If we were not living in a country where the citizenry has been dumbed down, the idea of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin standing as a vice presidential candidate would be laughable if it were not actually true. The fact that it is true demonstrates just how much we have lowered the bar in our country and how many Americans have been so blinded by partisanship, and yes racism, that they are not embarrassed that this person is being presented for consideration for the second most powerful elected position in our nation.
Watching last night’s debate I was reminded again just how shallow and hypocritical our nation’s politics has become. For months we have heard Senator Obama’s critics cast him as inexperienced and out of touch, using his Ivy League education against him to label him an elitist. In her first appearance beside her running mate, Senator John McCain, Governor Palin belittled Mr. Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago. In fact, listening to Governor Palin, one would think that our national values were constructed around knowing as little as we can and being proud of our ignorance. Given her embrace of the absurd and the glee in which she exudes her unintelligible rhetoric, Sarah Palin’s next role could be as a cast member on “My Name is Earl.” If karma is behind her rise to national prominence, we need to take karma to the woodshed and beat it like it stole something.
Through 90 minutes of a nationally televised debate, presumably seen by millions in our country and abroad, Sarah Palin responded with a chorus of “gosh” and “doggone it” to a series of fairly straightforward questions on important issues such as the economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation and energy policy. And when she wasn’t staring down at her notes, she managed to look dead into the camera and flash that clueless smirk that has become her trademark, and that she wears as a badge of honor.
Enough already. Her candidacy was never amusing and now it’s downright insulting. And the electorate should be incensed. How in good conscience Senator John McCain can stand up and tout his judgment and experience as qualifiers for occupying the Oval Office and, with a straight face, offer the Ice Princess as worthy of being Vice President, calls into question the Arizona Republican’s “leadership.” Worse yet is that some Americans will be shallow enough to fall prey to their own bias at a time when the nation cannot afford to run on stupid. Stupid got us into Iraq. Stupid let bin Laden slip back into his cave. Stupid allowed the excesses that led to the mortgage meltdown. Stupid looks the other way when an obviously unqualified individual is presented as a legitimate candidate to run this country. Right now, the Republican Party seems to be banking on stupid to win the election. It is truly a moment of disgust.
Let’s be clear though and put all of the cards on the table. Had Senator Obama the same profile as Governor Palin, he would have been summarily dismissed. Republicans would have painted him as the unqualified Black token candidate and many white voters would have deemed him the Democrats’ affirmative action pick. The same media that Republicans accuse of being “soft” on Senator Obama has, for the most part, treated Governor Palin with kid gloves; the exception being her interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, MSNBC’s trio of Olberman, Matthews and Maddow, and CNN’s Jack Cafferty’s recent on-air rant. As it is, with sterling credentials and a litany of notable accomplishments, Mr. Obama has been subjected to a litany of silly criticisms that reminds us all why we were always told we needed to be “twice as good” to get even a modicum of respect from whites. There has always been a double standard and the presence of a Sarah Palin on a national political ticket confirms it.
Too often we have casually claimed a presidential election to be “the most important election of our time.” This time it’s really true. Our nation is on fire and last night we witnessed the political equivalent of Nero fiddling on national television. She might as well have kicked into an Ashley Simpson jig on stage since her answers were out of sync with the questions being asked. Her insistence that she preferred to “speak directly to the American people” would have been believable if she actually had something to say. Instead, her attempt to be the folksy, “hockey mom” governor, could only appeal to those dumb enough to think that her robotic like, script driven responses were substantive. In this one election we have made ignorance aspirational and betrayed our national claim to high standards as our benchmark for success.
The central theme of this campaign has come into full view with the arrival of Governor Palin as Senator McCain’s running mate. And it was confirmed during last night’s debate. This election is about rising to the top versus dumbing down. Our nation has a clear choice on November 4 and God help us if we fail this test.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NSnewstv.com