Saturday 15 October 2011

Sarah Palin

I started this blog a few months after Sarah Palin returned to Alaska, having lost the election to Obama. She was still the governor and I focused on her record and on her day-to-day "governing." How things have changed!

Today Sarah Palin is the mouthpiece and poster girl for the ultra-conservative movement that gained momentum in the wake of Barack Obama's arrival in the White House. That's a very important detail, a black man at the helm, swimming against the current, with the economy in freefall. Perfect.

But what's Sarah Palin's role? Who is this woman and where did she come from? We have been scratching our heads, asking many questions and looking for the answers since McCain presented her to the world at large. Before that day, there she was chugging along, pretending to govern the largest, wildest state in the US and all that.

In the absence of proper vetting from the McCain people, we took it upon ourselves to find out what was behind this hockey-mom of five and lipstick wearing pit bull.

We went way back, to her city councillor and mayor of Wasilla days. I want to have another look at her good old days, but from a slightly different perspective and starting a little bit further back into the past.

In 1983 Linda Menard talked Sarah Louise Heath into entering a beauty pageant to win some tuition money for college. Sarah says she was reluctant (Going Rogue), but decided to give it a try, the tuition money would be worth any embarassement she had to endure. She won the Miss Wasilla leg of the contest and went on to become the second runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, with a Miss Congeniality trophy on her mantelpiece as a bonus. Sarah has a fragile ego, her sense of self is based on the input from people around her. When Linda Menard suggested that Sarah should enter a "who's the fairest of them all" competition, was she really telling Sarah that she was indeed the prettiest girl in Wasilla? Did other people tell her the same thing? I believe they did. And they did it with the best of intentions, their minds were on the tuition money. Strut your stuff, sister, play your flute, that would be neat. Sarah would be able to continue her education and make something of herself. So they flattered and reassured her about what she could achieve.

But Sarah started to believe she was the prettiest (not quite) and also the nicest girl in Alaska. Don't get me wrong, she was a good looking girl and possibly a nice enough lass. But not the fairest of them all... No beauty contest winner is, and probably most of them know it. But not our Sarah. Low self-esteem makes people believe in certain things so they feel better about themselves, they feel bigger and stronger. Sarah wasn't terribly interested in education but went college hopping anyway - feeling pretty and congenial. So far, not much harm had been done.

Moving on to politics, that's when things start taking a less savoury turn. Opportunists can spot a useful tool (fool?) a mile away. I guess the AIP, the Dominionists and the very conservative Texans and Oklahomans who lusted after the Alaskan oil considered this ambitious but vulnerable person a fantastic find. If she was susceptible to the well intentioned flattery of people who loved her, she was just as likely to buy it from these groups. The prize was bigger. It would validate her in a much more desirable sphere, she would become an important person, not just a pretty face. We all know she couldn't do the job and so did she, but that wasn't important to her at that point, she would get around it somehow. Somewhere down the line, she convinced herself that hell yeah, she could not only do that job, but could do bigger ones as well. The people who put her there kept on feeding her illusions, this pretty woman would go far and deliver them what they wanted. Power, what else?

Sarah took aim at bigger and better prizes. She ran for lieutenant-governor and didn't make it, she thought she was going to be appointed to a Senate seat in Washington, DC and didn't make it. She warmed a seat at the Oil & Gas Commission for a while, then decided to go for the top position in Alaska and made it this time. I don't believe for one minute that she plotted her own way into that mansion in Juneau. Our opportunists above had reached their goal and Sarah convinced herself that she was qualified for any job as she cleared each hurdle. Life was good for Sarah.

She was ambitious, enjoyed the good things in life and saw nothing wrong with making the most of her position to score a few state funded freebies for family and friends.

Then McCain won the primaries. His campaign needed a presentable woman so they could bank on the Hillary effect. There were loads of disgruntled women up and down the country who were very cheesed off when Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Hey, how about that Sarah from Alaska? Opportunists in shinier suits had spotted her. It had happened again.

Yes, she was ready. No, she didn't blink. Sarah's ego felt warm and toasty. And a myth was born.

Sarah Palin does have a magnetic presence. She evokes strong reactions in people, whether they love her or loathe her. We know that she's reactive, so the criticism directed at her bolstered her ego in the same measure as the flattery she received. She wasn't being criticized bacause she was incompetent, nooo. It was because she was a woman, because she had a large family, because she had chosen to have a child with Down syndrome, because she was loved by so many, because, because...

Election lost, Obama in the White House, back to Alaska.

Back to Alaska... The unofficial vetting of Sarah Palin opened the eyes of many Alaskans to a less than flattering picture of their governor. They found her to be somewhat lacking in the ethics department. The complaints multiplied in rapid succession while she half-heartedly carried out her duties as governor. Maybe the opportunists in Alaska had lost some of their interest in her and she was at a lose end, drifting and dreaming of all the glory that could have been hers.

Some adoring groups had been formed in the Lower 48, notably C4P. The media still liked her, she sold well. Everybody still talked about her. Perhaps things weren't so bad after all. I don't think she could do much more other than dream at that point. A few magazine covers for herself and the hapless Bristol was the best she could hope for.

Enter our sinister characters from outside Alaska. Hey, that Sarah from Alaska seems to be still very popular, couldn't we use her again? Everybody talks about her, people are still talking about pregnancies and her daughter or something like that all the time and those C4P people worship at her feet. The media is doing very well from all her stories. Good or bad, folks can't get enough of this woman and the rest of the clan. Hey, she's still quite hot too. We could repackage the girl and that whole family of hers and they would come in handy, don't you think?

Oh yes, and how! They made her an offer she couldn't refuse. Listen, Sarah from Alaska, we think you would make a great president. But you would have to leave this governor gig behind. We need to raise your profile, make you really presidential. Publishing your memoirs woud be a great start. It worked for Obama and it would put some dollars in the bank. That can't be bad, eh? You need to be seen and heard all the time, how about a Fox News contract? Oh, and speaking engagements, starting with one abroad. Foreign policy credentials, you know? You already have the Twitter and Facebook thingies covered, clever girl! We need to raise money as well, a Pac would be ideal. Anybody who wants to be president has one, what do you say? Oh, you have that covered as well? You clever, clever, clever girl! There might be something in it for your lovely family as well. What say you? Are you with us?

This time she blinked, repeatedly, but it was from excitement, not hesitation. Hell yeah, I'm outta here! Not so fast, Sarah. We need Alaska to build up your image. You know how fascinated those people in the Lower 48 are with this beautiful state, the last frontier, and how much they admire your tough image, you hunt, you fish, you're sooo fantastic.

You know the rest. We had to suffer the tweets, the Facebook notes, the op-eds, Going Rogue, America by Heart, the Tea Party rallies, the Beck/Palin jamboree, the Fox News interviews, the pedophile labels she attaches to her foes, the death panels, "Sarah Palin's Alaska", the crosshairs, the surveyor signs, the "Blood Libel", the abstinence, Candies, Dancing with the Stars and much much much more.

Sarah Palin and her family are in our faces all the time, day after day. We direct all our venom at the Palins. We talk about Sarah's wigs, her lips, her boobs, her clothes. We talk about Todd and question his cojones, we call Bristol a fat slut, we say Willow is a vandal, we wonder who fathered Track, we went from seeing Piper as a cute little button to seeing her as a sullen little brat who wears make-up and wears a bumpit under her highlighted hair. We wonder about Chuckles, we have loads of theories about everything. We have also worried our heads about Levi, Sherry and Mercede. Awww... we still love Trig and Tripp.

Any of these things may or may not bring Sarah Palin down. I think not. Dissecting the Palins, finding fault in eveything they do helps us vent our spleen and direct our frustrations at someone. I admit that it's a lot of fun at times. We need a break from the anger every now and then. While we do that, our sinister friends are satisfied, rubbing their hands in glee. Everything is going according to plan. While we watch Sarah and her family, we fail to see the real villains. We know they are there, but we can't see them very clearly and can't direct our anger at them. That's what Sarah Palin is for. They put her out there to screech their talking points at every possible opportunity and to absorb the criticism, the insults, anything we can throw at her, as long as none of it reaches them. We started to find out who they are and asked questions on a few occasions, we started to pay attention and were beginning to make some progress in the right direction but they were b-o-o-o-ring and oh? What's that over there? Yay! Another Sarah Palin tweet! She screeched again, is that a wig? Back to the Koch Brothers... hello? Is Bristol preggers? Did Sarah have another facelift? Black bra under a white t-shirt? Honestly! Ah, ok, Koch Br... wasn't that a terrible tweet by Ram? Is Todd ill? Was that Bristol or Willow? What were we talking about? Yes, the Koc... Abstinence my ass! This new woman of Todd's must be Trig's mother. Does she have a cold sore or is that a scar?....... It. never. stops.

Meanwhile, the corporate citizens move the country to the right, to the right, to the right, they whip up the passions of people full of fear and not much intelligence, they make the vitriol emanating from their talking heads appear normal and acceptable. We talk about all these things, we worry, but we are too easily distracted. People who are sincere Republicans and wish to embrace different values shake their heads in despair, with nowhere to turn to in order to validate their own concerns.

I have been distracted as well and enjoy a bit of gossip as much as the next person. But when I did a retrospective to compare where Sarah Palin and I were two years ago to where we are now, prior to jumping back in, the penny dropped. I saw the whole picture for the first time.

Does the fact that neither Sarah Palin nor her family are ultimately responsible for all the ugliness we've seen in the past two year absolve her? Probably not, not entirely. But the deluded beauty queen from Wasilla is not going to be president of the United States. She's been duped. Again.

Do we keep holding her feet to the fire? Yes, we do. But her fall won't be a complete victory unless we challenge the rest of the culprits. When she falls, they will be done with Sarah from Alaska, ready to replace her with a less colourful, less tabloidy figure who would repeat exactly the same talking points, using exactly the same rhetoric, but this person would sound credible, sober and balanced. People who wouldn't buy it from Sarah Palin might buy it from this new serious, intelligent sounding character. Sarah would have accomplished her mission, she would have made all the junk she spewed ad nauseam for two years a big part of the political discourse already and nobody would bat an eyelid.

That's the story as I imagined it to be. It's not accurate in the detail, but not too far fetched when we look at the whole. After two years with Sarah Palin, fiction appears to be more believable than reality...

We should still keep our eyes wide open. But we could do better if we closed our eyes to shiny objects, myself included. There's room for snark and humour, of course. But let's us not take our eyes off the ball for too long or we'll lose this game.

I will need some help navigating the dark waters where the elusive characters behind the scenes sail their yachts. I specialized too much in one particular subject, but whilst she may be the star of this play, she didn't write or direct it. I'm very interested in the production as a whole.

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