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Sunday, June 23, 2024

It's strange, really. I don't feel like a sexist.

It seems my last column ruffled some feathers with its description of Gov. Sarah Palin as an "insufferable Barbie Doll from Fargo." In the spirit of friendship, I would like to offer an extended clarification of my remark to clear up any lingering misconceptions about my opinion of the governor. In the aftermath of defeat, she's rumored to be considering a presidential run in 2012. Consider this my opening volley against such a prospect:

Palin is both an insufferable Barbie Doll from Fargo and a tumor on the ass of American democracy.

It frightens me that she controls one state. The thought of her controlling 50 conjures images of plague and Hellfire. My problems with Palin are almost endless: her scorched-earth tactics, her cultivated political persona, her world view, her abuses of power, her hobby of shooting animals from an airplane. Really, it's everything but her gender. I would be just as quick to write off a similar male politician as a vapid, potentially dangerous Ken Doll.

Everyone likes symbols. At the presidential level, though, we prefer symbols with some stature. There are legions of Republican women more qualified than Palin. Her selection revealed only the shallow political calculations of the McCain campaign. Palin can hardly be blamed for accepting the nomination, shameless pander that it was.

Her conduct after being selected, however, revealed a double standard all her own. It diminishes all women when a female candidate cries "sexism!" about questions any man would be expected to answer.

People on presidential tickets don't deserve a learning curve or a rain check.

Palin's isolation from the press exemplifies what President George W. Bush might call "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Watching her, though, who could blame the campaign for limiting her media exposure? Every time she sat down with a journalist, she looked more like a deer in headlights than a vice president.

Apparently, Palin wasn't content with being only a woefully uninformed emblem of shallow politics. She was intent on transcending her eventual status as a historical asterisk, reaching instead into the dark corners of electoral politics that confer infamy at the expense of good repute.

She embraced tactics that even the most awful recent politicians had the decency to avoid. Bush's campaign tarred and feathered Sen. John Kerry, but Vice President Dick Cheney never brandished charges of socialism or terrorist connections. Palin displayed a frightening enthusiasm for any ridiculous accusation that would advance her own ambition, eagerly providing a mouthpiece for the most awful of Sen. John McCain's attacks. She said what he wasn't willing to say. That's saying something.

In the end, though, Palin was both a product and a symptom of the Republican Party's worst instinct: an insistence on waging a culture war that has lost its relevance.

Take away the rabble-rousing about God, gays, guns, abortion, patriotism and class warfare, and Palin is an empty hat, a mere puppet of the most repulsive tendencies in American political life. She is the shameful climax of tired cultural and moral battles that distract people from real, solvable problems. She is the dying gasp of a divisive brand of conservatism that has worn out its welcome with an American public that knows when it's being screwed.

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She should go away forever. It's not because she's a woman. It's because she's Sarah Palin.

Jake Miller is a political science and anthropology senior. His column appears on Fridays.

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