Sarah Palin and the Confederacy of Dunces
For weeks now the liberal media has been waxing incredulous at John McCain's stunt of a running mate. Righteously they decry her unpreparedness for potentially holding the most powerful office on earth; aghast, they witness the irony that such a specter should act as a tonic on the Republican ticket.
More astonishing, though, is this incredulity itself.
The good senator's choice forthrightly assumes what the world already knew about the majority of American hearts and minds -- that they are apolitical, uninformed, and all too easily image-driven. A Sarah Palin would never go over in France, Israel, China -- or even Pakistan. She wouldn't be nominated to begin with. Just a few decades ago, she arguably wouldn't have stood a chance here at home either.
The US presidential race today resembles not so much the nation exercising its constitutional right to elect competent leadership as an arena for Odysseus-like campaign strategists battling to conquer, as an astute comedian recently put it, "The United Stupid of America." According to The Economist.com's Global Electoral College, which polls the hypothetical US president if world citizenry were to vote, "Barack Obama would stroll into the White House." Nearly everywhere on the planet -excepting Georgia, the sole pro-McCain country -- the Democratic contender is favored by a landslide. Yet those privileged to actually put their name to the American ballot may very well allow Ms. Palin to wink her way to the doorstep of that White House.
Let's take a moment to imagine the Palin Presidency scenario: would shortcomings in foreign policy experience truly undermine her capability as Commander-in-Chief? She will be surrounded by an army of advisors and can appoint a foreign-relations-savvy deputy at her side. Foreign policy wasn't the incumbent president's strongest suite, and he managed to install two whole new governments in the turbulent Middle East. And to give credit where it's due, Sarah Palin has shown extraordinary poise in face of the weighty rôle thrust upon her thus far. Who's to say President Palin can't just as unblinkingly stare down Putin if he "rears" too close? Zardari already loves her -- other pivotal allies will rally around. If anyone is worried about her gift for speech, again, by the benchmark of the last eight years, she will positively breeze through international summits and public addresses.
But the heart of the matter lies not in whether the Alaskan governor is or is not qualified to run for vice president: it's about the direction we're headed for independent of her. If anything, the Palin phenomenon has emerged at the precise historical moment -- amidst two wars and a grim recession -- as a slap in the face to blink America awake. That a people, contrary to their first-world counterparts, would accede the platform to leadership so thoughtlessly does not reflect on the nature of the object, but rather on their subjectivity in this process. This is beyond the partisan coin-flip of "America Decides 2008," more than the individual merits of McCain or Obama, or the question of Sarah Palin becoming the novice heroine of a tale so fantastic J.K. Rowling will have to pen a new saga in her name.
This is a chance for a deeper, longer look at how adequately education and media are equipping citizens of the United States of America for intellectual survival in the increasingly competitive, globalized, multi-polar world of the century that lies ahead. The next Mr. (or Ms.) President needs to put country first by bringing change we need in classrooms and on airwaves -- the first step where real nation-building starts. Otherwise, we will end up looking back wistfully on these elections as the good times.