Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Obama-Palin: Narrative and Counter-Narrative

Photo: Gov. Sarah Palin, Alaska

Game Over?
We’ll See...

By Tom Hayden
Progressives for Obama

Behind the façade of spin, the McCain campaign must be trying frantically to reverse a death spiral. One would think this is the time for Democrats to strike hard. But the Obama campaign has chosen to back off, perhaps taking a page from Sun Tsu.

Once again the blogosphere is the driving force.

No one in the mainstream media has noticed that Gov. Palin, introducing her family in Ohio, failed to disclose that her daughter Bristol was pregnant. Only when rumors swept the internet about the governor herself did she release the news that Bristol was pregnant. That raised two key questions: Is the governor holding back anything else?, and Did the governor tell John McCain and the vetting team that her daughter was pregnant?

Republican strategists like Karl Rove are spinning backward.

Rove et al, with masks of sincerity, are appealing to American sympathy for the Palin’s plight as they face the “private” issues that “so many American families go through.” These are the same Republicans that crusaded through past decades against teenage pregnancy as a horrible outcome of “Sixties permissiveness.” These are the same Republicans, like Dan Quayle, who crucified the character “Murphy Brown”, played by Candace Bergen, for being a single mother. These same Republicans, like CNN commentator William Bennett, today embrace a newfound liberal tolerance for the Palin family.

The problem for the Democrats now is that they too excoriated teenage pregnant girls as a symbol of moral decay and “a plague on the nation” in the Nineties decade. The consensus, as often expressed by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, was that teen-age mothers are responsible for their own poverty. [Michael Males, Framing Youth, p. 182] This was part of a bipartisan crusade, launched by the neoconservatives, to demonize teenagers for “moral poverty” as an alternative to addressing root causes like poverty and school dropouts.

Now the Democrats find themselves unable to attack Republican hypocrisy because it would reveal their own. The drama rolls on and on, with nothing but negative fallout for the McCain campaign.

The problem with Sarah Palin is not about her daughter. The problem is that she is an extremist who once favored secession of Alaska from the United States, supports the right-wing evangelical agenda, wants polar bears taken off the [Republican administration’s] endangered species list, denies global warming, wants drilling in the Alaska wilderness, and knows nothing about national security and foreign policy. She is a disgraceful example of how little the Republicans care about America’s core national interests when power is their only goal.

The fact that Obama and McCain remain in a dead heat should be very troubling for Democrats. Without referring to the race issue, the McCain-Palin ticket represents a powerful conservative narrative in American history: protecting the stalwart, pioneering frontier woman against a threatening world of black people and foreigners, through endless wars for land and resources.

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