Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin(g) in Comparison, Part the Second

Some interesting comments were made on my previous post that you should read. You should also read this post.

Last night at Sarah's, I watched Giuliani and Palin speak. (Before that we had been watching Freaks and Geeks, which I liked much better.) I realized as we turned to it that I have never watched the RNC or, indeed, the bulk of Republican events. As a political thinker who wishes to be fair and balanced and thoughtful and educated in her assessments, that seems a glaring absence on my part.

I will continue to do it when I can. But if last night was anything to go by, it's going to be really, really hard.

First off, Rudy Giuliani is a really nasty man. (The last two links are last night's speech.) I have tried for many years to respect his meager contributions to my mental health and that of many others post-September 11, so far did it surpass George Bush's, that I forgot that I had real reason to loathe him as I did during his mayoral administration, when I was in high school. Sure, I was quoted in New York Newsday saying he was a fascist when I was seventeen, and that might have been a little rhetorically extreme, but it's got nothing on him. First of all, Giuliani started a huge Republican joke about "community organizers." I have never heard the term spoken with greater contempt than I did last night. It was alarming. Naturally, as a man with executive experience, Giuliani would have a great deal of disdain for those he governed, and he was certainly known to run roughshod over all community interests during his mayoral administration, but to take potshots at any non-governmental leadership experience and then claim that John McCain has outsider status by means of being a "maverick" is a little confusing. His attack on the U.N. was unpleasant (and tonal—don't rely on the text of the speech for most of what I'm saying here, but please do watch the speech if your stomach can take it). Trying to construe Palin as a representative of a new generation of politician while putting down Obama was equally complicated. And I'm not sure what he meant by "the party that believes in giving workers the right to work."

For the most part, though, the problem was not in transcribable content so much as the nasty, nasty pleasure he took at delivering insults, at making people laugh at other people. Giuliani is by nature a school bully. I know that sounds like an abstract, fuzzywuzzy liberal thing today, but Giuliani fundamentally comes into politics with a contempt for others. This is not a man you want being your leader or endorsing your leaders.

My first memory of a campaign commercial is the commercials that the David Dinkins campaign ran during Giuliani's first, unsuccessful mayoral run. I was about five, and I can't remember any of the images or ideas associated with the commercial. However, it ended with text appearing on the screen, text I could read even as it was also read aloud by a calm male voice. "Why are people afraid of Rudy Giuliani?" it asked, and the words dissolved into the answer: "Because they should be."

Yes. Yes, they should.

But Giuliani was only there to introduce, and my concerns about him pale in comparison to my concerns about the Republican veep nominee.

The scariest thing for me about Palin's speech last night was her constant endorsement of the erosion of legislative power. "To use the power of veto in defense of public interest—and as a chief executive, I can tell you it works." More signing statements, here we come. This on top of Giuliani's efforts to tout her executive experience (and why, exactly, does McCain's military leadership count as "executive experience" where Obama's community leadership does not?) makes me realize more about why Palin was chosen, and the pandering to female voters was just for bonus points.

This woman is a social conservative in the truest sense of the word. She's charismatic (yeah, the voice is annoying, but not nearly so annoying as people have been saying), and/but she is not a politician is the manner of McCain—or even, in a certain way, Obama. She's a zealot politically, but she's a zealot with charisma and accessibility, accessibility that, yes, comes in part from her gender. She has staying power and a record of putting her money where her mouth is with regards to her views (I'm not just talking about her baby and her daughter's soon-to-be baby—I think I need to do a separate Bristol Palin post anyway—but also about her working-class story, her "hockey mom" views, and the fine line she walked about touting her own fiscal abilities without trashing Bush).

Simultaneously trying to paint Obama as a member of the Washington élite and too inexperienced for the job is a little bit confusing. And of course, the elitist thing is coded racism: again, nobody minds that McCain is also a "Washington insider," and Hillary, now that she's lost, is not a worthy target.

Make no mistake: a McCain-Palin administration would continue all the worst policies of the Bush-Cheney administration. And should McCain die, which with five cases of melanoma behind him is not an abstract threat, conservative Christian interests will really, genuinely, fully control the White House. Even if he doesn't die, we are looking at the continued and fully accepted erosion of the balance of powers. That really was the scariest thing for me: the full realization that it's not just the Bush administration that feels this way, it really is the party. When Palin said of Obama, "Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?" the crowd cheered. For quite a while. Given that John McCain wrote and sponsored a bill in 2006 that allows the government to declare any American citizen an enemy combatant with no need for justification, and George Bush signed that bill into law, those cheers may well be the scariest real-time things I have heard in my lifetime.

All her statements about Obama's tax plan were totally deceitful. She made it sound as though he would do for all Americans what he has explicitly stated he plans to do only for the wealthiest 5%. He has promised not increased Congressional spending but redistribution of the budget. And on victory in Iraq: didn't Bush declare that several years ago? Did I miss something?

I think Dickerson articulates well both why we should worry and where she might fail in this article; a few days ago the same publication shared interesting thoughts about why the Palins can be blue-collar when their income is probably five to six times that of the average American family.

Out of fairness and out of general interest: Piper Palin is nearly as cute as Sasha Obama. Several of the points Giuliani made about Obama's changing positions—on wiretapping, on public financing for the campaign—were fair, but like anybody who supports McCain has a leg to stand on with "flip-flopping" anymore. (You know, for that matter, what really bugs me is not politicians changing their positions, but the it-does-not-exist-it-never-existed manner in which those changes are consistently made. Why can't they address it directly?)

And on the catty front: between Giuliani and McCain (and Dubya, for that matter), I'm going to make an official declaration that Republican men over the age of fifty should not smile. It's creepy as FUCK when they do.

This whole blogging the conventions thing is new to me, and I keep worrying that I am responding purely out of panic. I think I'm fairly rational, though, in spite of the deep visceral fear that came in last night. The one thing it was good for is that I have ceased, for the moment, to worry about the convergence of the two parties. I'm still not wild about the limitations inherent to the two-party system, but stop me if I ever come close to referring to the Republicrats or anything of the kind. I am not a Democrat by default, I am a Democrat because Republicans espouse some politics and worldviews that I do not, or cannot, get behind, and the Democratic party supports some things I really believe in.

Last night Sarah (my friend, not Palin) also told me that McCain opposed the GI Bill expansion, because he was concerned that it would encourage people to leave the military. You know, after their tour of duty. I was shocked to find myself crying, actually weeping, at that knowledge.

As far as I'm concerned, the GI Bill is one of the rare class equalizers in America. For McCain to wish its demise, for any reason, belies any street cred he's gained with Palin as a military mom or working-class. The level of hypocrisy inherent to this stance stuns and scares me.


At 11:09 AM, Blogger Connor said...

Okay, I think that I understand what you're saying a bit better now, and I'm behind now... I'm going to watch these speeches, but I'm going to spend my first vacation since last Christmas watching them! :)

Anyway, I still am skeptical of Palin's chances to propel McCain to success... as the New York Times pointed out (oops, there go my liberal media tendencies, although the media as a whole has been far from liberal for quite some time) that was a Republican audience and that was a speech that Palin delivered after having been secluded from the press for days.

Ultimately I feel that she may have been an effective governor, or at least have had the background and skills commensurate with the demands of that position. During the first half of the primary, when I was leaning toward Clinton, it *was* Obama's lack of experience that concerned me most... as it turns out, Obama's experience is comparable to plenty of our less-experiences presidents, some who have gone on to be our truly great presidents. So experience is not the great equalizer. That said, there is a threshold of concern. I'm a smart guy, but I wouldn't make a great president, and many of us will willingly acknowledge this fact about ourselves. If Obama's slow and steady progress from community activism through the state senate through the U.S. senate has subjected him to justified scrutiny, concern is absolutely warranted for someone with political experience that is practically transparent at this point.

The thing that encourages me in this election is the tone of the campaigns; which party is playing into its stereotypes and which is transcending them. Four years ago we saw a democratic party that, for all the narrowness of the race, seemed destined to lose: it was a passive, quiet, submissive party that seemed to collapse under the pressure it felt from an angry and untractable America. But this year we are confronted by images of Republicans in a big and dark room, a party that looks smaller and less diverse - less vigorous - than it did before, and still as angry. Still just shouting and insulting as if that was their only technique.

It's a party on the defensive.

In pretty much every election I've ever seen, whoever is on the defensive at this point is going to have a hard time winning.

It isn't that the McCain campaign is or isn't taking a risk. It's that the political ground has shifted. The risks that would have worked four years ago are not working now.

I think you're making very good points, and there is good cause for concern. But I also think that the concerns of America are very different from those at the Republican Convention right now, and are, at least at once and finally, more closely aligned with those of the Democratic party.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Milligan said...

Still digesting, and I don't really have time to write anything long right now. However, in response to one confusion mentioned above, "right to work" is an anti-union codephrase. Right-to-work laws, e.g.


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