1.09.2010

“She’s Real”

Palin fan

I was listening to The Slate’s Culturefest podcast and they mentioned this New York Review of Books review for Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue by Jonathan Raban, and it is amazing. It’s an exceedingly honest and downright devastating analysis of the Palin phenomenon that has swept America in the past year. It clearly, logically explains the demonizing effect Palin has had on America and political discourse, without ever using the word demonizing.  Here’s an excerpt:

Her nasal voice, pitched in the upper register, with the upsy-downsy, singsong delivery of a kindergarten teacher, became, rather improbably, a great electoral asset. Her diction and accent were shaped more by class than region, and spiced with faux-genteel cuss words like “dang,” “heck,” “darn,” “geez,” “bullcrap,” and “bass-ackwards.” It was a voice unspoiled by overmuch formal education and boldly unafraid of truisms and clichés; a perfect foil for Obama’s polished law-school eloquence. In the narrative of the McCain campaign, she was the exemplary real American, Obama the phony one, and when people are now interviewed in the interminable lines for her book signings, by far their most common remark about her is “She’s real.”

Alaska, the particular reality from which Palin hails, is so little known by most Americans that she was able to freely mythicize her state as the utopian last refuge of the “hard work ethic,” “unpretentious living,” and proud self-sufficiency. Her anti-tax rhetoric (private citizens spend their money more wisely than government does) and disdain for “federal dollars” were unembarrassed by the fact that Alaska tops the tables of both per capita federal expenditure, on which one in three jobs in the state depends, and congressional earmarks, or “pork.” So, too, she mythicized the straggling eyesore of Wasilla (described by a current councilwoman there as “like a big ugly strip mall from one end to the other”) as the bucolic small town of sentimental American memory. Listening to Palin talk about it, one was invited to inspect not the string of oceanic parking lots attached to Fred Meyer, Lowe’s, Target, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot, or the town’s reputation among state troopers as the crystal meth capital of Alaska, but, rather, the imaginary barber shop, drugstore soda fountain, antique church, and raised boardwalks, seen in the rosy light of an Indian summer evening.

Now, Go read the whole thing.




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