I wrote this article several weeks ago. It’s barely relevant now, but it does express my true hatred for Sarah Palin.
For the past eight years, Republicans working through their attack machine of conservative talk-radio hosts, Fox News, 527 groups, and Republican talking-head TV panelists have been able to control political discourse. They find the right talking points, hammer on them incessantly, and eventually the election is warped into John Kerry’s supposedly poor performance on a Swiftboat in Vietnam. In the United States, a politician who tries to take some sort high ground, who tries to avoid personal attacks, is a politician who loses.
I’m not sure that these tactics are necessarily wrong or “bad” in some objective way, they work, which in matters as significant as ensuring that your political interests hold the balance of power, probably makes it worthwhile. For the Democrats to ensure that they win the current presidential election, they need to start using the media the way Republicans have so successfully. The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate is an obvious starting point for Democrats, and they’re letting it slip away.
After an initial flurry, Republicans have managed to quell much of the controversy surrounding John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee. When Palin was first introduced, she compared herself to Hillary Clinton, claiming “we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.” The statement made plain what was already obvious, she was chosen not for her qualifications, but because she was a woman. The pick was an insulting act of pandering and a blatant act of tokenism.
It is the Republicans who have been the sexists on this issue, yet Democrats have been largely silent. Hillary Clinton proclaimed “No way, no how, no McCain” at the Democratic convention, but she hasn’t weighed in on this insulting comparison. The fear has been that Joe Biden would look like a bully attacking a woman (due to the latent sexism of voters), Hillary Clinton is the perfect alternative and she’s been missing.
On cable news channels like CNN, Republican talking-heads shout down legitimate criticisms of Palin with the sexism card. The claims have managed to warp discussions on legitimate issues into questions of whether or not they should be discussed at all. Palin’s lack of experience in fields relevant to the job for which she is attempting to get have been brilliantly eschewed by Republicans.
The discussions regarding Palin’s personal life, specifically her daughter’s pregnancy, have also become discussions of whether or not the discussions should be had at all. That Palin is a proponent of abstinence-only education seems quite relevant when it didn’t even work for her own daughter. Republicans have certainly never shied away from using family. McCain himself has been a victim of it, with the now infamous “black baby” whisper campaign which helped Bush gain the party’s nomination over him.
Palin’s decision to have another child at an age which would heavily increase the likelihood of that child being disabled in some fashion (which is exactly what happened) is indicative of her poor ability to make decisions even in her own life. When Republicans harp mercilessly on Democrats for their much more irrelevant sex lives, it is blatantly hypocritical to proclaim their own candidates’ personal lives off-limits. All that is required of Democrats is to push hard on these issues. Call Republicans on their endless reams of bullshit, and Democrats will finally be fighting the fight they need to.
Michelle Obama’s remark “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country” was made out to be unpatriotic by Republicans, and it got a huge amount of play in the media. Somehow, Palin’s husband’s former membership in an Alaskan independence party has been largely ignored. This is the sort of controversy that needs some help to get going, Democrats need to attack on it until it can no longer be ignored.
Democrats need to manipulate the media the way Republicans have done to such great success. Force the issues that appeal to the lowest common denominator, warp political discourse in their favour, and put the Republicans on the defensive. If the Democrats plan to win this election, then they should fight as unscrupulously as needed.