Understanding Sarah


I dwell a lot on Sarah Palin here. Obviously, it’s not because I’d ever vote for her. In fact, I don’t consider her—in and of herself—to be all that riveting.

No, what keeps me talking about Palin Mania is what her popularity says about Americans. Or, more to the point, what it says about American hopes and desires. As Michael Douglas aptly put it in The American President, we crave leadership—and we’ll follow almost anyone in a search to find it. Or, to state such in less eloquent terms, we are sheep. Bah! Sheep. Bah! We really are. Instead of thinking for ourselves, we are often perfectly happy to let others do the thinking for us. In fact, I’d say we prefer things that way. And, in Sarah Palin, a certain corner of our population (a large corner) sees a well-spoken, accomplished, attractive, well-funded individual willing to carry the heavy load. They don’t worry about her vapidness, or her limited accomplishments, or even the fact that she lacks knowledge and—one can argue—conviction. What they like about Palin is that she has a platform to express their concerns. And she does. She’ll happily go off on gays and on guns; on government excesses and liberal freaks. She makes very good angry faces, and can fire off a snide, fuck-all-y’all one-liner as competently as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Surely, some reading this would say, “Ha! Obama’s basically the same thing!” And maybe he is. But—if I’m going to be honest on this blog—I am the northern liberal elitist who thinks Obama’s supporters are (on a whole) more intelligent than Palin’s. And not just by a inch or two. The other day I heard some conservative railing against Ivy-educated snobs who think they know this and that and that. Well, of course they do—they’re Ivy-educated. That means, 90% of the time, they’re pretty fucking smart. At least smarter than the “real, honest-to-goodness American” (Palin’s wording) who never attended college and works at the local Dairy Den (and, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with working at the local Dairy Den. But, odds are, the guy working at the Dairy Den isn’t going to be as educated or worldly as the guy working as, say, a CPA or lawyer following four years at Brown. Could he be more intelligent? Certainly. But intelligence without access is like a .390 hitter without a bat to swing).

The problem is, the “real, honest-to-goodness American” working at the Dairy Den is, often, angry. His pay is shit, he sees jobs being shipped elsewhere, he’s tired of paying high taxes for other people and he doesn’t see why some Mexican field hand needs protection. So when someone like Palin throws out a bundle o’ red meat (Where’s our president’s birth certificate?), Mr. Dairy Den nods his head and says, “Amen! A-fucking-men!”

And yet … how exactly is Sarah Palin getting Mr. Dairy Den a job? She has little understanding of import-export ratios; certainly doesn’t know how to create jobs (her record on this in Alaska: Zero) and improve trade balance or transition the American economy. But—and this is important—what she does know is how to get Mr. Dairy Den angry. Really angry! Really, really angry.

And anger equals protests. And protests equals votes. And votes equals …

President Sarah Palin.