January 5, 2009

The Banality Of Obsessive Palin Disorder

For some reason that is not entirely clear to me, the bizarre and pointless campaign claim that Trig Palin was somehow Sarah Palin's grandson and not her son and there is some sort of massive conspiracy to conceal this fact has survived not only the initial flush of publicity surrounding the campaign, and indeed survived the campaign itself. And it's growing.

Just as a sample -- Tripp Johnston, who is (purportedly) Governor Palin's grandson and (purportedly) the son of her daughter Bristol Palin and boyfriend/fiance Levi Johnston, was born a few days ago. But the announcement did not hit the presses until three days after the birth and Half Sigma smells a rat. Megablogger Andrew Sullivan does, too. And on the horrendously overvalued Huffington Post, you can follow a breathless headline to a report about Johnston's mother's legal troubles.

Here's a bit of unpleasant truth for both Palin fans and the Palin-obsessed: The Palins are deeply banal people. Economically well-off, religious, embroiled in family and community disputes of various degrees of pettiness, politically and socially conservative, they are very much like the busybodies who inject themselves into suburban local politics -- yes, Sarah Palin is exceptionally good at that sort of game, which is how she got to Juneau. But it's the same insipid game you can see anywhere, including in your own town, church, or social circle.

Sarah Palin could be interesting if she had a political future or if she were a source of interesting ideas or if she were some sort of mythic figure. By "mythic" I don't mean she's the modern-day equivalent of Hercules; I mean someone whose story gives us something that the rest of us could use to pattern our lives around (or in opposition to, as the case might be). For instance, a lawyer at my firm tells a story of a woman who was giving a presentation to the board of directors of a major defense contractor. After she was introduced, she stood up and walked over to the podium to begin her talk, and the skirt of her suit fell down around her ankles. She stopped in her tracks, picked up the garment and put it back on, and said, "Now that I have your complete attention, let's begin." That's a mythic figure -- she provides an example of something that you might do in a tense, horribly embarrassing situation.

Sarah Palin has not, as far as I can tell, done or even been purported to have done, something with that sort of emotional resonance. If she will be remembered for anything, it will be for the absurdity of her claims to be qualified to lead the country. Palin did not actually say she could see Russia from her house (that was Tina Fey impersonating her), but she did say that her foreign policy credentials included Alaska's proximity to Russia -- and no one says that Rick Perry or Arnold Schwarzenegger are experts on foreign policy or immigration because their states border Mexico.

So if Palin is a mythic figure, she is one of opposition rather than emulation -- she is an example of what not to do.

Personally, I find it unlikely that Sarah Palin will ever rise above the level of Governor of Alaska -- yes, being the Governor of a state is no small achievement, even with a relatively small population to whom one must appeal. But she got brought up from the AAA league into the majors before she was ready, and she amply demonstrated that in the Presidential campaign -- even to this observer, who tried to keep an open mind about her for a long time. She will need to re-make her image as some kind of a wonky policy wizard in order to overcome this problem; and in so doing, she will abandon the "Average Jane," small-town folksy persona that was the foundation of her charisma in the first place. So I think she's out.

And her family's tawdry affairs are, whether rightfully private or not, really kind of uninteresting. Those people who seem unable to let go of finding deeply personal ways to attack or malign her are something of a mystery to me. Dudes: SHE LOST! She's done. Out of the picture. Whatever it was about her that you hated so intensely, you've managed to purge it from the body politic. And the people who so intensely liked her back in the campaign and still do, take care to understand why you like her. Are you sure that it isn't just to piss off the people who continue to be negatively obsessed with her?

Point is, continuing to obsess about Sarah Palin and her family is really, really pointless and weird.

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