Friday, October 03, 2008

Pondering the vice presidential debate…

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...


Anonymous said...

Hey ABB, thanks for the solid defenses on Ifill. She's always been obsessively, sometimes infuriatingly neutral, one of the few good journalists still left out there. I had the brush with fame of being on a plane with her once. Coach!, as befits a PBS type salary.

I think she might have sadly gotten rattled by the fake controversy though. I thought she did better in 2004. She didn't press any specifics on the answers, and in '04 she had a great moment where she importantly brought up the spike in HIV among African-American women with Edwards and Cheney, getting them to address something important that had been left out of the conventional "issues" narrative. I wish she'd have done something similar last night. It was pretty much all boilerplate questions.

Anonymous said...

When was it decreed that women were stupid? I'd like to know because last time I checked, I wasn't stupid. You are clearly not stupid. None of the women I know are stupid. So why is stupid now the new normal?

It's like by nominating Palin as his running mate, McCain suddenly gave to world license to turn the clock back 50 years -- "Look she pretty... isn't that enough. We don't want them thinking or anything. They might want on in on a piece of this."

Gah! (Sorry to rant. You spoke to me.)

tiff said...

Just like Georgie B, Palin was able to overcome very low expectations. Doesn't matter how much better her debate partner was, it's that crippled hop of the low bar that people will go on and on about.

Ooooh, she didn't f-ck up! Yay!!


Anonymous said...

I sent out an email to my team this morning. "If you watched the debate last night, you now have valuable insight into what I mean when I talk about setting expectations."

Palin didn't *fail* because the expectations set for her over the course of the past week were so low she would have had to have actually fallen down on stage to miss exceeding those expectations.

The BBC had an interesting analysis this morning. The commentator said that there were two debates: Palin vs. the image of Palin previously in the public view; and Biden vs. McCain. I thought that was pretty accurate.

Re: Ifill, yes, I thought she was more tentative than I was expecting (hoping for), understandable but still disappointing.

And if you were watching the reactions of undecided voters in Ohio during the course of the debate, their opinions of Palin dropped when she started in on the folksy shit. As Americans we are determinedly provincial, but overall we're not stupid and we don't like being patronized.

Anonymous said...

Palin's performance was horrid..she proved that she knows less about politics and the USA than I do..and honestly I wasn't really even interested into politics until this presdential election.

Palin had no real answers and the answers she did give somehow ended up being about Alaska or energy..every single one.

She definitely showed that she is wayyy out of her league, yet people are going around applauding her saying that she did well...well compared to what is what I asked, because she had no clue as to what was going on.

Anonymous said...

Well,you couldn't blame black people for voting in favour of Barack Obama just because he's black because you can rest assured that many thousands of the electorate will vote AGAINST him just because he's black!

Unknown said...

Personally, I closed my eyes and heard a Tim Conway comedy routine coming out of her mouth. I thought Joe Biden did very well. More than very well.

Anonymous said...

Democrats will vote for the Democrat. Republicans will vote for the Republican. That’s how it has always been.
John McCain and Joe Biden are politicians. They know their numbers, and they know Washington.
What is different about this election is culture. Where is America going, culturally?
This is where Barack Obama and Sarah Palin come in.
Some say race is a factor against Obama, but I say it is the opposite: Obama has been propelled upwards by his skin color. The positive ‘racism’ (Black-Americans supporting him, White-Americans feeling guilty about the legacy of slavery) far outweighs the few remaining pockets of negative racism (traditional bigotry) that still exist in our country.
Whereas Black-Americans account for 12 percent of America, women number about 51 percent.
This is where America’s reaction to Sarah Palin gets interesting. It is not only sexism at play, but regionalism too. Keep in mind that America’s reaction could be vastly different from the media’s reaction, which tries to intervene in how America thinks and observes for itself.
For the last decade, American women have been trying to become either the fifth ‘Manhattanite’ cast member of ‘Sex and the City’ or a ‘Desperate Housewife’ on Wisteria Lane. The White male executives who created, packaged and marketed these female stereotypes have made plenty of money as women across America spent time and money trying to become ‘Carrie Bradshaw’. But somehow, these wanna-be’s never lived it up as glamorously.
Sarah Palin is all about God, Family, Country and Shot-Guns. She is a completely New American Woman. She was not constructed by a Public Relations agency in either New York City or Los Angeles. She is not a Hollywood creation. Sarah Palin is simply a product of American small-town wholesomeness: happy childhood, hard work, self-discipline and a bright, and almost chirpy, outlook on life.
Sarah is not the high-maintenance, drama-seeking, bulimia-suffering fragile caricature of a working woman as peddled by TV.
Her husband, Todd Palin, is not a neurotic metro-sexual obsessing over the price of organic arugula, or whining about his commitment phobias to his shrink. He is a man’s man, and frankly, a woman’s man: just your regular American guy—wholesome and uncomplicated.
Sarah and Todd are American ‘retro’, but it is retro made cool all over again. They are a brand of Americana that has been tested and true—genuine, confident and mature.
Something happened to the Obama brand on the way to the election. It is as if the fashion gods decided that “Didn’t you know? No one wears Obama after Labour Day.”
Once exotic and different, the Obama brand has been turned into something weird and creepy. “Obama’s Witnesses,” “Obama’s Blue-Shirts,” “The Obama Youth Fraternity League”…Plus, after the initial swooning over him, most people still think that there’s something “off” about Obama; as if he’s hollow, or hiding something.
Today, the Obama brand has become decidedly “uncool”. That’s why people tuned out from watching him debate McCain.
On the other hand, Americans are discovering that they are intrigued by Sarah Palin. The TV pundits may want to spin things their way, but the surest measure of who won the Vice-Presidential Debate is that, at the end, the vast majority of viewers walked away from their TV sets and said to themselves, “I’d like to see more of Sarah Palin—unfiltered and uncut.”
The Obama camp may be celebrating too early. There are still plenty of people out there that haven’t made up their mind, and Obama’s triumphalism may begin to sound like arrogance, and he’s already been accused of that.
This is indeed a culturally interesting time to be an American.

dinthebeast said...

Disclosure first: I am a 47 year old white male. I watched the debate with four of my housemates, 2 men 2 women, all of us are white except for one Japanese man. Granted, we are artists and musicians who live in a warehouse in Dogtown, so we don't represent anything but us. During the debate the defining moment for me happened at something we all stopped and said aloud, all 5 of us "Can't we just have Gwen for our veep?"
Also, those folks still lame enough to try marginalizing people of color are jealous, plain and simple. Read that as we don't have to put up with a whole lot of bigotry out here in Oakland.
As for Palin, we were all offended at her substance-free condescension-from-on-low, and to echo the previous comment, we're not stupid and we don't like being patronized. I am only hoping that this is a common AMERICAN reaction to this outrageous bullshit, because the only way they can win is to wedge us against each other, like they always try to do. It's always lies they use though, and the truth of the matter is we have far more in common together than any of us do with the wealthy assholes who would divide us. Let's not fall for it this time. Let's not fall for it ever again.
We have the numbers. They cheat, but we can still beat them.

-Doug in Oakland

AOB said...

I am speechless that this bimboette may be VP of the USA.

Can't wait for this weeks' SNL. I am sure Tina Fey is going to tear it up.

Anonymous said...

I think the funniest thing SNL can do (assuming Tina can clear her schedule and appear...) is to painstakingly recreate the debate setting (what's Gwen's schedule Saturday?) and then for her opening statement - with a big grin and wink to the camera - go directly to "Live from New York!..."

Too much Palinism. Piling on and skewering can only go so far before the "east coast media elite" complaints resound.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Palin is a bimbo. I don't think she's stupid.

I think she has been prepped as an overboard populist by the cynical leaders of the anti-populist party.

And I think she is absolutely unqualified to occupy the White House.

Well, wait. She does have the shotgun cred, I suppose.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Big Man over at Raving Black Lunatic wrote an excellent post on this too, wondering what would happen if Obama did the same thing using language of our culture. It's worth a look.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

It was quite a performance. It reminded me of a college sophomore back in '71 who would pop a few hits of black beauties, study (cram) all night while chain smoking cigarettes then rush out at 9AM and take that Anatomy and Physiology final exam. Sometimes, he'd could keep that up for a few days if need be. . . then he'd head back home, sleep for three days and when he woke up not know a damn thing he studied.
Yea, she performed alright. I'd like to ask her a few questions tomorrow and see what she remembers.

Go Go Jo Jo said...

MSNBC was a lot more critical of Palin in their post debate analysis than a lot of other sources. They're pretty liberally biased but so I am I and that's why I watch them.

I think Chris Matthews who does hard ball called it out when he said that the bar was set so low that her showing up and speaking coherently would practically be seen as a win for her. And that came true.

Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people can be won over by the catch phrases and the smarmy mommy charm that Palin puts out there.

I really hope that more people start calling her out on that whole VP presiding over congress bull. There are no implied powers for the VP in the constitution. The position is clearly stated. And to suggest other wise insults our intelligence.

Blue said...

I've never been an Obama fan - still not but OMG if we've learned nothing from the last 8 years shouldn't we acknowledge that we need to have some basal level of standard for knowledge and intelligence in those to whom we award so much power?

Palin doesn't even come close - she's an embarrassment to every woman and anyone who resides in small town America and her selection as VP nominee is an insult.

Can you imagine Hillary getting away with that performance? (not a fan of Hillary either but she would not have been given this benefit - nor should she)

Biden was hamstrung. But when she (per usual not having even listened to the question as it's immaterial for her response) chided him for talking about the past (Bush Admin) on a question specifically addressing this administration's policy with regard to Israel - I really wish he would have said, ... I realize the governor forewarned us not to expect her to answer the questions tonight, and she has to get in her talking points regardless of their relevance to the matter at hand but my response was to the question asked, you know, about the Bush administration's policy in Israel.

I don't have an afro but my head is still hurting.

How any sane individual could cast a vote for McCain/Palin is beyond me.

The Lazy Iguana said...

I thought the moderator was fair. I did not detect bias one way or the others. In fact, I think some of the questions and follow ups could have been tougher.

We already had a folksy president / administration. That worked out great!

OH WAIT! It did not work out so well. I do not think we need to go down that road again.

Palin did not answer the simple question "what branch of the government is the VP in". She also said something that sounded like support for the powers Cheney invented for himself.

I am thinking the show did not do McCain any good.

Brown Man said...

Somewhere about half way through the debate, I just had to ask myself - "how the hell can ANYBODY look at this shit with a straight face?"

It was like playing one of those word games where you have to make a sentence out of the words you pull out of a cup.

When she brought up "No Child Left Behind", I almost dropped my drink.

Sarah Palin better be glad the "No Child Left Behind" program didn’t apply retroactively, because her ass would be sitting in study hall right now, boning up on all the physical science, social studies, and economics concepts she obviously missed. She needs to be running for the nearest library, not the vice presidency of the United States – of MY United States.

John McCain needs to have his ass hauled back to that prison in Vietnam for even thinking about trotting this fucking college sophomore out as a god damned running mate.

Anonymous said...

This is your nation on white privilage. Her stupid winking, Ned Flanders like vernacular, and that shoutout (lady this is a VP debate, not some damn hog calling contest) had me yelling at the tube. "Bless you Heart" to the moderator: was that a disrepectful remark? It wouldn't surprise me. Damn I hate this country. This is bullshit. And I'm white and I can see the privilage alll over.

Anonymous said...

damn good post, great comments ,

hell my afro still hurts and i don't even have one..

the entire mess is a travesty beyond measurement - including the bail the criminals in the finacial SERVICES community out bill -

we are no longer americal or we are ameriKKKa and a Fascist Oligarchy of losely federated states.

This is the nail in our coffin brought to us - sadly by all except those who voted NO - of either party for what ever reasons. in my opinion. The coup in 2000 is now complete..

all done with a wink and a shucks and a by golly -

we will see Hoovervilles only now the jack booted thugs will take people away ( the desenters, the poor, its clear the elected officials ALL of THEM - do not have the mettle to sit their asses down..the Sanders, the many other NO voices - makes me seriously doubt how much change is truly possible in these times by working within the system..

I watched on C span split screen of Biden and Palin - the callers afterwards are the "pundits" it was say the least how many MANY callers were calling to say they dislike both and were considering 3 rd party votes..the trouble with this IS -

* and its probably too late, Our Laws LAWS are not set for 3rd parties and run offs..Until they are changed - These LAWS a third party vote is a vote for MUCH worse of the lesser of two "evils"

it may all be academic as we are in a Greater Depression - a snowball, that the neo lib/con policies and this bill will not spare the working poor, nor the so called middle class - it is so problematic and the implications well it sucks.

if one didn't see last nights Moyers on the third , watch the Podcast or clips..

Anonymous said...

The media should be calling her on all this okydoke bullshit. It has always been ok for white people to pander to the folks they want to "middle america" but blacks or anyone else are supposed to leave their race and their folks at the door. The media feels that is right and should be done in fact. So Palin in playing the okydoke card but people are not buying it. She sounds like an idiot from that show a long time ago where the two comedians are sitting together talking about be from the great white north. If people can not see that this woman has no clue, then they are blind. And how is it that you can become a gov. of a state and have no clue about the country in which you live. I do not understand how she knows nothing.
She is a politician, she should know politics. She, dare I say is worse than Dan Quayle because at least after awhile, he just shut up. He stopped talking. McCain tried to pull a Dan Quayle and it is not working.

BIDEN WAS AWESOME! His answers, stature, knowledge, lack of anger, all worked for him. Never really saw him before and am now very impressed. Great choice by Obama

EHR said...

Thanks for this. I didn't even spot the white privilege going on - I was seething over the class privilege and the constant insults to my intelligence. My husband (white, middle class, born and raised in the Midwest) and I (white, lower middle class and raised in small towns) hated every second of it.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin's performance proved nothing more than the fact that she can recite speeches that had been prepared for her by someone else.

The interviews with Katie Couric showed us that she can't think on her feet. I, for one, am not impressed that she can recite prepared material.
A child can do that.
Hell, elephants have been taught to paint using similar rote learning skills.

She showed no respect for the American people or the debate process by pretty much refusing outright to answer most of the questions put to her.

Obama or Ifill would have been raked over the coals for dodging the issues.

I too doubt that the punditry would have been as charmed by "folksy" sayings if they'd come from Obama. I'm sure that there'd be some talk of Ebonics.

Hell, if it had taken more than one college for Barack Obama or Gwen Ifill to secure their bachelor's degree (like Ms. Palin) I'm sure there'd be some yahoo talking about the evils of affirmative action. Or a whole bunch of yahoos calling him unfit.
As it is, there's just that group of yahoos that are calling him an elitism because he's made a success of himself.

The McCain campaign is making this whole thing a insult to the intelligence of the American people.

Rebel Yankee said...

If only the traditional media WERE attempting balanced coverage, they would have someone like you out there explaining in "downhome, understandable ways" exactly what is wrong with our expectations based on who a person is and what their political party is.
You, as usual, nailed it. And it's a damn shame no one on television Friday night or over the weekend was half as insightful in three times the amount of time.

Anonymous said...

ABB, just found your blog. I lived in St. Louis for 20 years, but am now back in the South. I'm a "Yellow Dog Democrat." Period. This is just an aside as to the political climate as I know it here in the SE Ark Delta. NO WAY, NO HOW many of the "Democrats" I come into contact with will vote for Obama. No matter how much I talk, no matter how many times I tell them that HE'S NOT a Muslim.

What's an Angry White Bitch to do?

Infuriated Faggot said...

I know I'm late on this one...but, as I recently posted on my blog...the amazing thing is that this "Folksy" view Palin is trying to push did not translate to the streets when we were denied access to the debate...I don't know ABB...this deserves a "smells like bullshit" foto, no?

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how the woman who criticized Hillary for playing the gender card is not being held to the same standards by anyone it seems except bloggers and SNL.

Love your blog, have been a lurker for a while and also enjoy your posts at Shakesville!

Anonymous said...

Many of you may already know that "Bless your (her/his) heart" is a Southern idiom often used as an insult. "Bless her heart, she spends so much time on her makeup = face like an alligator, or alternately, vain. You get the drift...


Anonymous said...

Holy crap, you are SO right about this. Palin was insulting on so many levels. Please tell me our country has more of brain than they think we do. And to your point, I am laughing thinking how it would be percieved if Obama used the same kind of language. Lord forbid he come across as anything BUT brilliant. Good thing he just is...

bethm404 said...

I am sure that Palin appeals to some people, after all she's just walking in the footsteps of G.W. Bush; remember how Americans choose him as "the candidate they would most want to have a beer with"? Well, he got votes based on that, and so will she. Many Americans get their information from the campaign ads and what they see covered on Fox news. Those Americans vote.

I think Gwen Ifill was a totally even-handed moderator. I did have one issue with her though, and that was the lack of specific follow-up questions, which I think would have elicited more telling remarks from Palin, and given everyone a better picture of the VP candidate(s). I was upset about this, untill I read somewhere that the McCain campaign stipulated "no crosstalk, and no follow-ups" for this debate. ABB, can you confirm this? If this is true, than it is WAY more insulting than Palin's uber-folksy mugging.

What say you ABB? If I were Gwen Ifill, I would also be mad personally about such a request as it obviously would have affected her ability to demonstrate her moderating skills unfettered.

harmfulguy said...

From LiveJournal, Joe Six Pack Responds.

Sure. It's a folksy, homey, cute way to euphemistically call us something very close to trashy, ignorant hillbillies. We're just not supposed to be smart enough to realize it.

John said...

the most real review i've read of the debate this far.

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