Paglia on Palin
Yesterday's Salon saw a piece by one of my intellectual heroes, Camille Paglia. It's really fascinating. I expected Paglia to lambaste the McCain camp for the choice of Sarah Palin. That's not exactly what happened. Instead, I read the first argument for Palin's essential feminism that made any sense.
It's a long piece, so the excerpts are long.
Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football -- or one of the great light-saber duels in "Star Wars." (Here are the two Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, going at it with Darth Maul in "The Phantom Menace.") This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.
Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment....
....Over the Labor Day weekend, with most of the big enchiladas of the major media on vacation, the vacuum was filled with a hallucinatory hurricane in the leftist blogosphere, which unleashed a grotesquely lurid series of allegations, fantasies, half-truths and outright lies about Palin. What a tacky low in American politics -- which has already caused a backlash that could damage Obama's campaign. When liberals come off as childish, raving loonies, the right wing gains. I am still waiting for substantive evidence that Sarah Palin is a dangerous extremist. I am perfectly willing to be convinced, but right now, she seems to be merely an optimistic pragmatist like Ronald Reagan, someone who pays lip service to religious piety without being in the least wedded to it. I don't see her arrival as portending the end of civil liberties or life as we know it....
....But what of Palin's pro-life stand? Creationism taught in schools? Book banning? Gay conversions? The Iraq war as God's plan? Zionism as a prelude to the apocalypse? We'll see how these big issues shake out. Right now, I don't believe much of what I read or hear about Palin in the media. To automatically assume that she is a religious fanatic who has embraced the most extreme ideas of her local church is exactly the kind of careless reasoning that has been unjustly applied to Barack Obama, whom the right wing is still trying to tar with the fulminating anti-American sermons of his longtime preacher, Jeremiah Wright.
The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.
I'm really working hard to resist copying-and-pasting half of the article here. Make sure you read the end. You have to love the Star Wars reference and accompanying YouTube link! And her swipe at Gloria Steinem is must-read.
(Bear in mind that Paglia is an Obama supporter and that she makes plenty of attacks at McCain, the "Vampire" of the article's title. But it's her views of two weeks of Palin that interest me in this piece.)
Paglia always defies expectations. I love it when she pisses me off to the extreme left, because I know she's likely to shockingly agree with something radically right-wing--which she'll believe in for ultra-liberal reasons--in the next paragraph. Libertarians make me smile. It usually doesn't matter if I think she's right as much as that she models genuine independent thought always.
Paglia hits on an essentially vital point: Much of the reaction to Palin smacks of an idealogical dogmatism that is swiftly becoming much more dangerous to the Democrats than to the Republicans. Conservatism is becoming cast as the oppressed minority opinion rather than as an entrenched establishment in need of updating. The Democratic party has traded arguing the merits of its ideas for demonizing their Republican opposites.
Congratulations, liberal America: the Greek temple, the 80,000-seat acceptance speech, the hurricane, and the strident lies overshadowing real concerns about Palin have all combined into a perfect storm. You have successfully handed the crown of "scrappy underdog" from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin. And Americans like an underdog.