Monday, September 08, 2008

Change You Can Handle: A White Compromise

I'm leaving for Guam today, and so I can only post something real quick.

The race for President has changed since the Democratic National Convention. The pick of the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has energized everybody out there, even those who didn't really need it. Republicans are rabid, foaming at the mouth, since they no longer are stuck with guarding the legacy of a terrible President, but can now this year make their own sort of "history" and to steal a line from Obama's stump speech, "change America, and change the world" by helping Sarah Palin become the first white woman Vice President.

The media is almost as rabid, but not unified in its energy, but divided. First there are those who feel compelled to take Palin down and do the vetting the Republicans obviously didn't do, and fight against that ridiculous Republican expectation that if we say Palin is a reformer, no one should look into her past or her record, but they should just accept it since she's almost thirty years younger than John McCain and shoots moose. The other half is invigorated since they can now speak with excitement about John McCain again, after months of pretty much nothing that they could use to place John McCain on a beloved pedestal, except for his POW status, they can now bring back all the tired narratives of John McCain as bold, a maverick. In recent weeks, the faces of many mainstream media commentators and anchors have looked rather glum, as the political icon of bravery they once reified has slowly decayed into just another pandering politician, who will use anything in his biography to make or dodge a point. Now, they can finally rehash all of those old notes. Even Joe Klein, in a Time column this week, argues that Obama is a conservative and crafty leaders, while McCain is the bold and radical one. Thankfully, his argument is pretty accurate and notes that the boldness and impulsiveness of McCain is not what this country or this world needs right now.
Lastly, Palin has done wonders for Democrats, needing a shot in the arm after their convention to keep themselves unified and pushing ahead. With Palin's shots at "community organizers" and her generally sarcasm unbound in her RNC speech, she's energized different Democratic factions to keep organizing, keep fundraising and keep the Republicans honest. If there were any Hillary Clinton supporters out there who were thinking about supporting John McCain out of spite, this sort of grotesque and really insulting pandering should hopefully make them think twice. Would McCain have chosen a man with so little experience? Absolutely not.

The Republican party will now start its own collective self-lobotomy over the next 60 days, trying to reconcile how they can argue simultaneously that the past eight years have been "OKAY!" and that they are the party of change and who can bring about the changes to America that they've suppressed for all of those eight years. Palin and their newfound love of all things feminist and women-centered is creating a frenzy over their own taking charge and making history and progress. But this frenzy and this delusion is so incredibly fragile, its almost laughable. The idea that the Republican party is ready to support equality for women's issues, or ready to take seriously a woman as President can be dismissed so easily and without the tiniest bit of effort. All one needs ask themselves, is to mentally imagine if someone such as Sarah Palin could have been nominated for President on the Republican side through their primary process? Would she have had a chance? Absolutely not, no way in hell. Her tiny morsels of experience at the national and international level would have been laughed off the stage, and she would have been the object of so much misogynist ridicule, I'm sure the sound bytes could be used as fodder for anti-Republican pro-woman campaigns for decades to come.

Whereas Obama's potential election as President, as I've written many times before, represents a shortcut in terms of Americans hoping to resolve their violent racial past and present, without confronting it or doing much more than voting, Palin's selection for VP on the Republican side, represents an even cruder and more conservative way of preventing any fundamental change from taking place in this country. As I mentioned earlier, her pick is a way by which McCain and the Republicans can gain access to the spirit that is seeking a "change" this year from Bush and from Washington as usual. But whereas Obama represents a change that "you can believe in" or a change which is derived from hope or dreams in a better future (something which, even if incrementally pushes you forward), McCain's campaign has changed this race back into the question of "change that you can handle."

For all of those white voters out there who are uncomfortable or uneasy about voting for black man, who might be Muslim, and talks like he's smart and "uppity" McCain has offered them a chance to still change this country, but to still protect its perceived identity as a "white" nation. Protect the whiteness of America, but still be part of that bold pioneering American spirit!

Also its important to note that this isn't a very significant change because Palin didn't go through the primary process, which would have indicated clearly how "mature" America is on women's issues, but was instead chosen and placed in such a position where the McCain campaign hopes she will continue to emanate all the implied success of her being chosen and her being elected, while drowning about any possible references to the still subordinate she occupies, the sleight of hand through which she will be making history, and in general the horribly cynical and monstrous reasoning that led her to be selected. It is a delicate and very deadly game, and if this isn't one of the most insane things I've written recently, it will all depend on how well people like Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly can take up "feminist" positions in defense of poor Palin.

So in sum, for all of those out there who are thinking that this will now be a campaign about gender, in my opinion it will still be very much an election about race.

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