Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dumb Like a Fox

I assume by now we've all seen this:

and we're ready to get to work spreading the meme.Sarah Palin is unready to be Vice President! She didn't even know what the Bush Doctrine is! What a dummy.

I'm not sure that's going to work. Here's why:

What it looks like the Republicans are going for with the Palin love-fest is the same sort of identity politics they always play. They want white suburban, exurban, and rural America to look at Palin and say, "hey she's a member of my community, she's like me!"

Thus, when media outlets and liberal commentators pick out Palin's flaws, a large, powerful segment of the electorate hears the media picking on them. Race, religion, and other crude markers of identity are clearly central to this trick, but when the criticism pertains to issues of knowledge or intelligence, I think there is an additional factor in play that renders this trick particularly effective. Forms of knowledge, skill and intelligence possessed by great swaths of the electorate have been devalued by the corporate de-skilling and outsourcing of work. Thus, these voters are already primed to react defensively to the proclamations of "elites" possessed of knowledge that the market, and our larger society, still grants some value and tokens of respect.

The great trick of the GOP, of course, has been to turn this defensiveness into a weapon to bludgeon exactly those people who might try to blunt the worst effects of this capitalist process of de-valuing the knowledge and skills of working people. The Dems try to point this out, but of course, since the corporations ARE the media, they are always fighting an uphill battle (and the fact that they themselves dare not directly confront capitalism doesn't help any).

My suggestion? Leave the gaffes alone. Concentrate on the war with Russia stuff. By next week the Obama campaign should have ads in heavy rotation repeating Palin's statement that she would "go to war with Russia" and playing it over stock footage of the Crossroads-Baker Atomic test. Basically the "Daisy" ad all over again. Would it be a little dirty? Sure, but to hell with it, they've been waaaay dirtier than that and paid no price for it. If Obama's goal is to lose with a clean conscience, he should think about the very real, very terrible effects a McCain/Palin administration ticket would have on the country.

1 comment:

Terry said...

I think your post is right on as an analysis of Palin's positioning by the GOP as a sort of "everywoman" (or, if we must, a "Hockey Mom"). And I agree that it's a drearily effective game of identity politics.

Rather than "going Daisy," though, I think the dems would be better served by demonstrating the degree to which Palin is decidedly out of touch with the average American voter. It's not that I don't disagree that her popularity could be undercut by scaring the crap out of people -- I guess I just see identity politics cutting both ways. If the right chose a no-name essentially so they could create her from the ground up, the left should be doing a much better job of creating her, too (so far, they've only been able to sell this to the base). While many voters may have established some degree of identification with her, I think a (continued) barrage of "tyrant" "power-hungry" "abuser of power" would go a long way toward "creating her in W's image," which is really the ground Obama can hold in this election ...