Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Vice Presidency to Nowhere


I have labelled this blog "Journeys in Visual Culture," and my only departures from that theme so far have been book reviews. It was never intended to be a political blog; not Hilary, Barack, or John McCain could tempt me to make an exception. But I can stay out of the fray no longer: McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate is the worst thing to happen in American politics since George W. Bush stole the presidential election in 2000 (though the fact that he really DID win in 2004 is almost as frightening).

McCain's selection is a huge slap in the face to the American people that even the most cynical among us could never have anticipated. He offers us a candidate not only with no experience in national politics, but one whose limited experience in state and local politics have been characterized by large doses of both incompetence and corruption. She is the female George W. Bush, all the way down to her arrogant ignorance and her involvement in Big Oil. Her new campaign has as its two main features deception and nastiness.

I am grossly offended by the tone of her speech at the Republican National Convention. The sneer in her voice was visible even over the radio (my news medium of choice). The edginess of her voice as she mocked Barack Obama for being a community organizer was more suitable for a mud wrestling match than a contest to lead this great nation. Her jeering at the opposition was welcomed by the equally jeering mob who demonstrate the principle of "mob mentality." To sum it all up: YUCK.

[and by the way - does it come as a surprise to anyone that a Replican doesn't know what a community organizer is?]

In another speech, of which I caught only a brief snippet on the radio on Friday afternoon (I don't know whom she was addressing), she railed against Obama's tax plan as hurting the middle class and small businesses -- both blatant lies. But will her adoring Republican fans bother to find out the truth?

I strongly feel that this sort of behavior does not belong in public discourse. I would give anything for some civility right about now. Even George W. Bush didn't behave this way in his campaigns. Her candidacy is appalling and galling. (Is that redundant?) I just hope this national nightmare will go away come November, and Sarah Palin's candidacy will vanish into the realm of Trivial Pursuit questions (there will be a lot of them). God help this country if it doesn't.

According to one of my colleagues, John McCain responded to the charge that Palin has no foreign policy experience by saying something to the effect that "of course she does - Alaska is very close to Russia." This colleague said that either A) McCain really believes this, in which case he's stupid; or B) McCain thinks Americans are dumb enough to believe him. (And this colleague says we should point that out to our students, though of course we would never point that out to our students, because we never talk about politics in the classroom...)

Time magazine reports that McCain's first two choices for vice president - Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge - were "vetoed" by "the Republican party elders," who wanted him to choose Mitt Romney. (Lieberman and Ridge are both pro-choice.) As a result, McCain went with a little-known candidate who had evidently not been properly vetted. What I want to know is, how can McCain continue to be perceived as a maverick when he can't even select the vice presidential candidate he wants? (See "How McCain Makes Obama Conservative" by Joe Klein, Sept. 4.)

McCain's selection of Palin is the only thing that has made me wish Obama had chosen Hilary as his running mate, because I'd give anything to see Hilary debating Sarah Palin.

I often think that Republicans are the most guilty of the kind of political nastiness we are now seeing in Sarah Palin; the kind of nastiness one hears on right-wing talk shows. They blame "the press" (whoever that is) of being liberal, but only because these so-called "liberal" venues don't engage in the vile rhetoric of hateful, propagandistic name-calling. I keep in mind, however, that many Republicans see Democrats as being the ones at fault for the partisanship in American politics, and although I think they're wrong, I recognize that everyone, including myself, has a bias. (I think liberals, at least, are more honest about their own biases...)

The current state of division in American politics is addressed in a new book, which I have not read, but heard about it yesterday on a radio program called "Weekend America." The book is called The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, by Bill Bishop. (It seems that if you want your book to be a best-seller, you have to have the word "WHY" somewhere in the title.) Jim Gates, the reporter in the story "RNC Undercover," is a Democrat, and he attended the Republican convention with his friend Hugh, who's a Republican. Here's an excerpt:

Hugh and I have moved to cities that reflect our lifestyles. And that's typical of what's been going on in America. In the 30 years that Hugh and I have known each other, Americans have become more mobile and Republicans and Democrats have been moving further and further apart. Literally. Democrats have moved to densely packed cities and Republicans have moved to spacious suburban enclaves. Author Bill Bishop calls this mass movement "The Big Sort." It's also the name of his new book.

"By seeking out those places comfortable to them culturally," Bishop explains, "the decision is to avoid those places that are uncomfortable. They really are avoiding different points of view." And as Americans spend less time talking to people with different points of view, it's no surprise that the people they elect are more partisan than ever.

"There are incredible differences from place to place," says Bishop, "But what's missing then is any ability of highly different areas to ever get together and make any kind of policy nationally. So we have great consensus locally but no consensus nationally."

Bishop is probably right. One thing I like about Obama is his sentiment that there are not "two Americas, there's one America." And one of the few things I always liked about McCain was his bipartisanship - until, of course, he won his party's nomination, and now he has chosen a VP candidate who will only deepen the divide.

I was at the bookstore today and noticed a truly bizarre-sounding book on the "politics" new releases table. It's called Makers and Takers, and has this unusually long subtitle: "Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less...and Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals." (With a subtitle like that, who needs to read the book?) Funny, it doesn't describe many of the conservatives or liberals I know...and as a liberal, I can assure you I don't know anyone who hugs their child more than I do.

The one political book that I bought today, and have started reading, is The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, by Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas? (which I still haven't read). Stay tuned to this blog for a post on it soon.


Also in the media:
On Thursday, Sept. 4, Amy Goodman (on Democracy Now!) interviewed Shannyn Moore, an Anchorage-based radio talk show host who has closely followed Palin's career and has interviewed Palin numerous times. See "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Accepts GOP Nomination."

Gloria Steinem's Op-Ed essay in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 4, "Palin: wrong woman, wrong message." (Thanks to my aunt for sending me this link.)

Terry Gross' interview about Sarah Palin with journalists Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, authors of the 2006 One Party Country, Sept. 3. See "'One Party Country' Dissects Why Republicans Win." (Thanks also to my aunt.)

Sarah Palin believes that an Alaskan oil pipeline is "God's will;" she urges folks at her church to pray for the pipeline because "God's will has to be done." Also the Iraq War - that's right, "God's plan." See the Sarah Palin Church Videos on YouTube. (Thanks also to my aunt!)

(Speaking of Sarah Palin's church, I want to know how all these so-called Christians can support the Iraq War? Don't they worship "the prince of peace"? How can these supposedly "pro-life" people have no qualms at all about all the innocent Iraqi lives being destroyed?)

Finally, one of my "Facebook friends" posted a link to this article entitled "An Open Letter to Governor Palin on Women's Rights" from the blog "Alternet." I urge you to read this letter, because it points out that the same reproductive freedom that pro-choice advocates defend is not just access to abortions, but also a woman's right TO give birth - when, where, and how she chooses. As a mother myself who elected to have a home birth (in one of the last states in the Union where midwifery is still illegal!), I do have something in common with the lady.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Those videos are just about the most horrifying thing ever.