That Woman

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Dear Purveyors of Mass Media,

It would do crucial justice to the sanity of this country if there were a moratorium on continued discussion of That Woman. All statements and speculations about “2012” and the word “presidential” or “candidate” should be abandoned in the context of her name. That Woman has resigned her office due to ‘public scrutiny’ and the ‘pressures of the press’. Why not accept her demands and completely stop coverage of anything she or her family members do? You’ll not only catch her out on a lie (because she wants attention) but will revoke her celebrity status and save Americans the pain of having to think of the possibility that she could’ve been one missed heartbeat away from running this country.

Let’s please return our nation to discussing real stories about real people that care about changing and pushing forward the country. That Woman transcended from petty local politician into a celebrity over night. Politicians, unfortunately, are not supposed to be celebrities. Celebrities are allowed to be venal, narcissistic, scatter-brained, with troubled family lives and inconsistent political beliefs and actions. Politicians, despite my general distaste for the class, on the whole tend to start out as people who really do believe in affecting society at large and pushing through larger goals to make the nation better. The public spotlight is theirs to capture to press forward issues but it is supposed to be about those issues, and the other mundanities of their jobs, that matter the most.

As Todd Purdum said in his latest Vanity Fair piece about That Woman:

“Whatever her political future, the emergence of [That Woman] raises questions that will not soon go away. What does it say about the nature of modern American politics that a public official who often seems proud of what she does not know is not only accepted but applauded? What does her prominence say about the importance of having (or lacking) a record of achievement in public life? Why did so many skilled veterans of the Republican Party—long regarded as the more adroit team in presidential politics—keep loyally working for her election even after they privately realized she was casual about the truth and totally unfit for the vice-presidency?”

He tries to answer those questions as best as possible but he points out that a practiced political team hardly vetted a virtual unknown, unaccomplished, uneducated woman from a small town in a state anyone hardly talks or knows about. That said woman had to attend cram sessions to get up-to-date on issues and that she was, at best, uninterested in those sessions. That would be ok for a celebrity, who we don’t expect to have opinions but matters of major national importance but she was going to potentially be the second-most important leader in the world. Why would the party choose someone so obviously uninterested in the country or world at large, a “political novice”, so Purdum says, that “surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived.” Oh wait, that sounds like our last, disastrous President. No wonder they found her appealing and thought she could be their puppet.

She was a cynical bid right off the bat for the Republicans, pushed forward by the Conservative press who seem to really be calling the shots in the Party these days, the idea to possibly try and capture some of Hillary’s female voters or at least press more female Republican voters to the polls with someone they could identify with. That Woman is towards the latter end of the spectrum for the Baby Boomers, still a large voting bloc, and a push at the polls from those female voters could easily help McCain’s troubled campaign at the time against the Obama onslaught. It’s not like the Dems weren’t being practical as well by putting old, white Biden in there as hiss running mate but at least he had spent some time in national government.

So how did was she jumped into celebrity stardom from mere politician? The US Weekly’s and People magazines of the country probably helped. People magazine’s demographics tell an interesting story: 67% of the readers are female, the median age of readership is 41 (That Woman is 43), education tends to stop at ‘Some College’ with High School graduates making up the largest portion, and with a large percentage of the female readership having kids in the range of That Woman and making average or below average American incomes. I would almost bet That Woman enjoyed seeing herself on the cover and that she was a boon for sales of People and like ‘magazines.’

The way people, especially women, defend her gives even more credence to her celebrityhood amongst them – not for her issues but for her story. What is her story and why do they defend it? The story by most media tried to portray her as a classic American rags-to-riches (the tale of all politicians right?). But most Americans want to buy into that pull-up-by-the-bootstraps, self-made idea of what an American citizen could be – if only the kids, or the government, or some other Something didn’t prevent them. The truth of the matter, denied or hidden from their minds is that the Rags tend to stay in rags, the Middle Class only grows around the middle while the Riches grow richer off sating the appetites of the middle and using the Rags to provide for them while only giving them a subsistence level of income to sustain themselves on fast food and gas for the long drives. Our image of ourselves and economic realities are coming close into focus these days though the realities of the narcissism and back-biting of That Woman continues to be obscured in the minds of her fervent devotees.

Why? For one, the media keeps taking notes and exploiting the situation as much as possible. Covering her makes them money. The demographics for People magazine are also more than likely similar to those watching their network news at home after getting home from work. It is an actual real ‘reality series’. As Purdum points out:

“That Woman is unlike any other national figure in modern American life—neither Anna Nicole Smith nor Margaret Chase Smith but a phenomenon all her own. The clouds of tabloid conflict and controversy that swirl around her and her extended clan—the surprise pregnancies, the two-bit blood feuds, the tawdry in-laws and common-law kin caught selling drugs or poaching game—give her family a singular status in the rogues’ gallery of political relatives. By comparison, Billy Carter, Donald Nixon, and Roger Clinton seem like avatars of circumspection. That Woman’s life has sometimes played out like an unholy amalgam of Desperate Housewives and Northern Exposure.”

Not only is it real, it’s what the people want to see, and its being played out on a national stage. It provides a simulacrum of working class life across the country that anyone from a rural area would recognize. Out of poverty comes desperate situations and pettiness and the general population is always happy to see that ‘Their just like us!’.

Her loyal devotees believe that wholeheartedly and stand as a bulwark against the ‘evil press’ and ‘liberals’ that are attacking her. To them, she’s an aspirational figure, a woman rising out of nowhere, as uneducated and unlucky in some ways as many of them. Her celebrity is an example of a way out of climbing debt, foreclosure, boring or nonexistent communities, and other less happy parts of modern American life. She didn’t have to be the smartest knife in the drawer, she just had to have guts and say what she thought. Not only did that help gain points in the conservative crowd that feeds off the historic spirit of American anti-intellectualism but probably spoke to a deeper part of women within the conservative community that probably don’t have too many opportunities to speak and say their mind, given the conciliatory, second citizen roles in families that Christianity and conservatism give to women.

Others have noted her commercial appeal. She currently has a book deal, being ghostwritten by a right-wing Christian pundit and published by a massive Christian publishing house. As the former almost son-in-law says in this HuffPo piece about her resignation:

Johnston says he lived with the [That Woman’s] family from early December to the second week in January. He claims he heard the governor several times say how nice it would be to take advantage of the lucrative deals that were being offered, including a reality show and a book.

“I think the big deal was the book. That was millions of dollars,” said Johnston, who has had a strained relationship with the family but now says things have improved.

Johnston himself, for impregnating the daughter of a presidential running mate, has also signed a book AND movie deal. People don’t make deals like these without thinking they will recoup and earn beyond their expenses. I would love to see the market research of the publishing and film groups that offered these deals.

The depressing thing is that fifty years ago, given the same circumstances for women we have now, she could have been a pick for the Democrats and would have most likely been a Democrat as governor. Somehow, the Democratic Party has been turned into that most horrible of things in America, a party of ‘elitists’, and ‘educated’ ones at that, or at least that’s the accusations these days. Yet, it was the party of the downtrodden and the working class, the women and the farmers, as well as a party of progressive ideas and reformation. The Republicans back then were the moneymen, the ‘swindlers’, the banks and WASPs attending ‘elite’ Ivy League universities. Something changed in those intervening years, and Religion began to grow larger and larger as a part of the how politics were played in the public sphere. Over time, the Republicans drifted into the right-wing nuthood that it exemplifies these days, drumming up votes through that oldest of religious techniques, fear. That Woman tied in very well to such an operation, using fears of a distant Russia, of homosexuals, and other boogeymen of the religious, conservative core base. It is why an almost hysterical fervor grew up around her, like the Jesus, transcended her from mere governor to international celebrity, from mere mortal to canonization.

So, dear Purveyors, Dissectors, and Commentators, let’s shut down this operation. Let’s make her a matyr for an Old America, one obsessed more with the doings of celebrities than improving their own lives, where people with no value to society can trade off their looks and luck to get attention and remain in the spotlight forever, eating up time for real stories about real people with real troubles. Relegate her to the past and you might even be doing That Woman a favor – she can concentrate on her family and enjoy the bounty of any money she’s made so far and enjoy a peaceful life far away from us and the mechanisms of American politics.
But we know you won’t do that.

Sincerely,

WhyWeWorry

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Flickr photo by geerlingguy

5 Comments

  1. Chris

    I’m with you. I’ve been trying to ignore this “story” as best I could. Your comparison to People magazine celebs sums it up perfectly. That Woman is just a ridiculous attention whore. She doesn’t come across as even slightly civic minded.

  2. Clint

    Great post, Jordan.

    That Woman is the ultimate, sad expression of how ridiculous American elections have become — that is, how completely devoid of substance they are. As much as That Man is a rock star president, he at least has some knowledge and passion for domestic and international issues.

  3. Diane

    Would be nice to have to listen to all this stuff about her, but i found an old article written in 2006 by an Alaskan. Before the liberals MSM and bloggers got a hold of her.
    The good old boys of Alaska had the same concerns then that we have now, she’s nasty and vindictive and doesn’t know much and is not smart enough to know she doesn’t know much, which makes her dangerous. Unless you can be used by the shady republicans as a front for their own purposes, kinda like GW Bush.
    The article is here
    http://www.alaskadispatch.com/palin-watch/74-how-palin-turned-on-her-own-party-and-became-governor

  4. Chris

    Diane,
    Too bad McCain didn’t read that article before picking her…

  5. Jordan

    Thanks for the link Diane. I still don’t understand if it was a Republican strategy to have some they could control again in having her or if it was a case of being disorganized and uninformed in general (esp. given the amount of time they had to put aside for cram sessions and the “survivor guilt” many of them feel mentioned in the VF article). If it was a case of the former, then it obviously backfired and, like in comic book movie, spawned a greater evil. That they could so many of the population to fall for the act again, especially after 8 years of national destruction under Bush, is another story. I can’t say how physically elated I was when McCain lost. I think that maybe right now we’re trying to block out the past decade of misrule but somehow we need to come to terms with who we are as a country and why it is that a large portion of the population is willing to fall for someone like the Unmentionable.

    J