She didn’t answer the questions, and she didn’t offer anything new, but what Sara Palin did tonight is prove that she’s not the idiot that much of the country thought she was. In terms of the Vice-Presidency, this isn’t saying much. Not-being-an-idiot is the first rung of a very tall ladder. In terms of political capital, Palin’s performance tonight stops and perhaps even corrects the downward spiral of the McCain/Palin campaign. Granted, she’s far from serving as the sole savior of this sinking ship, but she did her homework and boosted the confidence of most Republicans, and perhaps a few undecideds as well.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s still wrong; but being wrong is a lot different than being understood. The Democrats learned this lesson the hard way, twice: first with Al Gore, then with John Kerry. Mozart might be the better musician, but that doesn’t mean he’s selling more albums right now. In a time of political, economic, and global crisis – Americans don’t want their world to be complex, and a politician who can’t speak plainly is an unwelcome guest – to wit, Gore, Kerry, and from time to time, Obama and Biden.
Quite a few of us read dozens of websites and a blizzard of articles every day on politics and political topics – and for us, the choice is clear: Obama or McCain. To us, being undecided is borderline unpatriotic. Those who are undecided will argue, and be right, that they don’t have the luxury of reading a dozen websites and a blizzard of articles.
For too many Americans, the person who can explain our world in the most simple terms is the person they trust most to lead them through times of crisis. This used to be the job of the media. Now it’s the job of the President. Perhaps one day it will again be the job of the President to be complex and the job of the media to be plain spoken. For the time being, we have a bluegrass President in a Baroque world.
It occured to me while watching the debates that the McCain strategy can be summarized in a single sentence: obfuscate the facts until nobody trusts them, distort the perceptions of the media until nobody trusts them either, and make this election about an emotional gut reaction, then start waving that flag. If this is their goal, then they couldn’t have found a better pick for Vice-President.