Which leads me to the reports of various head-explosions over Dancing with the Stars, where viewer voting is keeping Bristol Palin in the competition. Being without a TV and completely unwilling to even try to locate clips online of any contestant, I can say that I am unbiased about the relative dancing skills of anyone appearing on the show - don't know, don't care
What I do care about is that the show is adding to the media relevancy of the Palin name. McCain's choice should have been a sad selection of VP, on par with Gore's ill-advised selection of Joe Lieberman*, notable only for its bald-faced pandering to a certain obnoxious group internal to the party. But a funny thing happened on the way to the defeat, namely that the Left's reaction to Palin cemented her as a hero on the Right, while their beatification of Obama has led to increasing levels of political demonization of people with reasonable criticisms of his ineffectual center-right politics.
As I asked two years ago, "why did Obama end up running for the presidency not against John McCain but against Sarah Palin?" As the bloom is off the Obama rose, perhaps we can really look at what happened in 2008, when a segment of the left fell in love with an imaginary friend.
The self-proclaimed Progressives in the left media and intelligentsia, wanted a savior, a leader pure and clean and true who would magically get them to their happy place through the sheer force of awesome. Despite the fact that Obama consistently and persistently always made clear that he was a weak centrist at best and a full throated right-wing Progressive by temperament, they projected onto this candidate their idealized fantasy of what they imagined would make the world safe for Whole Foods Nation. He was the black guy who would be proof positive that there was something good about us, the people who voted him in, and that we weren't part of the awful underclass who are southern and dirty and icky to be around. They really, truly, profoundly believed in their deepest heart of hearts that if they nominated The Precious, they could forever drive those undeserving people out of the party, out of politics and back into the shadows, allowing Whole Foods Nation to take its rightful place at the head of the social order.
To do this, they demonized Hillary Clinton, understanding with complete clarity that she was the only thing standing between them and making Obama president. Unfortunately, they had nothing substantive to promote for their own candidate, and had only irrational tribalism to fall back on. They assaulted her personally, called her racist, a monster, and accused her of wanting to murder their beloved object. Above all, they unleashed their deep, passionate misogyny. And, when the dust cleared, they had their pathetic, compromised nomination, overshadowed by the intelligence, partisan loyalty and political acumen of Big Dog and Hillary. But, by God and little fishes, they had the nomination in hand and now nothing could keep them from the White House!
And then McCain chose Palin and all bets were off.
As I said at the time:
Choices like Palin are risky. This may yet all backfire on McCain. What I see, however, is an accidentally savvy ticket selection that is generating buzz and will redound to the Republican's advantage in the fall. It may not win the White House for them, but it revivifies an otherwise tired and disaffected Republican base.There are a lot of elements in 2008 that went into the creation of Sarah Palin as a political force, but the chief among them was the insistence of the Obamacan left to focus on her and make her the object of their fury. Her hair, her voice, her knowledge (or lack thereof), her family, her sexiness, her femaleness, her... monstrosity.
The deliberate actions of the DNC and their selected candidate to antagonize and alienate the Democratic base only compounds the problem.
You know, kind of like that awful Hillary "monster" they were up against in the primaries?
Again, as I said at the time (All True, but Irrelevant - August 30, 2008):
The real elephant (ahem) in the middle of the room is the unacknowledged fact that the DNC and their selected candidate abused the intelligence and trust of the party base and subjected the base's preferred candidate to outrageous abuse month after month in the primaries. The blogosphere's hysterical overreaction to the Palin selection reveals the fear that their hate-filled, explicitly misogynist tactics will backfire on them and that a significant enough percentage of this disaffected base will do more than sit out the election in November, but will actively cast a protest vote.And with the mid-terms, we see how this continues to play out. Somerby, week after week, has documented the atrocities on the left, the persistent, stupid tribalism that reduces political opposition to racists and refuses to accept that ridicule and demonization have a way of coming back to bite you in the ass.
Clinton Democrats know exactly how revolting the Republican ticket is. That's why we voted for Hillary. That's why we rejected the Obama message of bipartisanship and content-free hopey-changey. Obamacans were the ones happy to play patty-cake with these bastards and throw our economic and legal concerns into the toilet. Hillary is still out there fighting for UHC, btw, while Obama's good buddy John Kerry declares that a Democratic Congress isn't even going to try to get it in front of a Democratic president.
The fatal mistake, though probably unavoidable, was clinging to their imaginary liberal champion to justify voting for someone disdainful of working class interests and the cultural markers that are assumed to accompany that class. It’s not that they disagreed with the biases and prejudices Obama voiced; to the contrary, he consistently articulated the Stevensonian’s vision of the Democratic Party finally able to lop off the diseased members, the Bunkers and Bubbas, and have a purified community of the well-educated, the urbane, and the properly thankful minorities and women who somehow are always seen in their particularity and never in their universal condition as people who work for a living.
The monster that Obama named in his far-too-revealing remarks was not so much white as working class. The Tribe keeps eroding the distinction between being a racist, being white and being working class, diligently constructing the monster that they want to fight instead of dealing with the utterly pedestrian calamities befalling what used to be the Democratic base – falling real wages, reduced employment, transfer of their wealth upwards, and devaluation of their education and skills. As I said:
The Stevensonian elite predicated its run this year on deliberate abandonment of the poor and working class, who they see as cultural traitors, and playing to the winners of great economic transformation since the 60s. As this is both the media's class and the fantasy it holds of itself, they loved the story - we are the ones we've been waiting for. Unlike the Clintons (“He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place.”), Obama is seen as a proper member of The Village, unconnected to the (white) trash that both parties have sullied themselves appealing to.Obama was the perfect temptation for the Tribe.
The right has benefited from the combination of half-hearted measures to do something about the downward drift of the economy (even as they celebrate the bend-over-backwards generosity shown to Wall Street) and the tone-deaf scorn from the talking heads. In particular, the continued demonization of Palin is the gift that keeps on giving. The left blogosphere shrieks in outrage every time Palin gets a slot on TV or is quoted somewhere, yet can't stop making her a feature in their own discourse, such as making her into a monster female destroying the suburbs.
The responses to Obama and Palin are flip-sides of the same political impulse - to replace interests, transactions and compromises with ideals, assertions and absolutes. In both cases, the arguments are about cultural markers more than about actual political positions. The mere fact that Palin exists at all is enough to drive certain members of the left blogosphere into paroxysms of rage, to the point where they will be foaming at the mouth over the minor D-List celebrity status of Sarah Palin's daughter due to a variety show. So what if Bristol wins a dance contest? It's an entertainment program! She wouldn't even have been invited if there wasn't such continued controversy around her mother, and that is fed by the same band having kittens over Bristol.
Let's distinguish carefully here between the desires of the Obamacan left - a weird mix of independents, disaffected Republicans, nominal Democrats, Clinton haters and Obama adulators who are mostly bound together by their identification with a certain kind of urbane lifestyle and imagined intellectual superiority – and the candidate himself. Obama himself, as I will continue to discuss, is also a part of this social class, but whose political beliefs run to the right, though he's happy to let others think he's liberal if it gets him votes. The Tribe projected onto him their fantasies of salvation just as they projected onto HRC and then Palin their fantasies of revenge. It is their obsession with their own political demonology that adds more power to Plain’s rise.
Every tribal reaction to the presence of Sarah Palin and her family in the news strengthens Palin within her own party and in the political realm more generally. In responding to Palin in a personal way, instead of shutting her down early on by focusing solely on her political failings, the Obamacan left has contributed to the creation of a powerful, effective representative for the worst, most revanchist elements on the Right. The personal attacks are exaggerated versions of the same disdain and rejection that the increasingly disaffected Democratic base was subjected to in the 2008 primaries, and which is launched day after day against those who are assumed to support Palin. The arguments used to attack her feel pretty damn personal to the people she is wooing.
The Tribe may have picked the wrong person to demonize. Palin is someone who is unafraid of a political fight and who knows how to capitalize on the mistakes of others. She mostly avoids the main stream media that reviles her and relies on the social media, namely Facebook and Twitter, to get her message out to her tribe. She has not disbanded the online communities that supported her in 2008, probably because their objectives overlap with her own and she feels no need to disavow them in order to appear “serious”. This is someone who can get an interview with Barbara Walters and get votes by proxy on a mass media entertainment show, all the while keeping up a Twitter persona (it is truly irrelevant if those tweets are from Palin or from “Palin”) that delights her base. The difference between the Palin’s political objectives and the desires of her base are not as far as the chasm between Obama's performance and his giddy supporters of 2008.
The ultimate response to Palin and thus to Beck, Gingrich, Boehner, Rove, and the rest of the Right, should have been "It's the economy, stupid," but the Tribe elected their imaginary friend "Obama", not a Democrat.
Sadly for them, their imaginary friend has turned into something of a monster, someone who has governed exactly by the beliefs he espoused from the start of his candidacy.
*For shits and giggles, without looking it up, who was Michael Dukakis' VP choice? And how long did it take you to remember that?