Doggone it, howza 'bout we cancel these next two presidential debates and instead spend those evenings with Sen. O'Biden—Hey, can I call you Joe, too?—and Sarah Palin. Darn right that'd be more fun for Joe Sixpack—that's Mr. Sixpack to you—and for hockey moms across this great nation.
Gov. Palin made no rootin' tootin' sense tonight: Her defense of John McCain's insistence, as recently as two weeks ago, that the fundamentals of the economy were strong was this: "John McCain, in referring to the fundamental of our economy being strong, he was talking to and he was talking about the American work force and the American work force is the greatest in the world, with the ingenuity and the work ethic that is just entrenched in our work force. That's a positive, that's encouragement (wink) and that's what John McCain meant.''
Darned if she didn't answer Biden's charge that McCain had been all for financial deregulation with a big ol' non sequitur about tax cuts: "I'm still on the tax thing.'' Her comment that we have nothing to apologize for as a country was alarming, her tone condescending and her answer on global warming dyslexic: "I'm not one to attribute every activity of man to the change in the climate; there is something to be said for man's activity.'' The Bush phrase blame game -- -- which he popularized post-Katrina -- made a surprise cameo. And the capper might have been when she said "Never again'' in reference not to genocide, but predatory lending practices. Only, you know what? She killed, with her cozy, winking speed-walk around the questions. Oh, and Joe—that is his name, right?—did fine, too, both on the substance and in his demeanor.
When he choked up at the end, talking about the accident in which his first wife and daughter died and his two sons were critically injured, it was in direct response to Palin's suggestion that she has some pretty unique insight into what it's like for families who struggle financially and worry about doing right by their children. So when he said "the notion that somehow as a man I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone...to have a child you're not sure is going to make it,'' it came across as real, rather than manipulative, while also (and perhaps for all time) trumping her gender card. It would have been nice if she'd found a way to acknowledge his loss, though she couldn't exactly walk over and throw her arms around him. And I doubt that's something they covered in debate prep.
Sarah Palin has put a new face and voice to the long-standing, powerful, but inchoate movement in US political life that one might see as a mutant variety of Poujadism, inflected with a modern American accent. There are echoes of the Poujadist agenda of 1950s France in its contempt for metropolitan elites, fuelling the resentment of the provinces towards the capital and the countryside towards the city, in its xenophobic strain of nationalism, sturdy, paysan resistance to taxation, hostility to big business, and conviction that politicians are out to exploit the common man. In 1980, Ronald Reagan profitably tapped the movement with his promises of states rights, low taxes and a shrunken government in Washington; the Reagan Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for him are still the most targeted demographic in the country. In 1992, Ross Clean out the Barn Perot and his United We Stand America followers looked for a while as if they were going to up-end the two-party system, with Perot leading George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the midsummer polls. In 1996, Pat Buchanan (The peasants are coming with pitchforks) appealed to the same bloc of voters with a programme that was militantly Christian, white, nativist, provincial, protectionist and anti-Washington. In 2000, Karl Rove cleverly enrolled this quasi-Poujadist faction in his grand alliance of libertarians, born-agains and corporate interests. Its worth remembering that in 2004 every American city with a population of more than 500,000 voted for Kerry, and that the election was won for Bush in the outer suburbs, exurbia and the countryside peasants with pitchforks territory. For an organisation so wedded to its big-city corporate clients, the Republican Party has been hugely successful in mopping up the votes of low-income, lightly educated rural and exurban residents.