(bumped again - georgia10)
"The soft bigotry of low expectations."
That concept, distilled into words by speechwriter Michael Gerson, was a favorite of George W. Bush during his first term and his reelection campaign in 2004. And while the phrase referred to a genuine dysfunction in American life -- the preconception that disadvantaged folks won't ever succeed, and the resulting development of policies predicated upon their inevitable failure -- it was always tinged with irony when Bush uttered the words. After all, few public figures have so benefited from low expectations as Bush did in his first run for the presidency.
Rightly portrayed in the 2000 campaign as an incurious heir to a political dynasty, getting by on his ancestors' name and money, Bush had a pretty low expectations bar to clear in the presidential high jump. And when he proved to be a reasonably adept candidate who could go whole weeks without mangling his talking points, he was consequently lauded as a misunderestimated political genius. As Dr. Johnson said of a dog walking on its hind legs, "it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." Quite simply, Bush had taken advantage of the entirely true criticisms of his qualifications, and used them to his benefit by not publicly appearing to be a drooling idiot.
Sarah Palin has the same opportunity tonight.
Now, we know Palin to be a fringe member of the Republican right. We know her to be a petty, small-town dictator bent on settling small scores, banning books, and generally operating in a manner beneath the dignity of an already insignificant office. We know that she carried that attitude to Juneau when she became governor 18 short months ago, and that she's under investigation for abuse of that office. We know that she was either a member of, or a fellow traveler with, the secessionist Alaska Independence Party as late as the mid-Nineties. We know that she believes that God wants her to build a natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
But she won't be a fringe character tonight.
She won't admit to corruption, or champion Alaskan secession, or proclaim that God gives her personal advice on infrastructure policy. She won't list books that she wants banned, or name US Marshals that she'd want fired if elected Vice-President. Nope. She's going to come across as a mainstream American
soccer hockey mom, who can't understand why people are being so mean to her. She'll speak in vague generalities about the problems that face the nation, and will wrap herself in the flag and in motherhood. She's going to read a good speech, written by professionals, off of a teleprompter, and she'll do so with a smile. She's going to appear distressingly normal. And as such, she's going to, at least in some small measure, succeed -- at least for tonight.
Thanks to the soft bigotry of really low expectations.
But that doesn't mean that we should stop pointing out how out of touch she is with regular Americans, how unqualified she is for the top office of the land, or how the Republican Party has insulted the patriotism of Americans by nominating a secessionist for Vice-President. It just means that we need to be ready for half a news cycle that's at least marginally positive for Palin. That's OK. The truth about Palin isn't going anywhere.