Palin’s performance last night was impressive and surprising. She knows how to deliver a speech, even though she didn’t write the speech, and it wasn’t even written for her. Yes, it was mean-spirited, bitterly partisan, and misleading, but that’s just par for the course for the Republicans. I think she has a future in politics, whether we like it or not.
Here it is:
(embed may not show up in all RSS readers)
Something else struck me about the speech. Allow me a digression, if you please. Ok, so the other night I was at the bar with some friends after a little recording. There was a TV in my line-of-sight showing baseball so I was casually watching it. I am completely indifferent to sports, so when I find myself watching them my mind often wanders. It seems that the two most Americana sports are baseball and football. When you think back to the “Golden Age” of American conservative values, the ’50s, images of salted peanuts at baseball games and fight-songs at football games are readily conjured. The one thing both of these games have in common is incessant interruptions, something basketball, with its more urban/metropolitan appeal, is relatively free of. These sports tend to cater to our shortened attention spans, our preference for intense action in short bursts.
I’ve noticed a trend evolving with every successive state of the union that Bush has given. The length of time between applause shortens and the speech is increasingly divided into small chunks, some even a sentence long. This is mainly because Bush is a terrible public speaker, so the tactful Republican congress did what they could to make it easier on him. But this trend has solidified into a full-fledged practice. Republicans were determined for Palin to come off a success last night, so the Bush treatment was applied, consciously or not.
Perhaps ironically, I would argue that this trend, and the aforementioned tradition in sports, speaks to the American spirit against passivity. I would guess that most viewers of these sports would prefer to watch in the company of others, because the constant interruptions give them a chance to chat about the game with their friends, or refill the salsa in their nacho hat or whatever; it gives them moments of interactivity and individuality, no matter how superficial. The fractured Bush-style speech gives the audience periodic moments of emotional release, no matter how banal and tragic it may seem to someone on the outside. A common cynical and condescending view is that these people are just “sheeple” baaa-ing their approval to their masters. But is the herd mentality of conventioneers chanting “Drill Baby Drill!” really so much more reprehensible than the herd mentality of the Rage Against the Machine audience chanting “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!“? Sure, one makes me feel ill and one makes me feel inspired, but I have to wonder how much of my own reaction is simply bias.
That said, Palin’s speech was pure pop sensationalism. It was fluff. The deepest it ever got was the increasingly prevalent inspiration-on-a-stick formula of “The X of Y, rather than the Y of X”. This is something I’ve been hearing more and more of this season. Here’s Palin’s:
In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers.
And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.
Bill Clinton had one the other day that, I’ll admit, I kinda fawned over:
People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
I heard that formula like 3 or 4 different times last night and it killed every time. Jesus, we’re suckers aren’t we?
Here’s some of the text from her speech, so you can see a visual representation of the soundbitiness (new word I just invented) I was talking about. If you didn’t watch/hear the speech, imagine a five to fifteen second pause between each line break, as the audience shrieked their affection.
But with the support of the citizens of Alaska, we shook things up.
And in short order we put the government of our state back on the side of the people.
I came to office promising major ethics reform, to end the culture of self-dealing. And today, that ethics reform is the law.
While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor’s office that I didn’t believe our citizens should have to pay for.
That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay.
I also drive myself to work.
And I thought we could muddle through without the governor’s personal chef – although I’ve got to admit that sometimes my kids sure miss her. I came to office promising to control spending – by request if possible and by veto if necessary.
Senator McCain also promises to use the power of veto in defense of the public interest – and as a chief executive, I can assure you it works.
Our state budget is under control.
We have a surplus.
And I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending: nearly half a billion dollars in vetoes.
I suspended the state fuel tax, and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress.
I told the Congress “thanks, but no thanks,” for that Bridge to Nowhere.
Yeah, except you were for it.
Anyway to sum up, as creepy as it was during the Obama speech when the camera would turn to his starry-eyed supporters listening in rapturous silence; it was hella more creepy to watch the RNC audiences spaz out and jump to their feet at the completion of every sentence as if Palin’s talk of budget surpluses were her announcing that they all had keys to new cars under their fucking seats.