Palin: Good for Democrats, Bad for Discourse
On the one hand, a Palin victory in the primary would pave the way for an easy victory for Obama in the general election. For some politicians, charisma can go a long way in covering up vices. This compensation reaches a limit, however, and the depth of Palin’s inability to formulate a clear stance on many present-day issues, coupled with her constant gaffes that render her a joke for many, certainly exceeds that limit. Obama’s top guns have recognized Palin’s potential in winning Democrats elections, as both Plouffe and Axelrod “invok(ed) Palin to stir (the Democratic) base” while campaigning last September. Similarly, the progressive attendees of the Netroots Nation conference this year overwhelmingly chose Palin as the candidate who they’d like to see Obama run against.
On the other hand, all the press and attention focused on Palin far too often is wasted on making her look foolish and dumb. Perhaps this is best epitomized by the media’s obsession with Palin coining the word “refudiate” on Twitter. Not only were liberals “enraged” by Palin supposedly typing an “f” instead of a “p”, but the media entertained the story to the extent that thousands of articles were written about the minor gaffe and Palin was forced to repeatedly explain herself. The media is ignoring the real issues, those being Palin’s history as a governor and legitimate stances on current topics, while dumbing down the debate and focusing more on things that really don’t matter.
Okay, okay, maybe I’m giving Palin too much the benefit of the doubt. After all, she has spent her time since November 2008 retiring prematurely as governor of Alaska, becoming a pundit for Fox News, and serving as the centerpiece of a reality show on TLC. And she doesn’t usually have valuable ideas to contribute to debate, either, often resorting to the predictable rhetoric of how it’s all about jobs and how the government’s spending is out of control when she becomes confused by the topic at-hand. To make matters worse, she has proven herself entirely inept at knowing which battles to fight, recently picking on the First Lady’s crusade against childhood obesity.
But if she is really this bad, and I’m not saying she isn’t, why aren’t we worried a little less about who wins the next election and a little more about the future of political discourse in the United States? Shouldn’t we be able to trust the public enough to make an informed judgment about whether or not Sarah Palin is someone who should be taken seriously?
By focusing more on chastising Palin at every possible moment, I fear that both the Democratic Party, a party to which I loyally belong, and the national media are inciting Sarah Palin supporters to become ever more radicalized and increasingly loyal, often blindly, in their support of her. As I mentioned earlier, I fully recognize the potential for Democratic political success in associating all Republicans with Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and I certainly don’t fault Plouffe and Axelrod for placing an emphasis on such a connection during this past arduous election cycle. Further, I am cognizant that such a polarizing figure as Palin would likely help Obama in 2012 much more than, say, Mitt Romney.
However, is this the nation we really want to become? Do we as Democrats honestly want our opposition to revere a candidate like Palin? Personally, I don’t buy in to the strategy of degrading opposition by laughing and ridiculing. Instead, I prefer constructive debate where both sides bring good ideas to the table. I fear that if we continue down the path we’re headed, our attempts to paint all Republicans as Tea Party “numb nuts” will backfire more than they have already. By that I mean, while we spent the midterm cycle obsessively attempting to portray all Republicans as Christine O’Donnell clones, Republicans picked up significant gains in the House and Senate, clearly showing the public viewed their message as much more legitimate than we attempted to portray it.
For the sake of not only the 2012 presidential election, but also for the sake of political discourse and the productive exchange of ideas in this country moving forward, it is my sincere hope that we, both as Democrats and as a nation, refocus our attention on the real issues and mitigate our obsession with Sarah Palin. It’s time the Democrats and media just forget about her, let people decide for themselves if she is a legitimate possibility for the presidency, and move on, before the damage is irreparable.
Photo Credit: Robyn Beck, 2008 AFP