Last night Senator Biden and Governor Palin participated in the sole vice presidential debate of the 2008 election in my home city of St. Louis Missouri. I watched most of the 90-minute debate and the post debate analysis and…well, it made my Afro hurt.
Hell, my Afro still hurts.
Let’s rewind a bit to examine the pre-debate attempt by conservative bloggers to cast doubt on the integrity of moderator Gwen Ifill. Ifill is writing a book about American politics in the “age of Obama” and she has been upfront and open about that. But conservative bloggers decided to question her impartiality because the book deals with Obama’s political career among other politicians of color.
I see that unfounded questioning as a continuation of the grand insult dealt black women by political analysts throughout this election. Time after time, pundits have voiced their assumption that black women will vote for Senator Obama simply because he is black. They have perpetuated the myth that all black people value racial pride over political legitimacy, that we are easily dazzled by the success of other black people and that we will fail to weigh the issues and policy positions of a black candidate simply because we want to see a black man elected president. Thus, they dismiss the fact that black voters were pro-Clinton even after Obama entered the race, that many black voters questioned and analyzed Obama’s campaign just as they did the campaigns of the other candidates and that Senator Obama has had to earn the black vote just like President Clinton did in the 1990s.
So it came as no surprise that Ifill’s journalistic integrity would be questioned in the same way the integrity of black voters has been from the primaries on. But it was and is a sad commentary on how the bigoted assumptions of some define the political temperament of black America.
With that drama weighing on my mind, I sat down and watched the vice presidential debate. I can only speak for myself, but the pain in my Afro grew as I witnessed Gov. Palin deliver a performance drenched in folksy phrases and overly simplified pseudo-patriotic statements designed to seduce white voters in Middle America. I hoped that she would hold her own because I know that many will judge all women in politics based on Palin's ability to perform under pressure. I also hoped that she would prove herself worthy of the office she seeks and that she would then be judged on the policy positions presented rather than on the fall-out of another intellectual meltdown on national television.
What I saw instead was 90 minutes of those folksified “you betchas” layered on top of gross generalizations of what middle class America desires from their government. As the candidates gave their closing statements I couldn’t help but wonder what the analysis would be. Suffice it to say, it turned out to be one of the best examples of privilege that I have ever witnessed.
Headlines on news sites announce that Palin has gotten back on track and that she defied expectations. Conservative analysts applauded her for being herself and speaking like and to average Americans.
And I’m left trying to imagine the response if Gwen Ifill had moderated the debate using the same folksy phrases Gov. Palin tossed out like Mardi Gras beads during a parade.
I can just imagine the response if Senator Obama dodged questions with a wink followed by something along the lines of “You betcha, hockey moms and Joe six-pack want affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility too!”
I'd put money I don't have down that the response wouldn’t be praise.
And I’m damned certain Ifill or Obama wouldn’t wake up this morning and read that they held their own and got the job done after tossing out that much verbal bullshit the night before.
But obviously Gov. Palin is being measured by a very generous stick.
I’ll betcha Gwen Ifill won’t uncover that kind of privilege in her book.
Mmmmhmm, you’re darn tootin’ she won't!
Lawd, give me strength...