Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Us Versus Them

If you ever need to start and argument - to change the subject, cover your escape or derail another argument, there are two words that will always come through for you: Sarah Palin. Even in a group of people who seem to be otherwise absolutely homogeneous, differing opinions of Alaska's erstwhile Governor will quickly have everyone lining up to get in the last word.

And so it was that I wandered into one of these frays, and found myself being asked to side with either the idea that President Palin meant that it was time to search for greener pastures overseas, or that she, too, shall pass, and one might as well suffer through her inept guidance of the nation. I won't say that I took the middle road, so much as I took a little direction from each of the options.

Now, if Sarah Palin were to be elected President of the United States, I think that I would be very much considering a move elsewhere. But not because I suspect that a Palin Administration would be such a horrible thing. Thankfully, the modern job of PotUS is really too big a task for any one person to carry out, and it's unlikely that even Sarah Palin could stuff enough positions with incompetent cronies to avoid having people around her who would be invested in making sure the ship of state avoided a game of kissy-face with an iceberg. Also, despite her rhetoric, it's something of a stretch to think that she wouldn't have to drop the pretense and really get down to work. Difficult jobs have a tendency to sober up even the most recalcitrant yahoos. President Palin would likely be as different from Candidate Palin as night and day.

And it's that dichotomy that's the root of the issue. Given the fact that primary elections tend to push candidates to run to the wings, while general elections require them to run to the center, it's somewhat likely that if Sarah Palin decides to make a run for the White House, she'll maintain the course that she's currently charting. Given that primary season is, even at this point, just shy of two years away, she'll have had nearly four years of her current persona as her public face. It's unlikely that she could shed so much momentum in time for a November election. Given that, for Palin to win the Presidency, a pretty good section of the voting public would need to be in favor of a picture of her that's only slightly less strident than the one she presents now.

And that's what worries me. One of Palin's current tropes is the idea of "Real Americans." While "real" can be commonly thought of as "genuine," it also has another meaning, one that many of her followers cherish, and that is "legitimate." This dovetails neatly with her celebrity within the Tea Party Movement, which sees itself as American Patriots beset by un-American subversives on all sides. Rule one in my book of politics is whenever you encounter people who have based their movement on Us Versus Them, turn around and don't look back. Such groups always turn on themselves in the end - either they do in their enemy, and push some of their own into that role to keep up momentum, or they don't defeat their initial enemy, and turn inward, looking for someone to blame. For Sarah Palin to become president on her current trajectory, Candidate Palin would need to engender either massive voter buy-in, or massive voter apathy. Given the Sarah Palin we're currently presented with, I'm not sure that either of these would make for a very pleasant environment for those who aren't with the program.

1 comment:

Keifus said...

Haven't you heard? It's a battle of words (the poster-bearer cried)...