Despite a recent poll revealing that 70% of Americans think Sarah Palin is unqualified to be President (and that includes a majority of Republicans), it seems more and more likely that she will be running for the position in 2012. Whether or not she gets the nomination remains to be seen, of course, but to me the mere possibility of such a thing happening is beyond terrifying.
It’s not that I loathe the woman, although I wouldn’t say I’m her biggest fan (far from it, in fact). I have some shred of admiration for any woman in politics, and I even admitted to a friend recently (he’s probably her biggest fan) that I respected her a bit for calling out Rush Limbaugh for using the word “retard.” Granted, she still lets her political allegiances shine through. She called out Rahm Emanuel for the same thing recently (and rightfully so; it can be a nasty, offensive word), but in that particular case, she went so far as to call for his resignation. No such demand was made of Rush Limbaugh, even though his audience was much larger than Mr. Emanuel’s. But still, at least she has one issue she’s willing to play turncoat for. I also think that she’s been correct in some of her cries of “sexism.” I’ve seen people fall into the trap of misogyny when criticizing her, much like they did with Hillary Clinton. Even her supposed compatriot Glenn Beck has made sexist comments about her.
Of course, I also think Palin has a tendency to “cry sexism” at every little bit of criticism lodged at her. Problem is, I’m not entirely sure that she herself is actually that aware of sexism and what it means and how to identify it. It’s just that the probability is good that she’d hit the misogyny nail on the head at least a few times, and she has. But I’m certainly not ready to call her a “champion of women’s rights” just yet (and probably not ever). I don’t think that could be said of a woman who once said, “I felt like, wow, John McCain is a maverick. He’s all about empowering women. He is all about equality.” Yeah, Sarah, because saying that women don’t deserve equal pay, as McCain does, is really empowering.
All those things -whether good or bad – aside, my real issue with Sarah Palin is that she has become the figurehead of this recent (although that adjective is debatable) movement of “Real Americans” and “anti-intellectualism.” The idea has surfaced that, unless you live in the heartland of America or unless you’re a Republican or a citizen of the middle class, you’re not a real American. You’re not holding up the values set forth in our Constitution and Pledge of Allegiance and all that. This is complete and total bull, of course. I live in the midwest, and I’m middle class, and yet I’m certain that Sarah Palin and her cronies wouldn’t dub me a “real American.” But that’s fine by me. I think that anyone that takes pride in and/or cares about their country will treat it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Otherwise, we’re all going to get a bit too big for our red, white and blue britches (one could argue that we already are, but that’s a discussion for another time).
What really inspired me to write this (and by the time I publish it, it’ll be clear that I took my time on it) was Palin’s speech at the Tea Party Convention at the Gaylord Opryland (the picture above, of her infamous “hand notes,” is from said convention). Never has this idea of “anti-intellectualism” been so gleefully expressed in such a way. This is a transcript of the speech, and here’s a video of the insanely lengthy spiel, for reference. Here are a few highlights:
I look forward to attending more Tea Party events in the near future. It is just so inspiring to see real people — not politicos, not inside-the-Beltway professionals — come out and stand up and speak out for common-sense conservative principles.
Now in many ways Scott Brown represents what this beautiful movement is all about. You know, he was just a guy with a truck and a passion to serve our country.
Yes, because a pickup truck qualifies as legit political experience.
Brown’s victory — it’s exciting, and it’s a sign of more good things to come. A lot of great common sense conservative candidates, they’re going to put it all on the line in 2010.
Take note of her mentioning “common sense conservatives.” From looking at her Twitter and her speeches and her Facebook and her public appearances, she’s seemingly a big supporter of this idea of “common sense” and how conservatives seem to have some sort of claim to it. She, and other conservative politicians, portray their “common sense” as being worth so much more than some fancy-shmancy college education (which most of them probably have). But, in my own personal opinion, I think it’s a relief that Obama is so educated, that he is, as she says later in the speech, “a professor of law standing at the lectern.” To be honest, I’m frequently disheartened and terrified by the state of America, especially the rampant stupidity that seems to be taking over. For me, it’s a relief that our President is so well-educated. Yeah, he may say things that I don’t completely understand sometimes, but that’s what dictionaries, encyclopedias and the Internet are for. For learning. Don’t knock it.
And in that spirit, I caution against allowing this movement to be defined by any one leader or politician. The Tea Party movement is not a top-down operation. It’s a ground-up call to action that is forcing both parties to change the way that they’re doing business, and that’s beautiful. This is about the people. This is about the people, and it’s bigger than any king or queen of a Tea Party.
I will actually take a moment here to compliment ex-Governor Palin on her opinions. She’s right that the Tea Party movement (and any political movement or party, really) should avoid becoming defined by one person. Besides, if it was defined by one person, it’d probably be Glenn Beck, and that’s terrifying. Getting swept away by one politician or pundit is a scary thing. It’s something that I think some people struggled with during President Obama’s campaign and early presidency. And I do agree that the Tea Party is “forcing both parties to change the way that they’re doing business,” although I don’t agree that it’s “beautiful.” But in a way, the fact that the Republican party has become the party of “No” has recently forced the Democrats to grow a pair, and we needed that. A lot. As far as how the Tea Party is affecting the Republican party, I think that it’s had an even more devastating impact on them. From what I can tell, there seems to be some Conservative witch hunt going on in the party, with popular candidates like John McCain getting called out for not being “Conservative enough,” and altering their opinions and goals to fit that vision of perfect Conservatism. In fact, I think that if the Tea Party continues to grow, we might be looking at a legitimate splinter party.
The soul of this movement is the people — everyday Americans who grow our food and run our small businesses, teach our kids, and fight our wars. They’re folks in small towns and cities across this great nation who saw what was happening — and they saw and were concerned, and they got involved. Like you, they go to town hall meetings, and they write op-eds. They run for local office.
New terms used like “overseas contingency operation” instead of the word “war.” That reflects a worldview that is out of touch with the enemy that we face. We can’t spin our way out of this threat. It’s one thing to call a pay raise a job created or saved. It’s quite another to call the devastation that a homicide bomber can inflict a “manmade disaster.” And I just say, come on, Washington. If nowhere else, national security — that’s one place where you got to call it like it is.
I don’t really understand why she spends this much time railing against the government using synonyms (what is a homicide/suicide bomber if not a “manmade disaster?” How does that not make sense?). Is she perhaps just pointing out the fact that our current Liberal government is using big, scary words? Eww. Why use three apt words when you can use one three letter word that connotes a lot more than it needs to, at times?
Because that’s not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this. They know we’re at war. And to win that war, we need a Commander-in-Chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.
Well, guess what. President Bush certainly was not a “professor of law standing at a lectern.” He and his cabinet were a bunch of war-mongers, plain and simple. That man tried to establish himself as a Commander-in-Chief more often than I could count (aircraft carrier photoshoots in uniform, hiding his “Daddy got me into the National Guard and far away from any real combat or combat training” past, etc.). But America still suffered a few terrifying attacks under his rule – 9/11, the Shoe Bomber, Anthrax. There’s nothing wrong with a President who was a professor of law. Besides, Commander-in-Chief is only one of the many roles, responsibilities and titles that is bestowed upon each President. Besides, where does war get us but in debt up to our ears? Debt that Republicans seem to want to forget was brought on by their beloved Bush, and not by President Obama’s one whole year in office.
If you read or watch the whole speech, Palin spends a lot of time talking about Obama’s supposed foreign policy fallacies, and his failings as Commander-in-Chief. But does she offer a counter-plan? No. I would love to hear what she has to say about how we can solve these problems. How would Sarah Palin keep North Korea and Iran from using their nuclear powers on us? How would Sarah Palin handle the war in the Middle East? How would Sarah Palin keep all possible terrorists off of our soil? It’s not a matter of will-power. I doubt that Obama wants our country to be attacked any more or less than Palin does, but she seems to underestimate that, just like she underestimates the massive amount of things Obama wants to accomplish, and the even more massive amount of things people want him to accomplish. Sure, I wish that Obama had done more in his first year in office. But do I think he had it easy? Certainly not, and Sarah Palin and her gang of naysayers were hardly lending a helping hand. Rather they constructed a wall of “NO,” and filed their complaints when Obama couldn’t scale that wall’s heights in the span of twelve months. Thank god he seems to have gained some gumption now – at least when it comes to his healthcare bill – because I’m sick and tired of this back and forth between two parties, and nothing getting done.
And we must build effective coalitions capable of confronting dangerous regimes like Iran and North Korea. It’s time for more than just tough talk. Just like you — probably just so tired of hearing the talk, talk, talk. Tired of hearing the talk.
Yes, because war is always the solution. Besides, no “effective coalition” is going to stop a bomb once it’s been launched. But effective diplomacy might keep that bomb from being launched in the first place, no? And again, this portion of her speech plays on the idea that “talk, talk, talk” is bad. Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, it’s exactly what we need. Just because it might be confusing or hard to understand for some, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Sometimes, these grassroots conservatives with their “all war, all the time” ideals and their “stop talking, too many words, let’s blow stuff up” plan of action remind me of teenage boys and their taste in film. There’s a reason Michael Bay’s films make money, and it’s because they’re brainless but action-packed. Grassroots conservatives are the political equivalent of a Michael Bay summer blockbuster – too little plot, too many explosions.
Now, this was all part of that hope and change and transparency. And now a year later I’ve got to ask those supporters of all that: How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for you?
That was probably the most oft-quoted portion of this speech. “Hopey-changey stuff.” How incredibly rude and insulting. Not just to Obama, because it certainly is, but to the ideas that America needs hope and change. When one divorces those words from their political affiliations, I still say that America needs hope and that we need to change, drastically. How’s all that “you betcha-pro-lifey stuff” going for you, Sarah?
So see, it’s easy to understand why Americans are shaking their heads when Washington has broken trust with the people that these politicians are to be serving.
See, this is an idea I encounter a lot. How do we expect to ever get anything done if we constantly cast the people and the government as two separate entities who are at odds? I’d go so far as to apply one of Palin’s favorite words to that practice: unconstitutional. The government and the people should be one cohesive unit, working together to better America. Instead, we’re making it out to be our enemy, this giant, scary, confusing, almighty power that should be toppled. That just doesn’t seem like the way the Founding Fathers, who fought so hard to establish the democratic government we have, would want it to be run. “We the people” includes government officials (and that includes Democrats), Sarah.
Now the foundational principles in all of this, it’s easy to understand. It really is — even I though I think D.C. would just love for us to believe that this is all way over our heads. Somebody in Tennessee, somebody up there in Alaska, she’ll never understand what we’re talking about here in D.C. No, this is all pretty simple stuff.
Those voters wanted us to keep on fighting and take the gloves off. And they wanted common sense conservative solutions. And they wanted us to keep on debating.
Again with this supposed “common sense conservatism.” Blech.
But unlike the elitists who denounce this movement — they just don’t want to hear the message –I’ve traveled across this great country and I’ve talked to the patriotic men and women who make up the Tea Party movement. And they are good and kind and selfless and they are deeply concerned about our country.
It seems like they’re constantly spewing this idea – whether they’re stating it explicitly or subtly – that Tea Partiers are the most patriotic citizens, and the hardest working, and the people who care the most about our country. And I’m not trying to say that they aren’t patriotic, hard-working, or that they don’t care about our country. But I feel slighted when they’re positioned as some paragon of American citizenship. I too care about my country. I just have a different vision for it than they do. Clearly, these two visions clash, but would I and other liberals like me really spend so much time arguing or writing 3,000 word blog posts about these issues if we didn’t care? No. Just like I know that the Tea Partiers wouldn’t put so much effort into organizing and traveling to protests and conventions if they didn’t care. It’s an interesting conundrum, but the bottom line is that nothing will ever get done if we keep “whipping ’em out and measuring ’em,” so to speak. This “we’re more patriotic than you” debate will never accomplish anything.
Of course, this passage also includes one of my “favorite” conservative vocabulary words: “elitist.” I personally think we could accurately turn that word back in their faces – I feel like they position themselves as some sort of patriotic elitists, whereas us liberals are “less than.” Besides, I feel like we’re constantly screaming in the wind when every criticism we make of them, whether apt or not, can be easily dismissed as “elitism.” Being well-informed and embracing big words and complex ideas does not an elitist make; if it did, there would be many Republicans who could also be called “elitist,” and I somehow don’t think that’s the point of their usage of the word. Being “socially progressive” or a “bleeding heart” also does not an elitist make. In fact, worrying about the people who have less than you is basically the opposite of elitism. It’s just a ridiculous word – er, rather it’s being used rather ridiculously.
Besides, it still implies this movement of eschewing the intellectual life. It’s as if they want to disregard anyone who has a degree above a bachelor’s. If you get your news from anywhere besides Fox News, well then, you just don’t get the point. Being well-rounded in your opinions and ideas is counterproductive. Seeking out and collecting facts and various sources of information is un-American. These are all impressions I get from this anti-elitist, anti-intellectualist idea that they support. How did I suddenly come to live in an America where using “big words” is a bad thing for a politician to do? How did I come to live in an America where a good portion of the population receive their information from one source, and takes it all as fact, no matter how untruthful it is, or how sensationally it’s presented? Isn’t there some middle ground we can stand on where we can at least agree to respect each others’ opinions, especially if they’re well-researched, well-founded, and well-supported? There doesn’t seem to be, but I think we must work to establish one.
The only conclusion I can see for this idea is that people will become ashamed of their knowledge. It’s not a political observation, by any means, but I do already notice people wearing their hatred of the written word as if it’s some badge of pride. Take a look at this Facebook group, “English teachers put more thought into a novel than the actual author did,” for example. We shouldn’t be encouraging this movement, and I feel that at least part of it stems from this whole anti-intellectualism idea that the Tea Partiers and their ilk support. And that is what I mean when I refer to the “American nightmare,” a nation of drooling, illiterate fools who have no desire to learn and take no pride in their intelligence.