Pray for Mittens

As this enormous yawn that was September draws to a close—anybody catch that God-awful season premiere of The Office?—it has become nearly impossible to deny the teabaggers are on the cusp on something big in the November elections. Despite their public protestations to the opposite effect, I am quite certain the apparatchiks in the White House (i.e. the ones that haven’t already saluted the president before pole-vaulting to freedom), the courtiers in the speaker’s office, and the logo designers at the Democratic National Committee have already procured their spirits and Bicycle playing cards for the long night that awaits them on November 2.

For those of us who inhabit the out crowd—they have so many names: we’re everything but children of God—we must continue to lead the way whether the Democratic establishment appreciates it or not. In terms of electoral politics, 2010 is a lost cause and 2012 is the most relevant consideration—specifically the two people most likely to challenge our hopefully post-Obama nominee: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Let’s do Sarahcuda first. While I was never convinced Sarah Palin hurt John McCain’s electoral prospects in the final analysis, I do believe the erratic, poorly-considered decision spoke to McCain’s lack of judgment which is an entirely different matter. (Barack Obama was always most fortunate in the opponents he faced.) Having established that, I have always maintained that Sarah Palin is essentially Barack Obama without the benefit of an Ivy League pedigree, a reasonably high IQ, and more talented ghostwriters. They possess the same sort of charisma—markedly different from recent smooth operators like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. These were self-effacing politicians who were sharp on their feet and could genuinely make you crack up. Dick Morris says he faced a recurring challenge in that Bubba was far more impressive extemporaneously than on the script. In those tumultuous 80s, Reagan’s foremost task was to spout killer witticisms in East Room press conferences while his minions ran wild. While W. had the ridiculous bit of business on the deck of that aircraft carrier, he also had the Bullhorn Speech under his Texas belt. Whatever one’s opinion of his miserable policies, incompetence, and larger stupidity, the Bullhorn Speech was an iconic moment in presidential rhetoric.  

Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are charismatic only because of the attractive exuberance they possess. Their cults of personality are products of modern identity politics. These are tabula rasas whose appeal transcend the normal workings of Politics for the cultural niches they represent. She is the hot, fecund Christian warrior woman; he the postracial black man on a fascinating journey of self-discovery.

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