Hold on, let me try that again – SARAH PALIN?!
Of course, the female 2 year governor of Alaska with no national political experience, zero national name recognition until this weekend, a possible penchant for persecuting state troopers for personal reasons, and oh yeah a pregnant 17 year old daughter. The logical choice for the experience driven “no bullshit” campaign run by John McCain.
I’m not hating on Sarah Palin the person or Sarah Palin the governer. I’m not going to make sexist comments about her sexy librarian-like appeal and I’m not going to crudely remark that I wouldn’t mind going drilling for oil in her “home state”. I’m not going to do those things because we’re above that kind of immature shit here at the Culture Wharf. This is not about Sarah Palin the babe, broad, bitty, or the sexual politics of the boys club in Washington.
This is about Sarah Palin the vice presidential candidate. What does McCain’s selection of Palin tell us about the Republican campaign and this country right now?
That the McCain campaign is floundering and needs a quick fix of media attention to make sure it won’t be over before October hits?
That they underestimate the women of this country so much that they think Hilary supporters might defect for the nominal selection of a woman as VP?
That the “Grand Old Party” wants to seem a little more hip so as not cede the monopoly on youth, energy and change to Obama?
Or that it just might work?
The selection of Sarah Palin in a society that valued practical policy or political experience would be idiotic, luckily for McCain America is not such a place. What we value is news. Headlines, controversy, lead pictures, back and forth swings of momentum. When there isn’t any real change to the status quo we invent some, because 24 hour news networks need to talk about something. And as media has become more and more pervasive and instantaneous, literally inserting itself into the background of our lives, the speed of the news cycles has had to keep up. The presidential election is the ultimate bonanza for the news-starved American media. It’s more than just a horse race, it’s OUR NATION’S horse race, a once in for years event and we the public want our money’s worth. It’s entertainment, after all what fun is a race without the drama, the swings in momentum, the stories of impossible comebacks?
But like the guy who spoils the ending of the Sixth Sense I can already tell you how this is going to play out. Obama wins. Sorry guys, I know you’re invested in propping up McCain like Reagan propped up the Soviet Union, but November 4th is going to be the 1991 of this smoke and mirrors incarnation. At which point the media will collectively scratch their heads and wonder what to do next…
The media NEEDS John McCain. And John McCain picking Palin shows the media that he understands and is willing to play their game. It’s not about running a solid campaign based on issues anymore. It’s not about taking his message to the American people. It’s about feeding the machine that will decide the election. And he just gave them a mouthful.
What McCain’s move shows is some media savvy, probably on the part of his advisors because I don’t believe for a minute McCain himself chose this woman to be his Vice President (rumors are he wanted Lieberman but his team said “political suicide”). She’s camera-ready and she’s already snatched the headlines from Obama. But what McCain probably doesn’t get is that he could literally get on stage naked and jerk off on the American flag and the media would find a way to prop him up for another couple of months until he loses to Obama.
That’s how invested in the race model of politics the media is.
That’s why picking Palin was the dumbest and the most brilliant thing he could do. Because even though it is blatantly and transparently selling out campaign values to PR concerns, even though it plays to the base when he needs to win over undecideds, even though she undercuts his main charge of lack of experience against Obama, for the next several months McCain has managed to keep the media’s fickle attention. And for the next several months we’ll be hearing about it. The media already loves it.
I respect John McCain the person immensely but I wonder, at times like this, if John McCain still feels like John McCain. McCain struck me initially as a principled man with a very sincere message. But politics is a funny game, you start out with high hopes of being above the political scramble and media gamesmanship, with the honest intent to bring a real message about policy to the American people. Then one day your advisors tell you have to give away a little of that dignity here to stay in the race, so you do it. You want to win, and this is how the game is played, so when they ask you for a little more next month you don’t like it but you give it to them. Then some more. Then some more. They keep asking for it and the rush of staying in the race is too much so you just keep giving it to them–besides you’ll get back to being yourself as soon as you get in office, you promise. Just a little more. Just a little longer. I’m running low this month, bro, do you think you could spot me a few? Let me just get half this time. Before you know it you’re waking up on the floor of the motel room of a guy you don’t even know with a needle in your arm, blood running down your legs and Sarah Palin as your running mate. And you’re still going to lose the election.