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McCain-Palin: The Dark Side Of Politics

September 12th, 2008 | by Ken Grandlund |

Everything has an opposite. Day and night. Happy and sad. Good and bad. Progression and regression. The list is endless. How does this apply to the current presidential election? It’s easy to say that Democrats and Republicans are opposites, but in truth, both parties share similar philosophies about governing. Ideologically they have some stark differences, primarily in the arena of social policy, but when it comes right down to the nuts and bolts of running the country, both parties, and their respective elected officials, share a certain disdain for true public stewardship and instead seek to dominate the opinions and news cycles in order to gain and retain power. Once they have that power, they tend to slip into the status quo of political gamesmanship, and instead of trying to effect real, dynamic change for America they revert to the patterns we are familiar with: massive fundraising, ties to lobbyists, misrepresenting reality to push an agenda that benefits few citizens, and an endless series of calculated slams against each other for perceived public support. The last eight years have helped to highlight these similarities between the parties while at the same time seeking to erupt culture wars on the ideological front. For the most part, these efforts are ploys that are understood by the public but often ignored. As voters, we tend to concentrate on the ideological social differences and lose track of the fundamental problems with our government. The politicians love this because it allows them to distract the American public with topics like gay marriage or abortion or flag burning-things that won’t disrupt their cozy little behind the scenes plans. The politicians of both parties know that if they can distract us with things like those then we won’t keep an eye on the real issues that are destroying our democracy- issues like economic malfeasance or corporate welfare or environmental destruction.

This presidential campaign started off in the same vein. And then along came Barack Obama. His began as a message of change-not just a change from a republican to a democrat in the White House, but a fundamental change in the way government does business. He spoke of returning American politics and government to the American people and taking it away from the monied interests that now own the political landscape. He talked about an era where the government and the people worked in concert to solve the real problems of the day instead of a continuation of the same. His message was so resounding to so many people that he turned the Democratic race upside down, in the process wreaking havoc on the GOP candidates who could find no new path or who would walk no new trail. He exposed both the GOP and his Democratic colleagues as frauds who only pretended to want a new way but in reality would stick to business as usual. Obama was a new light in the political arena, and his message resonated with voters of all stripes. His campaign spotlighted the emptiness of the GOP platform and sent the GOP nominee, John McCain, into a tailspin. The GOP base was less than enamored with their candidate and their ideas for a new administration looked just like the one we’ve labored under for the last 8 years.

Then McCain found Sarah Palin. And her nomination as his VP changed the game. Where republicans were dismal about their chances to retain the Oval Office they now have hope. Why? Not because they have a new candidate, but because they have a champion who embraces their darker side. When the GOP failures were exposed under the light of the Obama campaign, the conservatives of America were forced to accept that their party was bankrupting not just the country, but their own ideological identity. But the GOP is nothing if not tenacious and accepting that their ideas were not only NOT helping America but were hurting them as individuals too, they have decided that it is better to fight for what is wrong than to accept that is IS wrong and seek better ideas to follow.

Sarah Palin is the anti-Obama in the political arena. She endorses that which has been shown to be wrong for America. And the GOP is eating it up. To understand why they would do this, one must look farther than the sound bites in the news and investigate human nature.

Deepak Chopra perhaps understands the human psyche better than I do, and is, by any measure, more lucid on this topic than I am. I was recently pointed in the direction of an article he posted on his website that I want to share here.

Obama and the Palin Effect

Deepak Chopra - September 04, 2008

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin’s pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses . In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.” For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don’t want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin’s message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.

Look at what she stands for:
–Small town values — a denial of America’s global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.
–Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America’s image abroad.
–Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don’t need to be heeded.
–Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.
–Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.
–”Reform” — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn’t fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from “us” pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of “I’m all right, Jack,” and “Why change? Everything’s OK as it is.” The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama’s call for higher ideals in politics can’t be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow — we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

I reprinted this here to help elucidate the conservative infatuation with Sarah Palin, a candidate who is (IMO) poorly suited for the second highest office in the land. Palin isn’t where she is today because she has the desire to serve so much as because John McCain needed an anti-Obama to invigorate his voters. Her selection was calculated and cynical and makes this contest a much clearer choice for me at least.

There is the light and there is the dark. We’ve been heading towards the darkest part of the cave for almost a decade now. It’s time to return towards the light again. It’s time to reclaim out better selves.

(cross posted at Common Sense)

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