Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Dangerous Lightweight?

Sometime last week the narrative reached the right wing commentator, Kathleen Parker that Sarah Palin was just Caribou Barbie: she ought not be running for Vice President and who was dragging down the McCain campaign and ought to pull an Eagleton.

Now, like Peggy Noonan before her, Ms. Parker has eaten some crow. In particular, Ms. Parker states of Mrs. Palin, "to Democrats, she’s still a dangerous lightweight..." which raises the question? If Mrs. Palin is a lightweight, how can she be dangerous?

I had a conversation with my neighbor when I put a McCain-Palin sign in my front yard. (I had foregone putting any Republican signs in my yard until I could get one with Mrs. Palin's name on it.) He announced with glee that Mr. McCain had pulled out of Michigan and thought that significant. He is probably correct at that point. But when I mentioned my support for Mrs. Palin, he said, "She knows nothing."

Very well, if she knows nothing, she should pose no threat to anyone with "D" next to their name, correct?

But my neighbor was not finished with Mrs. Palin. He said, "You know she's a Pentacostal. She supports Israel. She wants Armageddon to force the Second Coming." Now, I doubt that my neighbor recognized the naked religious bigotry in his assertion. I suppose that if Mrs. Palin's middle name were "Hussein" it might be different. But I gave him a pass, going after the sheer ignorance and falseness of this representation of premillenial eschatology. I am a premillenialist Christian and I find this canard of the left utterly ridiculous. If you think this way, you don't know what you're talking about. Christians who speak of the imminent return of Jesus Christ do so to warn that one must always be ready to meet one's maker and give account of one's life. The point is that God is in the driver's seat, not the other way around. But I digress.

I dislike this line of rhetoric: seeking not only the political defeat of someone whose opinions you contradict, but their personal destruction. I've come close to this myself, comparing Mr. Obama with Steve Urkel and contrasting him with John Shaft. I plan to vote against Mr. Obama because he advances policies I dislike and I plan to vote for Mrs. Palin because she advances policies I support.

By moving away from the policies of the candidates to their personal attributes, we set for ourselves a trap. When we speak of policies, we can more easily remain civil in our conversations. On the other hand, when we say the other guy is an empty suit, the other guy will speak of lipstick on a pig, and the conversation goes downhill very quickly. In conversation with my neighbor, most of my replies were, "Oh really?" and "Is that so?" while believing none of it. I don't think my neighbor realizes how close his assertions came to 1930s style antisemitism, or sexism and ageism of more recent vintage. But they got past his civility filter because he'd gone past policy into the ad hominem.

This isn't new. Mrs. Palin is getting the full Ronald Reagan treatment. And the left is tacking very close to the wind while doing this. If she's a lightweight, she can't be dangerous. But if she's worthy of the vitriol we've seen since her nomination for Vice President, someone must regard her as very dangerous. She has proved articulate and she manages to say things I haven't heard from a Republican candidate since Mr. Reagan left public life.

I'm not altogether convinced that Mrs. Palin's enemies are limited to those with "D"s next to their name. This year is not completely unlike 1976 and someone who so channels Ronald Reagan will find few friends in the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the party. One wonders what would have happened had Gerald Ford made Ronald Reagan his running mate. My hopes are that Mrs. Palin is more dangerous than lightweight.

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