Deconstructing Sarah

Last night in Minnesota, Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin delivered possibly the most vile, hate filled, and repulsive political statement by a major American figure I have seen in my lifetime. Certainly there have been more vile speeches, but in all honestly I feel like I would need to reach for pro-slavery democrats, pro-segregation dixiecrats, or actual card carrying eugenics supporters in order to find something worse. And those special cases are too extreme and hyperbolic to carry the full weight of the comparison I would like to make. Perhaps the best comparison would be to the extremist views that Pat Buchanan regularly brought before the Republican party back when he was making his various unsuccessful runs at the Presidential nomination. Even in that case however, Buchanan was always recognized as a fringe player who represented the most extreme segment of his party. Sarah Palin, by securing the VP nomination, is apparently right where the Republican party thinks it should be. And that, dear readers, is fucking scary.

Since the mainstream media is largely shying away from the issue of the content of Sarah Palin's speech, in favor of milquetoast horse race analysis of whether she "did what she needed to do," it falls then to the rest of us to try to figure out what to make of this load of venom. In service of that cause, I'd like to take a minute to do an intensive close read of what all the talking heads have agreed is an "extremely well crafted speech" to see exactly what it was that was being said in the sub text of the monster's diatribe.

The speech begins with standard boilerplate, "Thanks for the nomination, I accept, etc..." and from there takes an immediate right turn and begins a voyage into dark territory. The first red flag appears no later than the first sentence after the boilerplate acceptance of the nomination. Palin states: "I accept the challenge of a tough fight in this election against confident opponents at a crucial hour for our country." I'd like to draw attention here to one word in particular, the adjective used to describe Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and by extension all of their supporters. The adjective, "confident," is very subtle in it's criticism. Nearly coded language, "confident" here, where the boilerplate would normally be a tip of the hat in a sort of good sportsmanlike way to a "worthy" or "accomplished" or even "well-organized" opponent, is a milder version of one of the major narratives the Republicans have been trying to drive home about Barack Obama, that he is an arrogant elitist who doesn't care about regular folks. As we will see, this particular narrative becomes absolutely incoherent in the shitstorm of abuse that Palin will hurl at Obama over the course of her speech. It is never the less a talking point that is returned to again and again by Palin and which was also a theme throughout earlier speeches by the likes of Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani, and other scum.

Of course, this portrayal of Obama as "arrogant" becomes even more highly charged due to Obama's ethnic background, since the charge of calling a black man arrogant verges on the label of "uppity negro who doesn't know his place." Particularly when such epithets are issued from the mouths of staunchly right wing, white, Protestant conservatives. Let us not forget the cultural context here: there is another well known group of staunchly right wing, white, Protestant conservatives in America with a much poorer reputation in the public sphere than is enjoyed by the GOP. I see no reason to mention them by name and thus validate their existence any more than is necessary to acknowledge that they exist; suffice it to say if you don't know who I'm talking about that they get group discounts on white bed sheets and give themselves honorary titles that are lifted straight from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.

Palin then launches into some more boilerplate about what a great guy John McCain is and how he's a tough dude who doesn't back down from a fight. Most of this is relatively without substance, the political party equivalent of a school spirit assembly talking about how kick ass the football team is going to be this year. What comes next, however, is difficult to let slide given the choices that Palin and McCain have jointly made in having her become the VP nominee. She uses some stock "support the troops" rhetoric as a way to segue into a tedious introduction of her family to the American people. This is the first time in my memory that a major candidate has done such a thing. Generally speaking there is a nod to a candidate's wife and children during such a speech, but to actually take 5 to ten minutes to introduce the whole brood is excessive even for the party of "family values." Palin introduces each of her five children, plus a nephew, her husband, and her parents. Nary a mention is made, however, of the upcoming birth of Palin's first grandchild despite the fact that her daughter Bristol is visibly pregnant. In fact, the only acknowledgment made of Bristol Palin's pregnancy is the off hand remark that they like all families have their "ups and downs."

Frankly, I find this a bit disingenuous. To begin with, it was the McCain/Palin organization who made Bristol's pregnancy an issue in the first place, first by Palin accepting the nomination putting her and her family under the microscope of media scrutiny, and then by the campaign's press release announcing Bristol's pregnancy to the world in order to kill a rather ridiculous political rumor. This is then followed by the hypocrisy of Sarah Palin asking the public to ignore this private family matter as having no bearing on anything, when Palin and McCain's unswervingly pro-life stance seeks to deny the privacy of the decision that Palin is so proud of her daughter for making to every woman of child bearing age in America. Earth to Sarah Palin and the GOP, Roe vs. Wade does not guarantee reproductive privacy from the press or the political process. Common decency does, when it's present, but it's absolutely legitimate to compare your private life with your public policies, and you dirtbags have so little of that common decency that it's pretty rich for you to expect it when it's you or your kids who fucked up. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong but did the Republican party not spend the nineties holding numerous congressional hearings on the acts and whereabouts of Bill Clinton's penis? Why was Monica Lewinsky's right to privacy less important than Bristol Palin's?

But enough of that. From this point, Governor Palin starts in with what I'll grudgingly call the "substance" of her speech. The substance, for those of you who have been completely cut off from all media over the last 12 months, is a rehash of every negative thing that has ever been said about Barack Obama. It begins in a lighthearted way, with Palin talking about her experience as a mayor of a small town. She then makes a quip that it's kind of like being a community organizer but with actual responsibilities. So apparently being a community organizer is an unworthy position according to Sarah Palin. Let's think about this for a moment. What important figures in world history can best be described as "community organizers?"

Well, let's see, off the top of my head there are the obvious ones: Martin Luther King Jr, Mohandas Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the rest of those worthless peacenik bums. And then there are the lesser known figures of organized labor who got us the ban on child labor, the forty hour work week, and mandatory overtime pay. Oh and I almost forgot: Moses and Jesus of Nazareth. You've heard of those guys, right Sarah?

Now let's compare that list to the list of important small town mayors and first term Governors of Alaska who've made huge contributions to the world. Quick. Think of ten. I'll wait.

Can't think of any, can you?

Neither can I.

Not that managing a state with less people in it than the city of Seattle isn't challenging. I'm sure there's lots to do. The point is that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Or does the "Barracuda" not realize that she is living in a fish bowl yet? I'm sure she'll figure that out in time.

The speech continues with more unfounded and petty attacks on Obama's character. Precisely the sort of attacks that have been the bread and butter of the whole RNC to date, and precisely the sort of thing that McCain decried repeatedly until his need to be the president overcame his much vaunted "integrity". Most of these attacks are little more than nastily reworded versions of shit that Hillary Clinton and her partisans were saying in April and May. Thanks again for undermining the candidate and being such a team player, Hill. Good to know for the future.

Of course, the evidence is against any of this stuff having any kind of traction. As the talking heads on CNN are so happy to saying in order to dodge discussing how poisonous this speech was, Palin was playing to the base here. I think that just goes to show what an ugly, nasty group of people the Republican base is, to be honest.

The other component of her speech was Palin's dubious claims to have cleaned up Alaska politics. I say the claims are dubious because while I haven't done the research myself, Mark Shields pointed out on The News Hour that there were a number of bald-faced lies in the speech, not the least of which is the claim that she refused the money for Alaska's infamous "bridge to nowhere," which she in fact took.

The attacks then continue, which is basically a rehashing of the classic republican line "Democrats want bigger government and higher taxes." Well, sorry Sarah, but your own party has made clear over the last eight years that they don't differ on the size of government, just on where the money gets spent. The biggest difference between "tax and spend" liberals and conservatives like you is the fact that liberals actually want to pay for their spending with tax revenue, where you folks are content to pass on the debt for your wars and tax breaks for the rich to future generations. We haven't had a balanced budget since Bill Clinton shut down the government because the Republican congress under Gingrich wouldn't send him one. So you'll have to excuse me if this "big government bad, taxes evil" nonsense coming from a republican ounds a little bit screwy. Of course, Palin never does mention exactly who is going to bear the burden of the Obama tax increases. If she said that, she'd have to admit that the people bearing the burden are in fact the people can afford it, and taxes would actually go down for most working families.

As for the criticisms of Obama lacking substance, In the whole forty some odd minutes of her speech, I didn't hear a single policy detail about anything other than Iraq (stay the course) and Energy (increase domestic supply). Note how vague those policy proposals actually are. Now compare that with the detailed plans laid out by Obama last week, which Palin and the guys who wrote her speech obviously missed because otherwise they would have known that he did go into policy detail and didn't just stick with "high flown rhetoric." I think it becomes very clear very quickly who exactly is weak on the issues.

Palin then closes with an encomium again citing McCain's military record. Which, frankly, is baffling in it's hypocrisy given the nonsense the Republicans pulled four years ago with John Kerry.

So ultumately, what we have here is an incoherent diatribe taking cheap shots at Obama while trashing the Washington establishment which John McCain is much more a part of than is Obama. Add to that the fact that this is a person selected to be next in line to the oldest president in US history who has less experience than the opposing candidate, which opposing candidate the selecting party has spent the summer criticizing for being too inexperienced. We have a person who is on the one hand calling a candidate out of touch while at the same tame proving how far outside the mainstream she in fact is. We have a substanceless speech attacking an opponent for his lack of substance, and over all a speech that openly panders to "the base" the dirty little secret about which is that it is almost exclusively wealthy white old people who are out of touch with the mainstream and who, as the CSPAN cameras showed, have such poor senses of humor that the laugh at the cheapest shots, applaud vociferously for bullshit appeals to patriotism, and who for some reason think that one can not simultaneously be a liberal and a firm believer in the ideals of the American Experiment.

The whole thing would be laughable if it weren't so fucking sad.


The problem is those people

The problem is those people comprise at least half the voting population, if not the entire population. The other problem is that liberals constantly underestimate what the right is capable of. We should have realized that she would execute a speech with vociferous, rabid attacks that would electrify a base that is mas o menos rednecks, or as she would say, Rouge Cru.

I think if Obama wins, it will only be by a narrow margin. The left has to recognize that right now this country is white, stupid, and prejudiced. They're not going to win anything until they do, and when they realize and do win something, they will have lost their souls. God, I'm depressed.

The problems with you people

I'm white, color blind, a follower (in the day) of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., educated and credentialed.
You, my dear Madam, or Sir, represent a prime example of the exact description you offer of your opponent, save for the color label.
Your observations demonstrate an underlaying self loathing that your ilk are all too often afflicted with.
You might be well served to go to God for relief from your depression.

The Palin

You write well. Like what you have to say about the Karl Rove speech that Sarah Palin spoke. It's creepy that crazy Alaska things like The Palin as been so used.


What was it in your two lives that makes you so terribly committed to the Democratic party? I didn't find the speech annoying or fascist. I think there is more emotion in your description(s) of these things than you would ever lay claim to. Please articulate your point more so I can attempt to see where you are coming from.


I normally don't do this, but I will respond with a link:

You have thought too much of the so called "Christian mind". As much as you are 100% secular any christian is 100% Christian. There are always things in individuals that don't ring true with their personal reality.

Would it be correct for me to judge Obama on his nutty-ass church? I mean who cares? We all know that every American politician HAS to love Jesus somehow or another. And since we also know most of them don't live by the book (and who in the fuck would want to? living religiously is a hideous way for a human to live) we really shouldn't declare we are shocked by hypocrisy at all. Because the reality is that we aren't shocked by any religious hypocrisy. It's the NORM. In that I find Obama just as hypocritical in the same area. Going around saying he came to "know" Jesus. What a crock? No?

Anyway, I have long said to Jason and Eric that politics are ever easy and that constantly being on the attack is not always the best way to win. People have memories and they don't like the way Palin is being portrayed by her adversaries right off the bat like this. Your meme is going to stomp you in the foot.

If I were someone invested in defeating her politically I would focus PURELY on economic issues. That would be a more realistic and reasonable battle that might win some people back to the Obama camp - although it looks like her wave is pretty damn high.

Finally, always remember that none of this will matter while your on your death bed. Keeps things in perspective. At least it does for me.