Don't worry; the outcome of the Browns-Steelers game hasn't pushed me over the edge into nihilism (no thanks to Romeo Crennel's baffling decision to kick a field goal and surrender the ball back to the Steelers with 4 minutes left in the game when the Browns needed a touchdown to tie or win the game anyway). The reason for my nefarious awakening has to do with a certain bespectacled Alaskan governor. No, I do not believe Sarah Palin is evil, nor do my eyes glimpse any flashes of red horns beneath that perfectly maintained hair. That little sliver of my darker conscience, rather, has been tickled by one of the single greatest down-and-dirty political moves I have ever seen.
I hold no political persuasion. I align myself with no political party or organization. I simply watch this quaint little game of political "strategery" safely from the sidelines (as I would like to think most Americans do). But every now and then, something happens so deliciously dastardly, so mustache-twirlingly nefarious, so...well, political that I have to stand up, wave a towel and scream as though someone just got posterized at an NBA game. The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate was one of those moments.
Flashback, if you will, to August 28th of this year. America had been curiously watching the Democratic Convention and enduring the awkard (Hillary Clinton), the boring (Joe Biden) and the bizarre (Al Gore), all waiting to hear the much anticipated speech by Barack Obama. And what a speech it was! Even a moderate, pessimistic grump like myself had to appreciate that the young Senator from Illinois knew how to give a speech. It was the nadir of a long, impressive run to the White House from a man who had just entered the Senate years before. His fresh message of change, natural charisma and intriguing life story had made him somewhat of a rock star on the political scene. His popularity was so immense that he won over one of the most prominent political families in U.S history (Kennedys), beat another one in the Democratic primaries (Clintons) and had the American people (and media) so intrigued that Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show routinely lampooned the media's fascination with him.
Anchors everywhere from CNN to NBC News even had to defend themselves from accusations of bias.
Then the GOP awoke from its slumber. On August 29th, John McCain (or whoever the man or woman behind the curtain of the Republican party is) choice Sarah Palin to be the vice presidential candidate on the party's ticket. And in a move equivalent to flipping over to the cold side of a pillow, America's attention span flip flopped on itself. Suddenly the Democrats weren't the only party who had a demographic changing nominee. I don't mean to suggest that the attention being paid to Sarah Palin is simply because she is a woman; that is only a small part of the equation. We started paying attention to Sarah Palin because she is a cool chick. She sports a charming Midwestern accent, she has the most endearing and intriguing family since the House of Windsor and most importantly: as a governor, she has no congressional voting record to examine or critique. And I didn't even have to mention her personal appearance!
And if you think the GOP backed itself into a corner by choosing someone with limited political experience, making them seem hypocritical when they paint Barack Obama with the same brush, you would only be half-right. Yes, the McCain camp has sacrificed that ability to chastise Obama's supposedly limited experience, but they have gained something else so much more important! They found their first political "rock star" since Ronald Reagan. And as is the case with everything, the press coverage speaks for itself. Sarah Palin has been the leading subject on every news show in the country for weeks, she is on the front of Newsweek, most Americans can probably name all five Palin children sooner than they can name the first five Presidents of the United States and if you don't know what a "hockey mom" is at this point, you probably live in the Earth's inner core.
The Republican Party knew and understood the fact that Americans are fickle creatures with short attention spans. They took that short attention span from Barack Obama and placed it on Sarah Palin. Barack Obama appeared on The O'Reilly Factor two weeks ago. Few heard it. I know I didn't. Aside from a blurb in The New York Times "Caucus" blog and a mention here or there, the media largely ignored it. Why? Sarah Palin made her speech during the Republican National Convention just the day before the interview took place. Later, when Obama made a casual reference to McCain's campaign "putting lipstick on a pig", America took the common, nondescript phrase as a blatant sexist attack against Sarah Palin.
Putting aside the issues being debated, and the office at stake for a second and simply looking at the cultural and demographical impact, the choice of Sarah Palin is the shrewdest political decision since Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to run for a third term. And you know what...I love it. I love it because it has added a new dimension to a political season that was shaping up to be one of the most exciting ones ever anyway. I love it because I enjoy all the players in this bizarre show as politicians AND as people. But most of all, I love it because it. is. so. diabolically. POLITICAL. Yes, we have responsibilities as citizens to be well-informed on issues, and yes, sometimes it is sad to see an upsetting political slam ad appealing to the lowest common denominator. But I think it is high time to embrace the nasty, dark, he said-she said side of politics.
The founding fathers knew this dark side existed through countless years of European political experience. They created a system in which power was restricted through a dilution: sharing of responsibilities, checks of balances, limits, etc. Power has always corrupted, it corrupts today and it will continue to corrupt future generations across all types of political systems...but the pursuit of power is a game.
So as long as we are aware of this ugly game of politics and its base, selfish, reprehensible nature, why don't we crack a smile when a king is placed in check by a pawn? Preferably a pawn with a pretty smile and nice glasses.