Friday, April 16, 2010

Feeding Sarah Palin

I have not written much about Sarah Palin over the last few months. Part of the reason, is that I didn't want to give her attention. I tend to believe that part of the reason she has become such a "rockstar" is because of the attention the media has given her. Bloggers on both the left and right watch her every move. If Palin writes something on her Facebook page, it's immediately news.

The thing is, Palin should have been a footnote after the 2008 elections. In another reality, she would have gone back to being a governor and basically faded into obscurity.

But we don't live in that alternate reality. I wish we did, but we don't. Instead, we see conservatives deify her, making her into some kind of "Reagan in high heels" (when she isn't) and the left loves to place her as the face of the GOP to show just how silly and dumb conservatives are. Both sides have their uses of Palin. They keep feeding Palin in order to prove that their side is correct.

In a post today, David Brooks wishes people would just stop talking about her:
First, let’s all stop paying attention to Sarah Palin for a little while. I understand why liberals want to talk about her. She allows them to feel intellectually superior to their opponents. And members of the conservative counterculture want to talk about her simply because she drives liberals insane. But she is a half-term former governor with a TV show. She is not going to be the leader of any party and doesn’t seem to be inclined in that direction.

The Sarah Palin phenomenon is a media psychodrama and nothing more. It gives people on each side an excuse to vent about personality traits they despise, but it has nothing to do with government.
I really couldn't agree more with Brooks. Palin is not as much the face of the GOP than a symbol of what is wrong with politics in America: it reduces it to mere enterainment. Palin is not popular because she is charismatic or has some great policies. She is popular because she is walking, talking reality show. And like those reality shows, we just can't turn away.

As if on cue, Andrew Sullivan responds to Brooks seeing Palin as the face of a dysfunctional party:
None of this makes any sense, but Palin, unlike some of her rivals who feel some kind of lingering need to relate their policies to fiscal and global reality, is a thoroughly post-modern creature. She creates her own reality, and that is an incredibly important talent for a party base that desperately wants to live in another reality (a kind of souped-up version of 1950s culture and late nineteenth century economy). Her book - a fictional account of an imagined life - sold well with the GOP base because they too want a fictional account of America's current standing in the world and an imagined set of viable policy positions. She so lives and breathes this magical-realist culture she doesn't need to channel it. She knows we can keep social security and Medicare and global power for ever and balance the budget without any taxes - because that is what she wants to know. And she has never let reality get in her way. Reality is one of those doors she keeps crashing through.

Yes, many tea-partiers do not think Palin is "qualified" to be president. But primaries are won by enthusiasm and star power. Palin has both. And she has money. And, most important, she has a media machine dedicated to promoting her outside of any real scrutiny or questions. She has never faced a real press conference and speaks to "pre-screened" questioners at debates and speeches. She is a test-case of how willfully divorced from reality a segment of America can remain, and how irrelevant reality is for today's niche-targeted media. All of this makes Palin the most potent force in American politics since Obama.
But there's a problem here: part of the problem is Andrew himself, who keeps writing about her every move pumping her up into this media goddess. It's not just Fox News who is doing this.

Of course, he has a reason to do this: to prove as he says at the end his post that the GOP is no longer a credible governing force. But in doing so, he basically helps suck the air out of the room- leaving other candidates with little air to share their visions and viewpoints. That allows Palin to only grow in stature and relevance.

The media, and that includes bloggers, need to stop focusing on Palin. There are a lot of real issues that need to be talked about concering the GOP. There are a lot of problems wrong with the GOP. But focusing on Palin allows us to ignore the more substantive issues.

I think Palin is more the face of American political culture instead of just the GOP. It's a culture that is more interested in enterianment than it is in trying to solve problems facing the nation.

It's Sarah Palin's show. We just allow ourselves to watch it.

No comments: