Friday, October 3, 2008
I have a habit that's bringing me down. Immediately after the Biden-Palin debate, as I did after the Obama-McCain, I turned on Fox News. I like to get their 'Fair and Balanced' take on things—and I’m rarely disappointed. As interesting as Rachel Maddow would have been or as pundit-y as CNN’s ‘Best Political Team’ is, I know that Rupert’s news channel will uncover the hidden meaning of things. Fox, like a large calcified portion of the country, is dead set on Sarah Palin becoming the next vice president with her first dude John McCain by her side. Or, more importantly, they're not going to let good judgment get in the way of retaining conservative power, in whatever distorted form that takes.
Fox represents and speaks to a slice of America that is typically red and definitely bitter. They aren't concerned about facts or—in Palin’s case—even foibles. They care about winning. While my friends and I bemoan and mock the MILFish governor’s Tina Fey impersonation, Fox News—or 'Fox Noise,' as Olbermann puts it—viewers see their future VP in F-me pumps. They love Palin’s folksy inflections, and her Mr. Smith Goes to Washington meets Dave fairytale rise to the national stage. To them, tonight was vindication from—and inoculation against—the evildoers in the mainstream media (read: especially places like the Huffington Post) and Urban Outfitters everywhere.
I won’t completely cave in and call these folks ‘Joe Six Pack’, the Republican code words for white, working class, but it’s clear that those ‘regular folks’—and strange bedfellows in the form of Karl Rove clones—are elated after tonight’s debate. They don’t see it the way we do, and why should they? Our smug metropolitan elitist attitudes and socialist leaning ‘hope’ mongoring needs a little cutting down to size. The right's rejoicing around their new queen is the expected analog to the left's very public disdain for her. Our side sat like kids in a Saturday matinee, holding their breath in anticipation of her taking a cringe-worthy fall face first in the only vice presidential debate. The other side sat with chewed down nails, ecstatic as she defied the prognosticators and insult-hurtling lefties.
It was comical watching Palin crib from what seemed like a tiny hidden teleprompter tucked into her podium—or as Chris Matthews called it, she looked like she was in a spelling bee. But this didn’t matter to the red states. Her lack of command over any nuanced facts was irrelevant, so long as she strung sentences together in some form of policy haiku. Palin was clearly reading prepared text and we were treated to a nationally broadcast recital of everything she learned over the past five weeks (or five days). There were times when her facial expressions were pure animatronics, as she spit out answers that would have had Couric or Gibson falling out of her chairs. Palin fans will say that she had it in her all along and that without that pesky ‘news filter’ she’s fine. They couldn’t be more proud than they are now, their citizen peacock’s plumage finally on full display. It’s so clear there were two debates going on last night and two countries tuning in and reacting.
On CNN and MSNBC, the smart folks claim that independent voters (Come on, is anybody really ‘independent’ these days?) are following the so-called conventional wisdom and writing Palin off as the hand puppet she is. But the fact that both Democrats and Republicans are claiming—and more importantly, believing—their side won the debate, shows that the fissures are still there and maybe even expanding. Or maybe I’m just watching too much Fox News.
Supposedly, this is a change year. We’re to believe that old ideologies are being dissolved and flushed away in the country’s arterial stream. And I thought—or rather a certain candidate helped me ‘believe’—that red and blue fences were being mended. In many ways, I don’t think this election is any different from past ones. It’s going to come down to numbers, swing states, voter access and money. The defiant mass clinging to a super-unqualified down home candidate lady isn’t exactly dispelling my fears either. Truth—or even truthiness—seems to have little to do with things. After tonight, this sad comedy is wearing thin. I wonder what Tina Fey will do this Saturday on SNL? After Palin's buoyant debate performance, I’m not sure this can even be funny anymore.
I posted this to the HuffPo so check there for more comments and feel free to leave one yourself.