It seem to me that the Palin Phenomenon boils down to one simple fact: Sarah Palin is the first woman candidate for a national office in the United States who is sexy.
That has never happened before. We've had sexy candidates who are men -- John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama. But there has never been a sexy woman candidate for national office in the history of the United States.
Think about it:
On the Republican side:
Elizabeth Dole? Not sexy.
Condi Rice? Not sexy (nonwithstanding the fact that George Bush calls her his "office wife" -- the racial undertones of which are so creepy I don't even want to go there).
Barbara Bush. For the love of God, not sexy.
On the Democratic side:
Barbara Boxer? Diane Feinstein? I love 'em both (well Boxer more than Feinstein), vote for them every time. But, not sexy.
Madeline Albright? She stopped the genocide in Bosnia and probably deserves a Noble Prize but, not sexy.
Hillary Clinton? Probably the most skilled politician in the country, but I've never heard "Hillary Clinton" and "sexy" in the same sentence.
I'm not saying a woman candidate should or should not be sexy. I'm just saying we've never had a sexy woman candidate for national office before.
In some respects it could be seen as a sign of progress. It could be a sign that women can be viewed as both traditionally professional and sexy at the same time -- that those two traits are no longer seen as mutually exclusive. Except, by most accounts, Palin has not excelled professionally. She appears to have been a lousy mayor and her record as Governor is flimsy at best (corrupt and despotic at worst). No in fact, the Palin Phenomenon is not the realization of the feminist ideal of being able to have it all (respect as a parent, professional, and partner). Because all Palin is selling is Jenny McCarthy slutty girl next door sex appeal, the Palin pick reinforces the very worst of the existing sexist culture by turning women entirely into sexual objects -- your 401(k) and national security be damned.
As one Republican pundit after another writes these long love poems to Palin about how they want to fuck her, the soft misogyny of low expectations becomes sickening.
Rich Lowry at the National Review Online clearly wants to fuck her.
I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.[In reply, Kos commented: It's like Care Bears meets Jenna Jameson!]
David Brooks, judging from his column today, apparently was masturbating WHILE watching the VP debate. Money quote:
There are some moments when members of a political movement come together as one, sharing the same thoughts, feeling the same emotions, breathing the same shallow breaths.And Donny Deutsch flat out said, "I trust her. I want her watching my kids. I want her laying next to me in bed." (The link has the video.)
The Palin Phenomenon has turned the men of the Republican Party into the drooling drunk banker at the strip club.
There's a reason why the McCain campaign appears to have bought the domain name VoteForTheMilf.com right after her nomination was announced. Now maybe it was just for defensive purposes (to keep it from being used by anyone else) but they clearly had a sense of the phenomenon they were about to set into motion.
Now all of this would merely be interesting from a sociological standpoint if the stakes weren't so incredibly high. The fact that the fate of the Supreme Court, national security, and the entire economy rests, partly, in the hands of voters who think they're in love with a sexy-librarian-stripper with a heart-of-gold, is a little bit frightening.
I think the day will come when we do have a woman candidate who is both smart and sexy. Michelle Obama fits that category and I'd be more than happy to vote for her in 2016. Heck, I voted for Hillary Clinton this cycle. But for now, we don't actually have a smart and sexy woman on the ballot. Just sexy. And for some voters, that's gonna be enough (and, like David Brooks, they'll come up with elaborate intellectual rationalizations for their vote after the fact). For others, not so much.
Update #1: "Bible Spice" has got to be the best nickname yet for Palin. (hat tip to JC)
Update #2: The nickname "Bible Spice" becomes a hit on Twitter. At least one writer credits Tbogg from Firedoglake for coining the term. Anyone want to make a wager as to whether Saturday Night Live uses this nickname tomorrow?
Update #3: Ooooo snap! A reader at Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish completely smacks down Rich Lowry's absurd Palin slobbering:
In reaction to Rich Lowry, I'm sure I'm not the only woman who, upon reading his words, sat up a little straighter and said, "Is he kidding? Is he goddamn kidding me?" Is this the kind of reaction the women in this country should want men to have to the possible first female Vice Presidential candidate in history? Holy hell.Hat tip to Scout Finch at Dailykos for the catch. Also hat tip to Naked Capitalism (a fantastic progressive economics blog) for linking to this post.
I thought Palin's performance at the debate was downright embarrassing and on top of that I have to read this clown's blog, stating more or less that Palin gave him an erection? Little starbursts my ass. Here's what I thought when Palin "dropped" that first wink at us: "Did she just wink at us like she was America's cocktail waitress?" Rich Lowry is on the verge of slapping Sarah Palin on the ass and asking her for another of those fantastic whiskey sours.
Update #4: Double snap! Keith Olberman calls out Rich Lowry for his sexualized ode to Palin (hat tip to Attaturk at Firedoglake):
Update #5: Oh so THAT'S why the cable news networks talk about Palin so much -- it brings in the eyeballs. I just checked my Google Analytics and discovered that this post has been the most read post in the history of my blog -- setting a single day record that is FOUR TIMES HIGHER than my previous single day record. That's craziness (to be specific: it's crazy that more people would read a post on Palin than say, my illuminating writings on framing for example). The cable networks, newspapers, and magazines know that they need to sell advertising and that sex sells so that's what they are selling -- regardless of the polls, regardless of the national economic meltdown or the state of the endless quagmire in Iraq. Fascinating.