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Sarah Palin: When Politics Go “Aawww!”

Posted in Political Focus with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
Sarah Palin as Miss Wasilla

Sarah Palin as Miss Wasilla

So I’m finally writing about Sarah Palin! But if you expected to hear more of the standard Palin-bashing, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Of course, I have nothing in favor Palin and I have no illusions whatsoever that would make me support her as VP. Disclaimer being said, let us move on.

For me, the most fascinating phenomena is how so many of the polemic surrounding Palin becomes directly a philosophical demand for us to rethink our political sphere. Take websites like Gawker, for example, which on this post tries to map out the reasons behind why people vote for Republicans. Even the downright sexual dimension of Palin was, among first, recognized by Cracked.com, who was honest enough to tell us that the first thing about Sarah Palin is that we want to see her naked. We have plenty of videos showing her time when she served as pageant (pictured above), such as her gorgeous swimsuit walk and talented flute play, not to mention her in the evening gown. Other people claim that the real terror behind Palin is not her sheer incompetence, but how her running diverts us from the real political issues we need to addess — such as pressuring Obama to live up to his claims, as Naomi Klein frequently warns. The point? The way we deal with politics is changing radically. We know it’s a problem, but we don’t know how to deal with it.

For us Lacanians, the real problem is of course how this Palin political structure is possible at all. Slavoj Žižek has often mentions that the real question of Palin is how she becomes the first truly feminine character to enter the political sphere — were Hillary Clinton, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, etc. not in fact strong, masculine leaders in a female body? It is Palin that is the first to truly mock the phallocentrism of politics — mocking not only the dominance of men but also the masculinity of the field of politics itself. It is here that the Democrats failed and let the Republicans play left. I would even go as far to claim that the Palin phenomenon is an insult to the much-celebrated rise of Obama and Hillary: not only that African-Americans and women can now run for president, but even a totally inexperienced ex-beauty pageant can now run for vice president! Perhaps it is not us getting more open and tolerant; perhaps it is only the US politics that are polished to look as if that is what is happening by the Democrats… Palin just manifested such paranoia in a single blow.

Which is — and now I’m getting to my point — what makes Palin such a big deal. Inexperienced as she is, I would claim that it is she and McCain that is the much more honest pair of presidential candidates. Not in the sense that they outwardly tell the truth, but in the sense that they are, implicitly, honest at being not honest, that the political sphere is corrupt, and that it is other people behind the screen that is going to do the work — the “back room boys,” as Žižek put it. Of course they are lying; but they themselves implicitly acknowledge the lie. There are two layers of lies: we have the practical lie, and we have the obscene meta-lie, which is a set of modes on how to conduct a lie that may make the lie obvious (one implicitly lets the other know that he is lying, and paradoxically becomes less guilty) or one that would make the lie mysterious (one that maintains the secret concealed without letting a clue slip to whether they are lying or not — a haunting paranoia).

It is here that we may be able to understand the Palin phenomenon on a deeper level. She is a fake — but at least she openly lets us all know that! Obama and Biden? How could we ever be so sure? “Time for Change,” “Audacity of Hope,”… Change what? Hope for what, exactly? We have nothing new and concrete.

It seems that after Bush, 9/11, and Iraq, we can never be sure of politics anymore. We have all the paranoiac fantasies akin to that of The Da Vinci Code haunting us in our everyday lives. Sure, Obama may have everything — but it is “everything” that is now slipping away from being politically relevant. That many people still support Palin proves that the political sphere is changing, from a terrain of intellectual and social strength to a terrain of total “Aawww!” We may be mocking Palin politically as we like, but there are always moments where we just have to pull back and know when to stop and tolerate her as a woman: “Look at her when she was young! Look at her flute play! Look at her as a mother! Aawww, isn’t she adorable?” To repeat Naomi Klein, “Palin is Bush in drags.” But if we have nothing else we can firmly believe, would it not be better for the eyes if it is Palin sitting there instead of Biden?

Here is the worst nightmare: it is not only that Palin’s popularity will not go down even in the midst of such harsh mockery from virtually every side. My thesis here is much more pessimistic: she would paradoxically gain more popularity after every mock! Is it not common to fall in love with a little pretty girl who gets bullied all the time in our elementary school? Even if she does not win this election, I would say that she, and other people like her, will undoubtedly gain popularity for the next election, if Obama does not deliver perfectly. The Democrats have a lot to learn.

And if she does get elected? Well, I’m guessing it will be something like this:

Sarah Palin after putting Kim Jong Il to bed (click for more)

Sarah Palin after putting Kim Jong Il to bed

And Mary Carey (probably NSFW) should run again and succeed Arnold.

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