Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thank God for Sarah Palin!

There have been certain individuals whose self-confidence and passion for what they do has gloriously outweighed their utter incompetence. Film aficionados are familiar with the delicious train wrecks that Ed Wood has put into film. (“Plan 9 from Outer Space” and “Glen or Glenda” are frequently celebrated as the worst movies ever made.) And classical music buffs should know all about the celebrated screech of Florence Foster Jenkins who rented out Carnegie Hall with her own money to put on shows that did sell out, but she never seemed to realize that her adoring fans were all there for the camp freak show, her vocal mangling of operatic arias.

And now we have Sarah Palin, truly the Florence Foster Jenkins of politics. Bless Tina Fey for her underlining of the travesty that governs Alaska. Bless Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show for offering clearer opportunities to laugh in the face of danger, when it seemed a rightwing nutjob with no qualifications could actually come within a sclerotic septuagenarian heartbeat of the presidency. Still even without the constructed satire, Palin herself was auto-satirical in those interviews with Katie Couric, in that meandering non-debate with Joe Biden, in everything from her pushing both for and against a famous bridge to nowhere to the inconsistencies and falsehoods that put McCain’s campaign on a bridge to nowhere.

It has gotten to the point where she doesn’t need a punchline or even a story. Just mentioning Sarah Palin’s name in progressive circles provokes smirks and giggles. And among centrists even raised eyebrows and groans of “Oh, God… What now?” are routinely attached to her name.

It’s hard to imagine that after Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle the Republicans could sink any lower in their choices for VP. At least those guys won before they became national laughingstocks. But, gosh, y’know? Sarah’s Maverick misfires were makin’ her the national joke right out of the gate.

Already jockeying for a 2012 run Sarah is promising to stick around. Can we have a “Praise Jesus?” As a self-created caricature of the radical right, along with her con-artist snake-oil mix of savvy and ignorance, her erstwhile-secessionist First Dude, her purely academic commitment to abstinence before marriage, her millenialist church complete with a witch-hunter and pray-the-gay-away ministry, her hunting from helicopters, and journalistic illiteracy she is hitting all the political notes with the uncanny comic horror of one of Mrs. Jenkins’ concerts.

Ronald Reagan carefully built on Nixon’s Southern Strategy, cobbling together a coalition of Western Libertarians, Southern Fundamentalists, and Coastal moneybags. With so many conservative Republicans jumping ship and voting for Obama, we can all see that Palin’s hubris is doing a fine job of tearing that alliance apart, dragging the GOP on its knuckles back into the well-deserved wilderness it had previously earned with Barry Goldwater, and again with Watergate.

The Reagan Era was largely a fulfillment of Johnson’s prophecy that by signing the Civil Rights Act he was condemning the nation to Republican rule for a generation. That generation has not entirely passed, but this year’s election has tipped the balance, and if Alaska’s governor remains at the vanguard of the old guard, leading in the traditions of Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz, we may enjoy an unfettered renaissance of progressivism buoyed by the accidentally comic antics of Sarah Palin. Yee-haw!

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