Sensitivity Alert: During the “Oscars” announcements in the major categories, when they split the screen to show all five nominees, I always look away, identifying so strongly with the soon-to-be losers, that I can’t bear to look at their faces. That’s me. And this is about that. So if it’s not you, this isn’t either. Unless you’re curious about people who aren’t you.
“Game Change” is an HBO docudrama about how Sarah Palin was selected to run as the Republican candidate for Vice President – teamed with presidential candidate John McCain – and the way that turned out.
Love her, hate her, fear her, or laugh at her, it is undeniable that Sarah Palin is a prodigiously charismatic public presence. Does that matter when you’re running for high office? Ask George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore or John Kerry.
To shake things up, and give the Republicans any shot at all at capturing the presidency, the Republican “Power People” chose a “game changing” selection as their Vice Presidential candidate. The selectors were excited about what Sarah Palin was –attractive, refreshing, down-to-earth – and what she wasn’t – no taint of Washington insiderism, or “turn-off” overeducated wonkiness.
Sarah Palin was popular in the sense that infuses the word “populist.” She could really connect with the people, a “tea partier” before the label was coined.
Could she connect with all the people? Of course not. Nobody connects with all the people. And candidates don’t have to; they just need one more vote than the opposition. To achieve victory, Sarah Palin would have to win over the Republican base – an indisputable “slam dunk” – and attract independents, who were sick and tired of “business as usual.”
She soared at first, but ultimately fell short with independents, taking McCain’s slim shot at the presidency down with her.
Why did it happen? There are a lot of answers to that, depending on your prejudice/slash/perspective. My prejudice/slash/perspective says that the Republican handlers made a fatal mistake. They took an unconventional candidate – “unconventional” being Palin’s most formidable selling point – and directed her to fit a mold she was originally selected because she didn’t.
Palin’s experienced and highly skilled consultants –she didn’t pick them they were assigned to her – believed – correctly, by conventional campaign standards – that she needed to know certain things, “correctly”, because everyone who had ever run for that position was expected to know those things, and she would unquestionably be asked about them during the campaign.
Sarah Palin had been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and was the governor of a remote, under-populated state. She did not have to know those things to do those jobs. And, not surprisingly, she didn’t.
The result was, Sarah Palin ignominiously flunked the test.
Which, while watching Game Change, consistently triggered my “It’s just like the Oscars”, turn-away-from-the-television response. Like with an overmatched Spelling Bee contestant, every time Palin was exposed as ignorant on a factual issue, or was asked a question she was unable to answer, I could not stand to look at her face. It was that painful. (And this was one step removed. I could not look at the person who was playing the person’s face.
Let’s be clear. My focus here is not whether Sarah Palin would have made an acceptable Vice President. That’s a different issue, one not too difficult to ascertain. (Although, for me, ignorance is not a “deal breaker.” Given time, facts are the easiest thing to learn.)
What I am thinking about is snobbery – not the “Obama said he wants everybody in America to go to college; what a snob” kind of snobbery; that’s just a candidate pandering to a voting bloc that didn't go to college – I am talking about the snobbery that punishes you, not for what you know or what you don’t know. It’s the snobbery that punishes you for existing.
Agree with them or not, nobody should be dismissed in that manner.
“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”? Of course. If you can’t take it, don’t run. But my concern here is not the candidates, and whatever stimulus – be it noble or calculating or megalomaniacal – that impelled them to say “I’ll run.”
My concern is the people who chose not to reason Sarah Palin into submission, but to superciliously invalidate the entire person. And when you do that, you’re not just writing off Sarah Palin, but everyone like her.
Sarah Palin is not running for president n 2012, though if it were up to the “everyone like her”, she would be. With a potential logjam at the Republican convention, their voices may yet be heard.
Look out. They’re still angry from the last time.