It must be disheartening for Democrats to see how well Sarah Palin has been received as John McCain’s running mate. Women love her, men love to look at her, working class people and outdoorsmen identify with her, and her popularity is (at least for now) greater than that of anyone else that either party has to offer. All this, and most people still really don’t know much about her.
Sounds familiar to Republicans. For the last year and a half we’ve been hearing praise and adoration for Obama based on little more than his ability to read a speech and his skin color, from people who really didn’t know anything about him.
What does it all mean?
It means that people still vote for superficials. People are still essentially the same today as they were twenty years ago, fifty years ago, and one hundred years ago. People know that they can’t learn everything about a candidate, so they’re looking for someone who they identify with; we look for external markers that tell us this person is genuinely what they appear to be. When mothers and grandmothers look at Palin they see a mother of five with a daughter who is pregnant and a son who has a developmental disability. When evangelicals look at Palin they see a mom who could have aborted her imperfectly conceived child, but chose life instead. When outdoorsmen look at Palin they see someone who genuinely likes to hunt and fish (not one who, like Bill Clinton, sits in a duck blind for an hour, fires a round into an empty sky, and then walks out of the blind with a duck that someone else shot). When high-achieving, competitive people look at Palin they see Sarah Barracuda, state basketball champion and mother of a hockey player. When frustrated idealists look at Palin they see a self-sacrificing whistleblower who took on her own party and won.
That’s why the Republican base isn’t even paying much attention to what Sarah Palin says. It’s the same thing when Obama speaks – democrats hear some indistinct mix of nouns and verbs and adverbs and pronouns and beatiful, glittering, quavering adjectives. “Elbow, snowflake, green grass, macaroni, you and I, best friends forever,” he says. And their eyes fill with tears because he’s tall and handsome and black and he has a deep voice and he might actually win.
Yep, they’re a different color, a different gender, and a different party, but it’s pretty much the same thing going on. That’s politics. Welcome to campaign 2008.