A POLITICAL BEDTIME STORY THAT COULD BECOME ALL TOO REAL
By Alan S. Chartock
Once upon a time, a little red herring met the emperor’s new clothes. The red herring, of course, is the assertion by the Republican campaign that the Democrats are (gasp!) questioning the honor of vice presidential would-be Sarah Palin. It’s nonsense, of course. In fact, when an NPR host asked a Republican partisan selling this line to name a single Democrat who was sullying Palin’s honor (by suggesting her daughter’s pregnancy was somehow immoral) the Republican operative couldn’t, and he was reduced to mumbling something about “Democratic surrogates.” So the little red herring is a lie, the same kind of lie that the Republican administration tried to sell this country in order to justify a war based on “weapons of mass destruction” (there weren’t any) and Saddam Hussein somehow being behind Al Qaeda and, by extension, the destruction of the World Trade Center.
The lying doesn’t stop there. The emperor’s new clothes syndrome is the repeated assertion that John McCain and George W. Bush are different. They are not. McCain argues that the economy is fine and the war in Iraq is a good one. Sound familiar? In order to win this election they have to convince the voters that they are the agents of change and that they are running against Bush and the Washington crowd. They must argue that McCain will save the earth. He is the guy who will make this a green country. Who will help him do this? Palin, the Alaskan who wants more drilling, despoiling her own state. Forget about McCain, one of the ultimate Washington insiders who, as part of a gang of senators known as “The Keating Five,” was involved up in his neck in a massive savings and loan scandal.
The Republicans know that if they are seen as, well, Republicans, they can’t win. So they are in the process of reinventing themselves as a new political party known as “The Mavericks.” Despite the fact that McCain is as inside-the-beltway as you can get, he and his party tell the big lie, and they tell it over and over again. I suppose we Americans are gullible enough to buy it. Either that or we’re all suffering a sort of collective memory loss. So despite the fact that McCain and Bush are on the same page, the big lie is that they are not. Just like the crowd who watched the naked emperor ride by, the American people are watching McCain suggest that he is not George Bush.
Palin, the red herring, is a candidate in search of an enemy who called her names when none did. It’s a campaign based on fiction. Anyone who thinks this trickery won’t work is full of baloney. Below the surface, of course, is unabashed racism. There are people in this country who will not vote for a person of color. They might say they’re not racist, but in the sanctity of the voting booth, we all know what they’ll do.
If you watched the Republican convention, you heard an awful lot of rhetoric that left the have-nots out of the equation. The subliminal theme of the convention was “It’s us against them.” The “them,” as Michael Harrington once wrote, is “The other America”-those without health insurance, those living in poverty and those who are most often victimized by criminals. When Palin speaks about Barack Obama having been a “community organizer,” she is speaking in code. In elections gone by, “community organizer” would have been “Communist” or “Red” or “Liberal.”
If people of color realize that they should vote in huge numbers, and if the reform-minded kids who started the grassroots Obama movement stay with it, Obama has a chance. If people hide, curse and stamp their feet, McCain will be our next president. The little red herring and the emperor’s new clothes will have become a very successful fairy tale.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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