Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[politics] Wondering about my reactions to Sarah Palin

I've been trying to figure out why Sarah Palin annoys me so much. (This at least partially in response to a fair amount of polite prodding from bemused_leftist.)

It's not her politics per se, though I don't agree with much of what she appears to stand for. If it were her politics, I would find virtually every Republican pol equally annoying, and clearly I don't. Well, okay, let's be honest: I do find virtually every Republican pol annoying, but not in the same special way Palin annoys me. Being mad about politics is like shouting at the neighborhood kids to get off your lawn — it's a club sport once you reach a certain point in life. The usual "I voted against it in Congress and came home to take credit for it anyway" hypocrisy is life in the political minority in our system. Et cetera.

It's not the history of unresolved corruption and abuse of power issues in Alaska that got largely buried once she hit the national stage because, well, that's par for the course on both sides of the aisle. Look at the current Democratic efforts to undermine the House Ethics Committee in order to head off various investigations. And no, I don't mean that all politicians are corrupt, or even most/many of them. Just that the temptations are strong and the rules are complex and even otherwise good people will see gray areas. Otherwise not-so-good people will exploit those gray areas mercilessly. There's all kinds in office, just like everywhere else in life.

What I've finally come down on is that like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, when Sarah Palin is off-script and speaking from the hip, she doesn't make any sense. Reagan never did make sense if you listened to his words rather than his tone and delivery. Bush didn't even have tone and delivery, all he had was the family name and the GOP in lockstep behind him under Reagan's Eleventh Commandment.

Contrast with, say, George H.W. Bush, with whom I have political disagreements just as vast, but at least he seemed to know what he was doing, understand both history and current events, and despite his occasionally fractured diction, have a grasp of what he stood for and the ability to articulate it. Or Newt Gingrich, whom I suspect of being ferociously intelligent, albeit by my lights misguided to a point bordering on evil. (Ie, the GOPAC memos, etc.)

I am sure there are babbling Democrats, but I haven't seen them in any real danger of holding high office lately. All three of the 2008 Democratic front runners — Clinton, Edwards, Obama — were almost frighteningly sharp people. And like Jon Stewart, I want a president who's smarter than me. Just like I want a cancer surgeon with steadier hands than me, and an airline pilot with better reflexes than me, and so on.

So is my reaction to Palin class-based? I don't think so, because I had the same reaction to Reagan, and there was nothing populist or blue collar about him (or Bush 43), despite occasional rhetoric to the contrary. A similar bit of self-analysis applies to wondering whether my reaction to Palin is gender-based.

Or am I exposing a linguistic prejudice regarding speech register and articulation? Maybe, because what I'm essentially reacting to is an inability to communicate ideas clearly. On the other hand, isn't one of the key components of leadership precisely that ability?

Or am I seeing linguistic expression as a proxy for intelligence, and reacting along those lines? Which would be an ugly prejudice if true, though again, I do think it is quite defensible to prefer a sharp mind in the White House.

More to think about. But she does spark the same annoyed contempt in me Reagan and Bush 43 always did, and for that matter, Dan Quayle. Hmm. More to consider.
Tags: personal, politics

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