There are lot of us lefties who are guffawing right now and are happy to see Palin seemingly stumbling drunkenly [a cloaked reference to last night?] from occasional interview to occasional interview. I may have been one of them. But I’m out of that group now.
The Palin pick was the most crassest, most bigoted decision that I’ve seen in national electoral politics, in my–admittedly short–lifetime. There can be no doubt that they picked Palin strictly as a stick to drum up the victimhood narrative–small town, hunters, big families and most importantly, women. Had Barack Obama picked Hillary Clinton, there simply is no way they would have picked Sarah Palin. To the McCain camp, Palin isn’t important as a politician, or even as a person. Her moose-hunting, her sprawling fam, her hockey momdom, her impending grandmother status are a symbol of some vague, possibly endangered American thing, one last chance to yell from the rafters “We wuz robbed.” Lineup all your instances of national politicians using white victimhood to get into offices–Willie Horton, White Hands, Sista Souljah, Reagan in Philadelphia etc.–they were all awful no doubt. But I have never seen a politician subject an alleged ally to something like this.
[O]n Tuesday afternoon when I went to The Times Web site and saw the photo of Sarah Palin with Henry Kissinger, a funny thing happened. A wave of self-recognition and sympathy washed over me.
That’s right — self-recognition and sympathy. Rising up from a source deep in my subconscious. I saw a woman fully aware that she was out of her league, scared out of her wits, hanging on for dear life. I saw this in the sag of her back in her serious black suit, in the position of her hands, crossed modestly atop her knees, and in that “Mad Men”-era updo, ever unchanging, like a good luck charm.
McCain brought her up from the minors way too early, and ruined her career because of it?
I am not without empathy for Palin; I understand what she is up against. I agreed with James Fallows’ predictions on the day of the announcement that Palin would be McCain’s running mate:
The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address.
All of which takes me back to a Tech Nation podcast conversation from a couple years ago with Dr. Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. At the time she was promoting her book, Mindset—The New Psychology of Success. She spoke of a couple of famous plagiarism cases:
There are these famous cases of Janet Cook and Stephen Glass, famous young reporters who made up stuff. Had to give back a Pulitzer Prize. Had to leave the New Republic in shame. What was that about? Were they just cheaters with deep down bad qualities? I think they were like the children in my studies who received lavish praise for their intelligence or talent and then didn’t feel that they had the luxury of learning. Maybe Janet Cook and Stephen Glass felt they had to be brilliant right away. They couldn’t take the time to learn the ropes and do the legwork and yes, they came out with these great stories right away, but they weren’t true.
And of self-esteem:
Self-esteem per se is just fine, but I think we have a misguided model of what it is and how to promote it. We think it’s something that you can just pump into a child the way you inflate like a tire. And we think we can do that by telling them how great they are. That’s the misguided part.
In our work we’ve shown that telling children how great they are… makes them very happy for a few minutes, but it makes them completely unable to cope with setbacks.
John McCain has pumped Sarah Palin up like a tire. She’s sprung a leak. Many leaks. We’ll all see (and probably read in a best-selling autobiography some day) how she copes.