Patricia Nell Warren

Sarah Palin as a Fog Machine

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | September 08, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: latest polls, religious right, Sarah Palin, voter guides

Yesterday it was one of those moments when you felt sure that the news people must have made it up. Like that moment when you were sure for a fleeting instant that the picture on the TV tube, the one of the burning WTC tower, was just an airline accident in New York. Yesterday that moment, for me, was the news that McCain has pulled ahead of Obama 50 percent to 46 percent in the latest USA Today-Gallup Poll.

Ahead of Obama on the basis of what? I thought this was a Presidential election. I had the naive idea that elections were decided by issues....that the polls are supposed to record up-and-down ticks of the public's positioning on issues. For a while there, Obama was ahead on the issues. Issues like vanishing jobs and healthcare. Issues like a a bankrupt economy. Issues like the eight years of corruption, scandal, mismanagement and lies that have characterized the Bush administration. Even Nixon needed only one lie to get himself bounced from the Oval Office.

We're told that this tick in the polls is the after-effect of Sarah Palin's speech the other day. You mean that Sarah Palin? Right -- the one who looks like an overgrown schoolgirl, which makes her the most dangerous candidate that the religious right have picked yet.

Palin is the cutie-pie that the Republicans chose after all their wild-eyed objections to Hillary. The woman who wants to outlaw reproductive choice for all women, even rape victims. The one whose friends and pastors say she uses the Bible as her political guide. The one who thinks that creationism should be taught in schools. The very one who campaigned to remove copies of My Friend Flicka from library shelves in Alaska. I can understand a church lady not wanting kids to read Lady Chatterley's Lover, but...My Friend Flicka?

For a more detailed analysis of Palin's problematical positionings, readers can go to Alternet

As the running-mate of a 72-year-old man, this Flicka-fighter will be half a heartbeat away from the Presidency...and some in the American public evidently think that's a great idea. One speech, and she's on the way. Even Hitler needed more than one speech.

If this shift in the polls is real news -- if it's any indication of how the swing vote will go in seven weeks, it shows that this election isn't being fought on issues. It's being fought with clouds of purple tabloid fog. The Republicans have their media fog machines (read FOX News and others) going day and night, to cloud the issues -- that they bankrupted our country not only economically but politically and ethically, that they sold us an ever-expanding war we didn't want, and worst of all, that they pulled the Trojan horse of state religion inside the gates. As a result, some people now "approve" McCain on the basis of non-issues -- things that drift by in the air like fog, that they can't quite put their finger on. Enough people are being pushed to approval by wisps of purple fog that McCain and Palin just might squeak into office.

But FOX News et al aren't the only right-wing fog machines. The Christian Coalition is distributing 70 million voter guides to get McCain and Palin elected -- in flagrant violation of IRS regulations that church nonprofits may not engage in partisan political activity. Not to mention millions of voter guides being distributed by other right-wing churches and religious nonprofits. Least of all to mention pastors who get up in their pulpits and tell their ever-obedient flocks how to vote.

Ever since the 1980s, when the Moral Majority launched, the IRS has been watching the religious right break the law and do their voter-guide thing. But the IRS have sat on their thumbs and done little about it. Now, 30 years later, the voter-guide chickens are finally coming home to roost. You have to imagine how good Sarah Palin will look in those millions of conservative Christian voter guides, with her perky high-school hair-do and her Bible bullet-points.

On seeing the poll news yesterday, a friend of mine said despairingly, "The Democrats need to grow some balls before November."

In my opinion, the Democrats are going to need more than balls. And they're going to need more than a better fog machine.

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This is always the way that Republicans have chosen leaders. They don't select people based on issues, expertise, or god forbid, education. No they would much rather pick someone based on narrative. They chose Reagan because he was America's "Father Figure". They chose Bush because they would like to have a beer with him. And apparently they have chosen Palin based on her motherhood (she was almost breastfeeding her baby while on the RNC stage).

We now have an election with two constitutional law professors on one side (with Obama majoring in Political Science at Columbia, writing his capstone paper on Soviet Nuclear Disarmament, graduating magna cum laude, editor of the world's most prestigious law review, etc.) against McCain (who finished 894th out of 899 students in college) and Palin (who needed to go to three separate junior colleges before she was able to finish her bachelor's in journalism).

David Daniels | September 8, 2008 8:08 PM

Great going PNW!

Yes, you hit it out of the ballpark on this one. The 'issues' MUST be the defining factor and if 'the un-christian-like-christian right-wingers do make into office then the ones that put em' there deserve everything they get. And frankly, the gay Republicans will never hear the end of it as long as I am around.

Again you are right, that with our country bankrupt and with our credibility home and abroad so deeply tarnished, our military tapped...the media in my opinion is culpable in not asking the right questions or they have cowered in pre-conditions to not simply asking any questions that will absolutely take the right wingers down several pegs.

Why people cannot see the McOld and Palin are more of the same...running on fear. Hey, didn't Hitler do the same thing...oh yeah, it was the other Hitler...Bush!

Why don't we go after Palin's family on family issues? They have been touting how immoral we are for eons.

Have people forgotten that McCain did not vote for a Martin Luther King day in his state of Arizona? And they tote themselves as agents of change and they care for all Americans.

Have people forgotten that the Republicans, who run on fear, are the ones who had The White House, The Senate & The House during 911? How can they tote that they are better at national security? Why? aren't we not letting them forget that?

I called Obama's office last week and my one little vote/voice asked that Obama and Biden take the gloves off and do not let these lying crooks get away with anything.

I want my country back! Where we are respected around the world, where we have a balanced budget in sight, where we can have affordable health care. Where my community can feel safe without oppression and I have access to My Friend Flicka at the library!!!

Bush cut and run from the real war of Afghanistan and we shouldn't let McOld have four more years nor should we let them forget it.

Polls are all over the map one day they have Obama beating McCain in a landslide the next its a tight to close to call race.Now McCain is in the lead yawns these polls all mean zip nada nothing.Remember that and you will not get heartbun every other day as new ones come out.The only poll that will matter is on Novemeber 4 not any of these so called opion polls you will see betwene now and then.So vote on Election day in the real poll.You who stay home will be the real losers not those who voted for the loser who ever that may be.

Politics is a contact sport with no rules.

I remain hopeful that once Palin is off-script and her positions are specifically drawn out in an interview format, American's will have a little more than her speech skills on which to assess her. I have yet to hear her speak without McCain by her side. Has she been in front of an audience alone? Has she been interviewed? Has she had an unscripted conversation with media yet? I haven't seen anything...

I'm not a fan of facing off with negativity, sarcasm and criticism. Obama and Biden have something to say - they don't need to resort to attacks and criticisms.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 9, 2008 2:47 AM

Patricia thank you as always. I see it still as a stealth race issue. Michael Moore was on Larry King Live recently and even he complained that Democrats are just too nice to the other side.

In the face of what can be just a total disregard for the intelligence of the American electorate (I hope they are wrong about that)we have to get tough and hold their feet to the fire on issues and solutions to problems. Make: "Have ya had enough yet?" our battle cry.

Take no prisoners, take no chances, any overkill could easily translate into the majority in Congress we need to restore America to herself.

Melanie Davis | September 9, 2008 5:25 AM

It's the movie: Idiocracy unveiling before our very eyes.

It's all in the packaging.

Many (I won't say how many) moons ago, I was involved in the underground comics scene (not quite the underground comix scene, which was a bit different), and just digging through a lot of comic theory in the process. The basic principle about how you portray someone is that the more defined and visually distinctive you make someone, the harder it will be for people to identify with them, no matter their personal similarities. Likewise, the more ambiguous they are (i.e. the basic smiley face), the more people will identify with them, despite the differences.

There is a certain amount of similarity in how the Repugnicans are packaging their people. It's like gathering a stable of pro wrestlers. "What's your gimmick?" Here, we have "war hero" and "concerned mother." Cartoony and otherwise shallow, but people can relate to the archetypes. And they can sum their policies up in a single sentence! On the other side, we have, well, two complex political guys with complicated views that take awhile to explain.

Personally, I'd rather have the complicated explanation, but human nature is such that most people wouldn't. Human nature tends toward pack mentality and simple solutions, like voting for so-and-so because "he's going to win" (like it's a lottery).

I suspect that ballots should be accompanied by an exam. "Name two issues that have been raised by presidential candidates in this campaign..."


While that Gallup poll was an out-lier in polls this week, most of them are shockingly close.

And it's not just The Speech - it's the media constantly talking it up as the greatest thing ever. So she delivered it well, she didn't even write it.

As for off-script talking, I doubt the campaign will allow much of that. They've already said that she won't be ready for interviews for a while now, so I'm guessing she's just going to fundraise until November.

Then again, this is the same party that hired an actor to play president in the 80's and found another puppet for the 21st century.

(BTW, Snopes disproves the banned book list.)

The more the Obama campaign struggles against Palin, the more time McCain has to run around and cause trouble. And Biden needs to be the one after Palin anyways - equating Obama with Palin only underscores the experience issue and ties them together in the public's mind.

They need to get off her quick and let her implode on her own.

For most people, elections are decided on the issues. But for some, maybe 15-20% of the electorate, "character" is more important. Requently these people are the less well-educated, and they don't really understand a lot of the issues. So they vote for the candidates they feel safer with. This is whom McCain is appealing to when he says, "Trust me."

If Obama doesn't counter this somehow, McCain will win.

I'd say that number is a bit higher, maybe 25% - 35% but including some who hear a little bit about the issues superficially and still go with the person whose image suits them. And I don't say that as an "Americans are stupid" kind of thing, because I'd say that estimate is the same for we Canadians.

I'm hoping the debates will be the turning point for the democrats. I think Obama is being coached on how to "throw down" with John McCain and the strategies McCain typically uses in a debate. Obama's nomination acceptance speech was an indicator of that. Plain talk and not political double speak will win the day here.

As for Palin (It's mean, but my partner and I have taken to calling her "Sorta Palid"), there was a post earlier here at Bilerico which was a fact check against her nomination speech. It was as if the speech writers never bothered to check her record at all. And it isn't just bloggers noticing these inconsistancies either. CBS news did an exposé based on her "opposition" to the bridge to nowhere project and her about face on earmark spending. These fictions that the republican party speech writers keep spinning are what Biden should, and probably will, bring up when the Vice-Presidential debate occurs.

In any case, I'm hoping that all those idealistic college kids who managed to band together enough to swing the nomination to Obama are both registered to vote, and willing to exercise that right. The college age vote has been less than stellar past elections. I hope they realise that if they really want change, they'd better be prepared to back it up with action.

An update on the now-famous list of books that Palin is said to have tried banning at the Wasilla public library in 1996:

It is actually a general list of books that have been banned overall in the U.S. in recent years, that somehow got attached to the Palin story. From there the list was wildly recirculated around the Web. One mailing I saw said that the list came straight from the Wasilla library committee minutes. However, a few books on the list, notably Harry Potter titles, weren't published in 1996. I admit to being one of those who grabbed onto the list with more fire than fact-checking.

However, checking back over local news stories going back to 1996, I note that Palin evidently did make an inquiry about banning books -- and that she may have been after banning some gay titles in particular. Apparently local reporters are trying to find those actual library meeting minutes, to see what they really said.

Meanwhile, here are two links that might help Bilerico readers get some clarity on this story.

So -- did Palin try to ban dozens of books, including "My Friend Flicka?" Apparently not. Is she interested in banning books? Apparently so.