Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Yes, mommie dearest
It's foolhardy and dangerous not to acknowledge that Sarah Palin was a brilliant selection by the Rovian branch of the Republican party. As George Lakoff notes (read the entire article -it's important):
Palin is the mom in the strict father family, upholding conservative values. Palin is tough: she shoots, skins, and eats caribou. She is disciplined: raising five kids with a major career. She lives her values: she has a Downs-syndrome baby that she refused to abort. She has the image of the ideal conservative mom: pretty, perky, feminine, Bible-toting, and fitting into the ideal conservative family. And she fits the stereotype of America as small-town America. It is Reagan's morning-in-America image. Where Obama thought of capturing the West, she is running for Sweetheart of the West...
She is also masterful at using the progressive narratives: she's from the working class, working her way up from hockey mom and the PTA to Mayor, Governor, and VP candidate. Her husband is a union member. She can say to the conservative populists that she is one of them -- all the things that Obama and Biden have been saying. Bottom-up, not top-down.
While she is laughably incapable, lacking in credibility, incredibly uninformed, and a shell into which the Republicans are pouring words and idealogy, at the level of policy detail, on another level, a symbolic, metaphoric level, she is perfect for a wide swath of America. Hockey mom. Small town mayor. American rebel.
And as Lakoff points out, going after her at the detail, policy level plays into the Republican game plan which they can frame as "Democrats and the liberal media picking on small-town Mom."
So when Barack Obama complains, "C'mon you can't just make things up," he's wrong. They can. They do. And they've done it before and won.
And we must never forget that Palin's description of herself is also true - a pit-bull with lipstick. She will say, and do, anything to win.
Karl Rove got George Bush elected by taking the best of what being a Democrat and a progressive means, and perverting the language into a new frame so that his candidate could pillage the constitution, rape the environment and pander to the rich and powerful, while we all smiled and repeated, "No child left behind...mission accomplished...homeland security...operation enduring freedom..clear skies initiative."
As Lakoff says, Democrats, being Democrats, will mostly talk about the realities nonstop without paying attention to the dimensions of values and symbolism. Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They share values antithetical to our democracy. That needs to be said loud and clear, if not by the Obama campaign itself, then by the rest of us who share democratic American values.
So, how do we re-frame Sarah Palin, and for that matter, John McCain? Here are my suggestions.
Mommie, Dearest - Sarah Palin as Joan Crawford. On the outside, she's the perfect mother. In reality, she's a lying, play-acting, sadistic, powerful monster only interested in making things better for herself, and her rich friends. Like Bush and Cheney, she and McCain will sell the country to special interests, take our freedoms from us, and leave the least powerful of us to fend for ourselves. Oh, she'll take care of us, all right.
Church Lady - Isn't that special? Sarah Palin as a sanctimonious, hypocritical and ultimately unhinged Jesus freak. Do we want another potential president who thinks that God is whispering orders into her ear?
See a sample of Church Lady at Jibjab.
Thurston Howell, III and Ellie Mae Clampett - John McCain as an out-of-touch aristocrat, who's trapped on an island and can't escape, and Sarah Palin as a feisty, pretty, naieve and unsophisticated rich girl, who's beholden to oil wealth. They'd be funny if they weren't so dangerous.
Wasteland of the Free - I don't know of any song which has re-framed the words of conservative leaders to show how antithetical they are to democracy, freedom and caring than Iris Dement's Wasteland of the Free. You can hear it here.