open palin thread

OK, Sarah Palin, the loveably unqualified savior of the Republican party, takes the stage in a little while, and I’m giddy with anticipation. Here, while we’re waiting, is a long clip from a new article on Palin by our favorite Progressive linguist George “it’s all about framing” Lakoff:

…The Democratic responses so far reflect external realities: she is inexperienced, knowing little or nothing about foreign policy or national issues; she is really an anti-feminist, wanting the government to enter women’s lives to block abortion, but not wanting the government to guarantee equal pay for equal work, or provide adequate child health coverage, or child care, or early childhood education; she shills for the oil and gas industry on drilling; she denies the scientific truths of global warming and evolution; she misuses her political authority; she opposes sex education and her daughter is pregnant; and, rather than being a maverick, she is on the whole a radical right-wing ideologue.

All true, so far as we can tell.

But such truths may nonetheless be largely irrelevant to this campaign. That is the lesson Democrats must learn. They must learn the reality of the political mind.

The Obama campaign has done this very well so far. The convention events and speeches were orchestrated both to cast light on external realities, traditional political themes, and to focus on values at once classically American and progressive: empathy, responsibility both for oneself and others, and aspiration to make things better both for oneself and the world. Obama did all this masterfully in his nomination speech, while replying to, and undercutting, the main Republican attacks.

But the Palin nomination changes the game. The initial response has been to try to keep the focus on external realities, the “issues,” and differences on the issues. But the Palin nomination is not basically about external realities and what Democrats call “issues,” but about the symbolic mechanisms of the political mind — the worldviews, frames, metaphors, cultural narratives, and stereotypes. The Republicans can’t win on realities. Her job is to speak the language of conservatism, activate the conservative view of the world, and use the advantages that conservatives have in dominating political discourse…

The Republican strength has been mostly symbolic. The McCain campaign is well aware of how Reagan and W won — running on character: values, communication, (apparent) authenticity, trust, and identity — not issues and policies. That is how campaigns work, and symbolism is central.

Conservative family values are strict and apply via metaphorical thought to the nation: good vs. evil, authority, the use of force, toughness and discipline, individual (versus social) responsibility, and tough love. Hence, social programs are immoral because they violate discipline and individual responsibility. Guns and the military show force and discipline. Man is above nature; hence no serious environmentalism. The market is the ultimate financial authority, requiring market discipline. In foreign policy, strength is use of the force. In fundamentalist religion, the Bible is the ultimate authority; hence no gay marriage. Such values are at the heart of radical conservatism. This is how John McCain was raised and how he plans to govern. And it is what he shares with Sarah Palin…

Yes, the McCain-Palin ticket is weak on the major realities. But it is strong on the symbolic dimension of politics that Republicans are so good at marketing. Just arguing the realities, the issues, the hard truths should be enough in times this bad, but the political mind and its response to symbolism cannot be ignored. The initial Democratic response to Palin — the response based on realities alone — indicates that many Democrats have not learned the lessons of the Reagan and Bush years.

They have not learned the nature of conservative populism. A great many working-class folks are what I call “bi-conceptual,” that is, they are split between conservative and progressive modes of thought. Conservative on patriotism and certain social and family issues, which they have been led to see as “moral,” progressive in loving the land, living in communities of care, and practical kitchen table issues like mortgages, health care, wages, retirement, and so on.

Conservative theorists won them over in two ways: inventing and promulgating the idea of “liberal elite” and focusing campaigns on social and family issues. They have been doing this for many years and have changed a lot of brains through repetition. Palin will appeal strongly to conservative populists, attacking Obama and Biden as pointy-headed, tax-and-spend, latte liberals. The tactic is to divert attention from difficult realities to powerful symbolism.

What Democrats have shied away from is a frontal attack on radical conservatism itself as an un-American and harmful ideology. I think Obama is right when he says that America is based on people caring about each other and working together for a better future — empathy, responsibility (both personal and social), and aspiration. These lead to a concept of government based on protection (environmental, consumer, worker, health care, and retirement protection) and empowerment (through infrastructure, public education, the banking system, the stock market, and the courts). Nobody can achieve the American Dream or live an American lifestyle without protection and empowerment by the government. The alternative, as Obama said in his nomination speech, is being on your own, with no one caring for anybody else, with force as a first resort in foreign affairs, with threatened civil liberties and a right-wing government making your most important decisions for you. That is not what American democracy has ever been about.

What is at stake in this election are our ideals and our view of the future, as well as current realities. The Palin choice brings both front and center. Democrats, being Democrats, will mostly talk about the realities nonstop without paying attention to the dimensions of values and symbolism. Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They share values antithetical to our democracy. That needs to be said loud and clear, if not by the Obama campaign itself, then by the rest of us who share democratic American values….

And, when you’re done with that, assuming you’ve already caught up on Palin’s affiliation with the Alaskan Independence Party, and her belief that we’re in Iraq because it’s “God’s plan”, you’ll find another interesting analysis of why she’s in the race at the NYU School of Journalism blog… Oh, and then there’s her video blog.

[Thanks to Laurie for the Lakoff link, Jean for the NYU link, Andy for the piece on religion, and John for the fake video blog… And, yes, I’m almost positive that it’s a fake blog.]

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  1. rodneyn
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Governor Palin for VP has caused Senator Obama to come clean about his pro-abortion stance. He has apparently run ads in several states on this issue. Since he proved as an Illinois Senator to be more pro-abortion than the NARAL crowd, I’m glad the Governor was able to help him be honest about this…..

    Perhaps her speech tonight will more in to even higher heights of forthrightness!

  2. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure that I follow, rodneyn. Are you suggesting that Obama hadn’t said that he was pro-choice until Palin joined the McCain ticket? I don’t think that’s true. I believe he’s been pro-choice since he entered politics. And, it’s worth pointing out that pro-choice and pro-abortion are two completely different things.

  3. Brian
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    From the Alaskan Independence Party website:

    “Contrary to initial reports, Now Vice-President candidate Governor Sarah Palin was never a member of our party. We stand corrected. Todd Palin was registered as a member but never participated in any party activities aside from attending a convention in 1994.”

    I still don’t like her, but I thought that this should be brought up.

  4. Posted September 3, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    That’s a really good article. It seems like this election will come down to swaying the independents (using the arguments Lakoff laid out), and getting more young people and urban populations to register to vote (the deadline is October 1st).

    I’m so pumped up to watch Palin’s speech. This should be great. Is this the most anticipated VP candidate speech ever?

  5. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Rudy G, in introducing Palin, just said that Obama looks down his nose at her experience as a small town mayor because her town wasn’t “cosmopolitan enough.” He then said that maybe the people there also “cling to religion.” It summed up Lakoff’s point perfectly, and it got huge applause… Obama, I’m now certain, is an urban elitist with no moral backbone.

  6. Brackache
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always had the opinion that a country can’t survive being ruled by a voting populace that’s even 49% irrational and/or unprincipled, or with a staggering national debt, increased spending, and a currency based on nothing.

    Maybe I’m wrong though.

    Maybe audacious lies, debt, and stupidity are magical perpetual motion machines that will go on forever, simply because no one can stop them.

  7. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    She’s hitting the same points… she uses the Obama “clinging to guns and religion” quote, and says that her experience as a small town Mayor was like his experience as a “community organizer,” only she was actually responsible for people. She’s got the talking points down.

  8. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Someone just got escorted out of the stadium.

    Now Palin is saying that the only reason people in the media are critical of her is that she’s not one of the “good old boys.” No, she’s really going to change the system, and that terrifies them…

    To say something bad about her is to admit that one is an elitist.

    And, guess what, “We’ve got lots of oil”!

  9. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh, snap!

    “Obama is a man who can talk about the wars we’re waging and not use the word ‘victory’ once.”

  10. Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    drill, baby, drill!

  11. Brian
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    “He’s also a world champion snowmobile racer!”
    has to be the line of the night! Who gives a shit!?!?

  12. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    ‘Terrorists want to kill us, and Obama’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.’

  13. Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    This is all scaring the crap out of me. They’re appealing to the “lizard brain” really effectively, and in a lot of ways, and it makes me feel like they will win.

  14. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    That baby has to be on sedatives. How can a five month old baby be up there on stage with thousands of people yelling and not start to cry…

  15. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, she accomplished what she set out to do tonight. She reminded people that they should be very afraid, and portrayed Obama as a buffoon who would rather over-study things than go with his gut.

    David Brooks just said that this is a moment that the Republicans have been waiting for for a long time, a moment of “pure joy.”

    It’s weird to watch this all unfold. I’m with you, Doug. It’s creepy the way people lap it up… It was bad during the DNC, but this was worse.

  16. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    According to the commentators, the chorus the crowd was chanting during the part of the speech where she mentioned oil was, “Drill, baby, drill!”

  17. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    And did I hear her correctly during the speech where she said that she’d been steadfastly against the “bridge to nowhere” project since the beginning? I don’t think that’s the case. At least that’s at odds with what I’ve read.

  18. Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Watching tonight’s Daily Show, I can feel the hope draining back into my face.

    This is gonna be a fun couple months.

  19. Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    But y’all, I counted three non-white people in the crowd! You just don’t get more American than that!

    (I’m absolutely anxiety-ridden and terrified of these people. One woman was mouthing, “I love her.”)


  20. mark
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    I kept seeing they same two guys. One was black. The other may have been Hispanic. Every few minutes they’d cut back to one or the other.

    And, if you haven’t seen it, here’s a letter from someone who claims to have known Palin for over 20 years.

  21. egpenet
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    I’ve sold a couple copies of Milton Freidman’s books this week. People are asking and trying to get a grip of … Freedom … and free marketplace.

    The Democrats do NOT have a monopoly on freedom … nor do the right wingers. In a free society compromise and the needs of the majority prevail.

    But the “gift horse” is dead. (Long live the “gift horse”!)

    Separating the myth and symbolism Mark talks about from the rhetoric is key.

    My concern is that the Obama/Biden ticket is another Stevenson … brilliant … but too heady for most Americans to undertsand, and just enough beltway (Biden) to provide stark contract with the Palin ideologies.

    I do not think she is telling the truth about herself or her child (her daughter’s baby). But to an evangelical … a lie in the world of the Devil is no lie … it’s OK. The only thing that counts with her is her relationship with Jesus Christ.

    The die is cast for November. God help us all.

  22. Posted September 4, 2008 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Good god, I wouldn’t want this woman heading my local PTA, let alone representing my country around the world. What a moron.

  23. ytown
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    What an insightful comment dude!

  24. not one of the cool kids
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I have felt like puking all week, I feel like Bill the Cat. And now I open this thread and what is the first comment from Rodeyn about?? Abortion! Oh give me a freakin break!! Give me a bucket quick! You sucker…they sucked you in like that is the most freakin important you must vote about! Blaaaack….

    But go ahead start the stupid moral issues crap and hold women down again. “there is a difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion.” Oh please like I said in an earlier post about Palin’s down syndrome baby….start fishing miscarriages out of the toliet and giving them funerals…that is a good way to prove life begins at conception.

    Off that freakin stupid topic…If we should be fighting for anything it is a better public education for all Americans. But the Republicans want us stupid. Because if you are stupid you follow the herd.

    I have them in my family. High School Dropouts that drive truck and listen to Rush, Glenn Beck, and whoever else makes them feel like they DO know something. But they know nothing and Rush, and Glenn and all of them know that! And None these radio hero’s would sit down and have a beer with their audience….the are all elitist. This same relative of mine has a pregnant single 20 year old daughter who is so excited she got medicaid! She doesn’t have a job, hasn’t had one for a year…but she is so proud she is going to be a mommy and get instant respect. Her dad has no clue that Democrats kept medicaid alive. There are so many examples of these programs my relative uses that his radio heros would cut in a minute!

    So hold on..until we make sure everyone at least graduates High School then we will continue to lose elections, lose jobs, lose religious freedoms, lose the right to choose.

    George Lakoff is correct…”Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They share values antithetical to our democracy. That needs to be said loud and clear, if not by the Obama campaign itself, then by the rest of us who share democratic American values….”

    I start working this weekend for a non-profit to register people to vote. And everyone remind your friends that have lost their homes due to foreclosure this year to get their address change on their license so they can vote.
    If we loose this one, well I just don’t know.

  25. Posted September 4, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I don’t know why you guys torture yourselves. This is the GOP convention. Remember the last two? They’re all nuts. It’s ok though. It’s going to come down to who carries Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This time, the con-jobs are going to have a difficult time fixing enough votes to swing ’em, because it’s necessary to have control of state executive offices (thus state law enforcement) in order to do that to any significant extent. The con-jobs have none of them.

  26. Paw
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I think you’ll all change your minds about Palin and McCain when you see this!

  27. rodneyn
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow, say what you want about McCain – Governor Palin is an amazing speaker. Considering the problems with the teleprompter (which caused her to have to speak from memory and extemporaneously for a good part of it), she is an amazing speaker.

  28. Robert
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    LOL, the GOP can’t even run a teleprompter, but they want to run the country.

  29. Meta
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The facts about her support of the “Bridge to Nowhere”:

  30. Robert
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s strange. This is like a bad movie. It hasn’t been more than a few days since Palin was nominated and she’s already lying so blatantly. Are these people deliberately destroying their chances? It’s weird.

  31. Posted September 4, 2008 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Check this out: do you know what Palin’s educational background is?

    A B.A in journalism from the University of Idaho.

  32. Oliva
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    The two words resounding in my head all day since I forced myself to watch the entire Palin speech, and thinking about that ticket:

    Reckless, mean-spirited.

  33. as a public service
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Olivia, it must be hell to have such a mantra resounding through your head all day. Perhaps it’s time to take a rest from politics, and turn our attention to the progressive alternative with real experience: Ralph Nader. Democrats do have a choice in this election, and that choice is Nader 2008. Tested, experienced, and ready to enact the progressive agenda without the Chicago machine baggage, Vote for Ralph Nader for President in November!

  34. Robert
    Posted September 5, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I’m not even sure if Ralph Nader is dumb enough to vote for himself this year.

  35. Posted September 5, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    This clip is hilarious!

    Can I respectfully request responses to it from resident republican, ytown, rodneyn, and any other Republican out there?

    I’m very interested in hearing what you make of this stuff.

  36. Brackache
    Posted September 5, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Neocons are not real Republicans. They’re retroDemocrats doing a Conservative Minstrel Show.



  37. Posted September 5, 2008 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Turns out Palin is stretching the truth about the plane on Ebay. Apparently it didn’t sell and they had to sell through a regular dealer at a loss.

    If she’s going to stretch to truth about this, god knows what she’ll “stretch the truth” about if she gets in office.

    I heard some recording on NPR today of her addressing her Pentacostal church and talking about how her support of the Alaskan pipeline were part of “God’s plan”. The next thing we know, we’ll be nuking Iran because it’s part of “God’s plan” and she won’t bat an eye.

    Personally, I find these people that claim to speak for God (in any religion) completely frightening. Basically, if you believe you can speak for God, then you must be God in your own mind.

    I don’t think a candidate has ever seriously terrified me this much.

  38. Posted September 19, 2008 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Republican Senator Chuck Hegel of Nebraska isn’t afraid to be honest about the fact that Palin isn’t ready to be president. He also feels that Palin’s silly claims about her foreign policy experience (due to Alaska’s proximity to Russia) is “insulting to the American people.”

  39. Robert
    Posted November 7, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Now a big part of the GOP is trying to pin the loss on Palin. How is she responsible for them choosing her? As much as I was (and am) against her, she did the best job she could. She was a terrible choice, but she didn’t choose herself. They should be going after the idiots that pushed her to McCain.

  40. designated republican
    Posted November 8, 2008 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Robert [Visitor] “Now a big part of the GOP is trying to pin the loss on Palin.”

    A few McCain staffers used folks in the Obamacized media to try and get out from under the responsibility for running a embarrassing campaign. McCain’s campaign manager was all over cable news yesterday defending Palin and putting the word out strongly that the anonymous McCain staffers should get a spine and go on the record if they’re going to trash the Governor of Alaska.

    A big part of the GOP stayed home on election day. That is the legacy of McCain’s campaign and the reason he lost. Overall, despite thousands of new voters for Obama, the increase in the percentage of folks that voted in 2008 was hardly a blip higher than 2004.

  41. Robert
    Posted November 8, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Still finding it impossible to accept responsibility I see, designated republican. It was the media. It was Palin. It was the economy. It was too much money on the other side. It’s never you, is it.

  42. Posted November 8, 2008 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Republicans believe themselves to represent the views of average American. While they may represent the views of the average rural american or the average small business owner or average gun owner or the average evangelical Christian, all Americans are not these things. Notice how white and crusty McCain’s shindig in Arizona was. It was like a book burning. That’s not the America I know. The Republican party is going to has to seriously work on their PR.

    These old white guys are some seriously sore losers, right now. Almost as lame as the sore loser Democrats in 2004.

  43. Posted November 8, 2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    The Republican Party is in a huge quandry right now. Does it formally thank Senator McCain for losing a race in a no-win-situation year? Does it say to McCain, “Good job handing this mess over to Obama to screw up worse.”? …or, does the GOP look to McCain (and to Bush I and Bush II) and say, “No more thanks, we’re done with pandering to the left and moderate drivel.”?

    The Republicans lose when they behave like Democrats. The Democrats win when they behave like conservatives.

  44. Old Goat
    Posted November 8, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Palins political life was a fleeting blip on a botched campaign. Many people though much more of McC last June, which changed when he let ‘bushies boys’ run the show deep into the dirt. They had little new to offer, so resorted to dissing the other guy. Didn’t work this time as the majority saw through the slime. Incredibly, McC still got 57 million votes, which is a lot of people, and no small achievement. But Ob beat McC the same way her beat Hillery, through bottom-up organizing, the very thing that Palin mocked in her acceptance speech.

  45. Robert
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Still don’t understand why you lost, designated republican? It wasn’t because you acted like Democrats. It was for acting like criminals. The public has a certain tolerance for Democrats. Not as much for criminals.

    And, dude, having an election stolen from you is something people might have a little more room to be upset about, more than they would have when they lose an election big because they fucked the country up for eight years. I’m still pissed about 2004. Not because the Dems lost so much as because of what I saw the Republicans doing in Ohio and Detroit. If you had seen it, you would be at least as pissed as I am.

    The thing I keep making fun of designated republican about is the fact that he, and all others like him, have an absolutely impossible time being honest with themselves about what they’ve done and about their responsibility in having done it. They endlessly look for someone else or something else to blame for their own actions and their affects.

    Let me say it clear once again; The GOP lost BECAUSE of folks like designated republican. It is the collective expression of their internal confusion as individuals that leads them to these insane ideologies and to these destructive policies. The inevitable outcome of their pathologies will be one of one two possibilities. They’ll either destroy themselves while they do considerable damage to the rest of us, or they’ll gain power again and destroy us all, including themselves. They’re essentially insane.

  46. Posted November 9, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink


    I hardly call a 50.1/49.9 split a win or a loss for anyone. While either side can whine about having the election “stolen” through dirty tricks, the truth is that neither side had a majority by any reasonable definition of the word.

    Until either party can manage to get a 70% majority, I would not say that either party can claim to speak for the “average American”. I think they just manage to eek out a percentage point through PR campaigns.

    Obama won the PR war this time. Who knows what will happen next time.

    For the record, I think the Republicans’ and their supporters’ tactics were disgusting. I would really be interested in seeing what things would have turned out like had they run a clean campaign.

  47. Old Goat
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    dude: Closer to a 53/47 spread, very high for a democratic candidate. 70%??? Never happen here. Forget not that in the U.S.A. it’s winner take all, (except in Nebraska), which helps avoid clumsy multiple party governments (i.e. Israel).

  48. Posted November 9, 2008 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I was referring to 2004.

    If we have to consider 53/47 high for anybody, then neither party can pat themselves on the back for anything.

    There are some people who like Pepsi. There are some people who like Coke. Then there are those who just buy what’s on sale.

  49. Old Goat
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Disagree dude, that 53/47 is not significant. Over 8,000,000 votes involved. Royal Crown, anyone?

  50. Brackache
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    As a former Republican who is still privvy to Republican circles, the Republican dissatisfaction with their leadership not behaving according to their traditional small-government platform since they got in power was extremely significant in this election… at least for all the Republican voters I talked to.

    For some, the tipping point was Iraq; for others, the Harriet Myers (sp?) Supreme Court thing; for others, No Child Left Behind; the Patriot Act; Habeas Corpus; massive spending increases; John McCain being the nominee… but the final straw for those last hangers-on who are so afraid of Democrats that they’ll put up with anything from the Republicans, was without a doubt the Bailout.

    That’s the truth.

    That goes for the regular Republican vote. I can’t speak for the everybody else vote.

  51. Posted November 9, 2008 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    8,000,000 vs. nearly 300,000,000 people. That’s not a lot. Basically, that’s a lot of people who could gives two shits about partisan politics and vote on who is going to give them the best tax deal.

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