Friday, September 05, 2008

Manufacturing Sarah Palin

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There is no denying that Sarah Palin is popular. However, she is popular largely because she remains an unknown to most Americans. At most, most Americans have heard that she gave a good speech other other night, and may even have seen a few soundbite-friendly clips here and there. (Although the ratings were Obama-like impressive, no doubt a result of her instant celebrity status, emerging from blanket media coverage and effective Republican spin.) They very likely do not know that the "goodness" of her speech is best understood relative to media-driven expectations, which were extremely low.

Her popularity is also partisan. The theocrats see her as one of their own, the base fell in love (and lust) with her almost immediately, and, with the Republicans circling the wagons in her defence, her candidacy has been turned into an "us" and "them" dynamic, with "them" being both the Democrats and the media.

Palin spoke of accountability and leadership the other night, but she and the McCain campaign are ensuring that she won't be held accountable and won't be required to defend her leadership during the campaign. She will not be on the Sunday morning talk shows this week, unlike the other three, Obama, Biden, and McCain. Obviously, the strategy is to keep her out of the spotlight, to avoid putting her on the spot, to keep her away from the media, to limit her appearances to structured, controlled, partisan events. In fact, it is being reported that she is going to "hole up in Alaska for a little," so "we may not see her on the campaign trail for a little while." (This from NBC's Chuck Todd.) She no doubt has some gubernatorial duties to attend to, and her son is shortly off to Iraq, but it is nonetheless revealing that she is following up the RNC, and her introduction to national politics, not by hitting the campaign trail but by going home.

This is from Alaska blog Mudflats, which has become essential reading: "Nobody even knows who she is. She read one prepared statement twice in a row, and then gave a speech written by Bush's speechwriter. Unless you're on the internet searching compulsively for YouTube videos of obscure Palin moments in churches and assembly meetings, or diving head first in to the blogosphere, you haven't got a clue."

That's right, most people don't have a clue and won't be getting one anytime soon. There is a concerted effort underway to keep McCain away from the media, given his long history of embarrassing himself, and that effort is now extending to Palin. There are questions than need answering, and points that need clarifying, but Palin has no intention of answering or clarifying anything. Best for her to remain a paradoxical celebrity unknown than to open herself up to further scrutiny. The base already loves her, after all, and the Republican Party is motivated in a way it hadn't been before her selection. Having her answer or clarify would only expose her for the extremist she is, an extremist who is deeply ignorant of the world around her and supremely unqualified for national politics, let alone the vice presidency.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share