caved to her base instincts of self promotion and ambition. So did the people around her. But. you know who the biggest evil in this weird play is? The McCain camp. Who ever thought it was a smart idea to do this was an idiot. If it's McCain himself, that's even worse and thank God someone who thinks like that wasn't elected president.
- Her actions during the campaign. Essentially conflating and lying, she called then candidate Obama a terrorist sympathizer, one who doesn't represent the "real America". Not only was this the crassest form of politics, it was completely wrong. When she said Obama "pal's around" with William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground movement in the 60's, she didn't supply the facts of any association, she just threw it out there and allowed all sorts of bullshit to float up around this. This type of innuendo politics is a sign of small mindedness, no ideas and a basic goal of winning at all costs versus being true to a specific issue. Her winks, smirks, shout-out's to Joe Six pack, Her "Hockey Mom" persona, all of this was her essential toolkit. Nothing else. She is attractive, has a reasonably interesting back-story, got herself elected mayor and Governor and that's about it. No position papers on taxes, no position papers on health-care, no foreign policy speeches. Nothing of substance.
- Her resignation as Governor. Nonsensical in her resignation speech, she indicated she was stepping down in order to help Alaska. I don't think she meant it in the self-awareness sense of "I'm not doing a very good job and for the sake of my state, I'm gonna resign". No, this was, I'm going to grab the brass ring and make some cash, keep my name out there and who knows? I might just be seriously considered as a presidential contender in 2012. You know what? She's right about that one at least.
Now, enough about Ms. Palin the person. I could keep going on this but what's the point? The people who don't like her won't like her any less, and the people who love her wont' pay attention anyway. So, let's move one to the phenomenon that is Ms. Palin with one basic question:
Why has she caught the attention of the American people in such a fashion? What is the deal here? Is it because she is considered a "real person"? Is it because she's good-looking? Is it because she thinks nothing of grandiose self-promotion and the Palin "brand" is out there 24x7?
I don't really know but have a few theories. I think that in some cases people are looking for simple answers to difficult problems. It's not surprising, we have serious problems in this country, and to think about it hard and long becomes depressing. We have, essentially in a few hundred years squandered the promise that America portended when she became a nation. We've become at one time an arrogant and ignorant country. So, instead of getting into the muck with the shovel and working through the problems methodically, slowly, thoughtfully, and painfully, we look for the short and fast answer. It must be their fault! (substitute whomever you want to blame. French, Muslims, Chinese, Mexicans, Martians, Bears, etc.) We look for the bogeyman to blame our troubles on. It's those right wingers! It's those left wingers!
So, along comes a cute, spunky, all American (she was a beauty pageant contestant by the way) girl who says we just have to "drill, baby drill". We just have to listen to Joe-Six pack. We just have to get the awful government out of the way and let all of us move this great country forward! Simple answers to complex problems. That's the image that Ms. Palin and unquestionably the Republican party brings forward.
Secondly, our country is becoming more and more stupid. Education is tracking well behind other developed countries. Our time is spent more watching "Dances with the Stars" instead of actually looking at the stars (Astronomy). We spend more time playing "Rock Band" the fake music game than actually learning how to play instruments. We spend more time on Facebook filling out ridiculous quizzes like (what character from Harry Potter are you?) (confession, I've done this and am Professor Lupin). The point here is we as a collective nation are too busy to learn, debate, consider, postulate, develop, and become "smarter". It's not surprising, given the demands on us for work, raising our kids, "Keeping Up With the Jones". The thirst and quest for additional "stuff" has us avoiding philosophy, art, engineering, science and looking to Batman and Superman to solve our problems. There seems to be a direct correlation to the erosion of intelligence and the rise of suspicion of others, the embracing of simple answers (just vote against them, or let God handle it, or ignore it and it will go away). The Palin phenomenon has come along just at the right time for a large segment of our nation. She's safe, she's homey (makes moose chili), she's a mom, she's an "Up With People" type of brand that we can all just adore.
So, Ms. Palin is on her book tour for "Going Rogue". Her memoir of the candidacy and her world-view (such as it is). She's going to make a lot of money and her fans are going to love her all the more for it. After all the tours are done, all the books signed, all the talk shows visited, all the news shows reporting her every word, gaffe, wink, clothes she wears, fights she has with a 19 year old kid who is the father of her grand-child, what have we got? A couple of years older and a couple of years dumber.
Is this really what you want?
Oh Sarah, make all the coin you can. I hope you have the smarts to save it and really, for the sake of my country, pass 7th grade geography.