Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stuff White People Don't Like: Sarah Palin

The brouhaha about Sarah Palin has brought out ugly words from people on both sides. I personally think Palin is a joke as a VP candidate, but not because of her campy frontier image or the Jerry Springeresque family drama which accompanies her. For me, the joke is her utter lack of not only experience, but even interest, in national politics or foreign policy - not to mention her fringe views on social issues and questionable ethical lapses. But disparaging her as a redneck? As trailer trash? That is no way to conduct our politics. While Barack Obama appears to agree with me, the comment pages frequented by liberals and progressives all over the web are overflowing with remarks on Palin that look down their noses at her as "white trash." Just because Alaskans like to jokingly call her hometown "Wa-Syphillus," the most important election of my lifetime is not the time to abandon the real issues and engage ourselves in a ridiculous culture war that the Rove-inspired McCain campaign is itching to fight.

That said, why are so many liberals responding to Sarah Palin with such snotty hysteria? I'd like to think that they are just so freaked out that McCain would put such an unserious person a heartbeat away from the presidency. If they are, good; every American should feel that way. The anxiety about McCain's irresponsible choice, however, is being misplaced as elitist cultural critique. As evidence of how out of touch some insulated blue-state dwellers are, I offer my experience as a small-town kid from the interface of the Rust Belt and Appalachia who went to an ivy-covered Great University populated by lots of Manhattanites, Bostonians, and Californians. When one of my classmates struggled to comprehend that New York State extends far (both geographically and culturally) from Westchester County, she blurted in disbelief: "You have trailer parks in your hometown? Wow, I've like, never seen a trailer park in real life!"

There are dozens of trailer parks in my hometown. I spent a chunk of my youth firmly on the redneck side of the county line, where the cornerstone of our social life for an entire winter was reassembling decrepit snowmobiles just so they could be crashed and rebuilt again. I went to my senior prom on a motorcycle and watched my share of Nascar races. One of my friends couldn't read, but he was one hell of a mechanic. Guess what? Those people are good people, too. They may not frequent film festivals and farmer's markets, or wear ironic t-shirts while listening to indie music and eating expensive sandwiches, but they are real and just as smart and compassionate as people who live on the coasts and in hip college towns. [Unfortunately, lots of them rely on Fox News for their information.]

I owe those references to film festivals and ironic t-shirts to the folks at Stuff White People Like. If you haven't seen the full list of 107 things white people like, check it out. One thing you won't find on the list? Sarah Palin. She is surely the complete antithesis of everything "white people" like (by "white people," I think you can tell what type they have in mind: urban hipsters who will vote overwhelmingly for Obama in November). That, in my opinion, is informing the knee-jerk responses to her that smack so strongly of elitism. Faced with such a cynical, pandering, and selfish move by McCain, reasonable people feel sick to their stomachs. They are absolutely terrified that his Hail Mary pass - which in and of itself revealed that McCain is a far more atrocious choice than we feared in our worst nightmares - will succeed. And what do they do? They lash out against things they don't understand. That is precisely what McCain's people want.

Andrew Sullivan articulated far better than I ever could just how much John McCain has compromised himself in the years leading up to this pivotal election. For his full post on "McCain's Integrity," click here. I've pasted below his closing arguments on the alarming meaning of the Palin pick:

"And then, because [McCain] could see he was going to lose, ten days ago, he threw caution to the wind and with no vetting whatsoever, picked a woman who, by her decision to endure her own eight-month pregnancy of a Down Syndrome child in public, that he was going to reignite the culture war as a last stand against Obama. That's all that is happening right now: a massive bump in the enthusiasm of the Christianist base. This is pure Rove.

Yes, McCain made a decision that revealed many appalling things about him. In the end, his final concern is not national security. No one who cares about national security would pick as vice-president someone who knows nothing about it as his replacement. No one who cares about this country's safety would gamble the security of the world on a total unknown because she polled well with the Christianist base. No person who truly believed that the surge was integral to this country's national security would pick as his veep candidate a woman who, so far as we can tell anything, opposed it at the time.

McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States. And that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that Barack Obama is the next president. The alternative is now unthinkable. And McCain - no one else - has proved it."


Andrew said...

Great stuff, Sheila! Very apt description of Palmizz.

Anonymous said...

It's reverse elitism -- "I lived near trailer parks: I am real." We ER types would never valorize growing up in the shadows of shuttered factories. We're From TOWN. ;)