Monday, September 01, 2008

Palin's Values

Because she's such an unknown quantity, Sarah Palin remains eminently newsworthy. Even better, she is a no holds barred holder of classic, social conservative 'Christian' views. The liberal blogs, notably the Daily Kos, have been running more or less continuous material on her, as if they can't quite get over just how much of a caricature right-winger she is. The conservatives, meanwhile, are over the moon. Or were, until today, when Governor Palin announced that her teenage daughter was pregnant by her unwed boyfriend.

Now of course, the family affairs of candidates for public office should not really be part of our judgement about the candidate in person. After all, their families aren't running. But in reality, I think we can follow a politician's lead. Tony Blair, for example, was always very keen to broadcast pictures of his family, including baby Leo, so could hardly complain when his children made the news in less regulated fashions. Similarly, one of Sarah Palin's selling points - one that she and her supporters broadcast long and loud - is her social conservatism, exemplified by her family values, her strong proposition of sexual moralism, her vigorous anti-abortion stance etc. Nearly every sympathetic story about her trumpeted her wonderful triumph in being a mother of five (so bad luck to all those sour-puss men and women who, for whatever reason, cannot be quite so germinatively prolific) ; rather tastelessly, there has even been some right-wing exulting about the fact that her youngest born suffers Down syndrome. So, unfortunately for them, she has made her family absolutely legitimate targets for comment in the public eye.

The issue with the beauty queen turned soccer mom turned governor turned vice-presidential candidate of the most powerful country in the world is that, contrary to the popular belief that she was there to woo Hillary Democrats (who can't possibly give her a second glance), she is actually there to woo the evangelical, judgemental, morally fascistic conservatives whom the Republicans believe won their man the last election. No surprise to learn that Karl Rove may have been behind the nomination. Even her present trials are not going to dampen the enthusiasm of the conservative base, who still can't quite believe that they have someone who is so completely in their camp on the ticket of an allegedly maverick Republican. In the blue corner, meanwhile, is one of the most authentically liberal tickets ever produced by the Democrats, and their job is to show that the majority voice of America is not, in fact, the world-hating right-wing one that has been too much in the ascendant.

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