September 04, 2008

Palin goes on the attack

“I guess a small-town mayor is a little like a community organizer—except you have actual responsibilities.” After her performance at last Friday’s press conference, I expected Sarah Palin to knock ‘em dead at the Republican National Convention. I didn’t anticipate, however, that she’d take up the traditional role of the VP and emerge as a formidable attack dog (though one wearing lipstick, I guess.) And she was even willing to hit Obama where it really hurts. Palin didn’t bring out the tired rhetoric one would expect to hear from the McCain camp—something about Obama’s unwillingness to step up to the “transcendent challenge” of our age etc.—but instead showed up Obama as a lefty ivy leaguer who thinks he’s so virtuous because after law school he trotted off with a copy of Rule for Radicals under his arm to go organize the resistance in the ghettoes. But then Palin didn’t appear spiteful or undignified in that she presented herself and her life (a fantasy for many blue-collar Americans) as a foil to the Obama story. And let’s not forget that she’s credible. As I was discussing with James Kalb last night, Sarah Palin is just about the only normal person I can think of taking part in national politics.

And as Michael Brendan Dougherty points out in his excellent post this morning, Palin, more than any of the other potential VP picks, turns the race into “Us vs. Them,” decent, patriotic Americans vs. the liberal elite:

After two terms of disastrous misrule by Republicans, and with a presidential candidate whose politics I genuinely fear, I cannot pull the lever for the GOP this year. But Palin just gave a speech that warmed my Machivellian heart. I wanted to wear an Agnew pin by the time she finished. Take that for what it?s worth.

Has the Palin pick been uplifting for the country? Is it going to bring us together? These questions are besides the point. No candidate is ever going to ?going to make us feel different about one another.? But one candidate usually reminds us of how we really do feel about one another. And that candidate usually wins.

It’s “Machiavellian,” sure. But then it wouldn’t work if those divides weren’t very real. 

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