November 10, 2008

One Last Word

How did it happen? How did a governor I had interviewed and met and known to be a fairly non-partisan governor, who talked not at all about her social conservatism and only achieved her major initiatives in the state with the help of Democrats turn into an fire-breathing, venom-spewing, partisan “whack job” of a vice-presidential candidate? As we lower the curtain (for now) on Sarah Palin’s turn on the national political stage, this is for me the remaining unanswered question.

I think the answer is in three parts.

First, there is no doubt Palin took on the new role with gusto. It was her job to be the attack dog and she lived into it well. From the moment I heard her convention speech, it was clear the old Palin, the Palin who governed in a way I found somewhat reasonable, was gone.

Second, the rosy picture many Alaskans had of Palin was no doubt misinformed in part. As the national media began combing through her past, there were several interesting revelations about her career I had not known and that had not come out in her year-long run for governor. This, I believe, is the result of a dwindling and overstretched press corps in Alaska. The due diligence we expect from the press before an election is simply not possible in Alaska because budget cuts have reduced the number of reporters so drastically. (After all, how sophisticated can the Alaska press corps be? They let me in!)

The third part has something to do with people on the left who were, to my mind, shockingly quick to denounce her. I received an e-mail not too long after her nomination to the effect that, “I hope she loses so she can go back to Alaska and only ruin one state and not the entire country.” The vitriol of the e-mail was striking to me. Here was a person who knew very little about Palin or Alaska, automatically assuming that because Palin was a conservative politician she had “ruined” Alaska. In fact, many would argue just the opposite. Throughout the campaign, I was surprised at how quickly people on the left were able to quickly and easily dismiss a caricature of Palin they had created in their minds, without actually taking the time to engage the person she is. It made me wonder how if we bear any responsibility for the creation of our political nemeses.

I didn’t like the Palin who ran for vice-president. But that Palin was different from the Palin who governed Alaska. It told me a lot about the political process that we voted not for real people but for caricatures of candidates, caricatures made both by them and by us.

She has lost about 20-points in her approval rating and is now back to being simply Governor Palin - I think we should all get nine-week vacations to pursue extra-curricular interests! It will be interesting to see how easily she can shed the baggage she acquired on the campaign trail and get back to governing. I hope Alaskan Democrats don’t let it happen too easily.

And I PROMISE that is the last I have to say about that!


Stephanie said...

it wasn't an email- it was a facebook message ;)

Neen said...

"It made me wonder how if we bear any responsibility for the creation of our political nemeses." I'm going to be mulling over that all day.