Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Sarah Palin Smokescreen

The Nation
The Sarah Palin Smokescreen

by Katrina vanden Heuvel on 09/04/2008

"Here's the deal: Palin is the latest G.O.P. distraction," Bob Herbert wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday. "She's meant to shift attention away from the real issue of this campaign--the awful state of the nation after eight years of Republican rule. The Republicans are brilliant at distractions."

Herbert's right on target. Barack Obama honed in on that point in Denver too, "If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things."

On cue, Sarah Palin attempted to paint an absurd caricature of Obama in her speech at the Republican Convention last night: "What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world."

More than anything, this election should be about the big issues of our time--ending a disastrous war, restoring America's reputation in the world and building an economy that works for more than just the very rich. The challenge for Democrats is to frame these issues in a way that connects with traditional American and progressive values, exposes Republican callousness and extremism, and in doing so trumps the GOP's political marketing which cynically and cleverly plays on symbolism. As George Lakoff wrote, "Just arguing the realities, the issues, the hard truths should be enough in times this bad, but the political mind and its response to symbolism cannot be ignored..... Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They share values antithetical to our democracy."

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