I've seen some bloggers and/or commentators refer to the McCain campaign's rollout of its choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as having the effect of "shock and awe" on the Obama campaign and Democrats in general. That's a pretty good description.
In his column for September 12, 2008, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert states: "While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail. How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket? How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride? For those who haven't noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on 'American Idol.'" Indeed.
When the Palin nomination was first announced, my reaction was identical to that of my wife and all my friends--McCain just threw away any chance of winning that he might have had. How could the American public possibly accept the nomination of an obviously unqualified, inexperienced outsider, whom no one has ever heard of, and who came from a sparsely populated state cut off and far away from the rest of the union? Particularly when up to that point McCain had based his entire campaign on the alleged superiority of his "experience" to Obama's, and the youthful inexperience of the latter. Surely, McCain was depriving himself of his central argument, right?
What I and my friends didn't take account of at that moment were two undeniable facts. First, Palin was not totally unknown. She was in fact quite well known to the hard right-wing and its sycophants--particularly the right-wing commentariat most prominently represented by Rush Limbaugh, who had himself been pushing for McCain to choose Palin for quite some time.
Second, the relatively small sliver of the electorate located almost precisely in the middle of the political spectrum--which will decide the fate of the nation in any close election--is poorly informed, poorly educated, and frankly not very bright.
How else can one explain the fact that these people are still been making up their minds about how to vote at this late stage of the presidential campaign? I mean, really, how long has this thing been going on already? And these people are only NOW making up their minds? That in itself proves that they haven't been paying any attention to what has undeniably been one of the most exciting and transformational political campaigns in modern American history. And if they haven't been paying attention to that, it's a good bet they haven't been paying any attention at all to what the Bush Administration has been doing to the country for the past eight years. Unlike the presidential campaign, the machinations of the Bush Administration have not been advertised and trumpeted to the public at large; to the contrary, they have been blanketed in deep secrecy and masked by constant propaganda unlike anything this country has ever seen.
From these observations, it is but a small deductive step to conclude that the coming election will be decided by the lest informed, least educated, and least involved portion of the electorate, which also happens to be that segment of the voting public most lacking in the capacity for critical thinking. These people--in whose hands all of our fates rests--have apparently only just now "tuned in" to the presidential election. And what's the first thing to come onto the "television screens" of their awareness? None other than the cute, smiling, incredibly perky, amazingly spunky hockey-mom face of former Miss Alaska-runnerup Sarah Palin.
In that context, pace Bob Herbert, the next election really is becoming an episode of American Idol. And in such a contest, Sarah Palin actually stands a better than even chance of sweeping the field. God help us all.