Saturday, September 6, 2008

wait, wait don’t tell me

I’ve been spending a lazy, quiet day, sleeping in, catching up on my reading. For amusement on such occasions I like to listen to NPR’s Car Talk and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. Today’s opening monologue on the latter show was a bit disappointing. It consisted entirely of belittling jokes about the Republican V.P. nominee, Sarah Palin. After noting the absence of President Bush, one joke was that the best way to get on stage at the RNC was not to win two Presidential elections for the party but to knock-up Sarah Palin’s daughter. The joking about Palin continued throughout the program, mostly about her lack of foreign policy experience. Pointed but not very amusing, at least not by the third or fourth time it happened.

After the broadcast I thought I’d download the podcast of last week’s show, the one immediately after the Democrat’s convention. There the monologue started with noting tongue-in-cheek that McCain tried to steal the fire from the Democrats by naming his VP choice right after their convention. However, they would not let this distract them “from saying rude, uninformed, and borderline offensive things about the Democrats. The Republicans will have to wait until next week.”

Good, funny start. However, the monologue then ended. No Obama-Biden jokes. No jokes at all. They went right to the quiz show. During the show there were only a few remarks about the Obamas or Biden, some of which were funny but none of which were remotely belittling. They were only “fair” in that there were about as many Clinton jokes as McCain jokes on a show that was supposed to be devoted to laughing at the Democrats.

Earlier this week I told a conservative colleague that I thought Palin was a breath of fresh air. (This was before Fred Thompson said so at the RNC.) Much like Jesse Jackson and most of his civil-rights era cohorts hate Obama, the Left hates Palin. She is not their idea of a female leader. There are many reasons for this, but a real fear is that she is obviously the real thing and not the result of clever marketing.

I am afraid that it will be a very ugly campaign despite the common decency of the presidential and VP candidates.

I work around people who are very much into issues of “race, class, and gender.” What is quite obvious about this week is that the negative reaction of media elites to Palin is in large part based on social class. We’ve all probably heard the complaint that they wouldn’t raise these issues with a man. I think they wouldn’t raise these issues with a woman who went to an elite college, or better yet who had graduate degrees or who had spent serious time working on appropriately liberal causes or concerns.**

Race, class, and gender? Earlier this year folks thought that race or gender would be issues. They were. Now, with the nomination of Sarah Palin, social class is the issue. I’ll be interested in what my colleagues who focus on these issues have to say about this. (I wonder, do they even recognize it?)

I think most people already are beginning to sense that the so-called cultural wars this year will really be about social class. There is uneasiness about Obama that has nothing to do with race. However, it is easier for most people to feel it than to be able to articulate it. If something, or someone on the Republican side, crystallizes this feeling, McCain-Palin will make this election a contest.

However, Obama and his people are smart. They know this election cannot be won by McCain unless Obama loses it. Obama will not get caught riding around in a tank like Dukakis or caught windsurfing like Kerry. They have done an outstanding job of positioning Obama, of marketing him, and they aren’t likely to make a big mistake.

**Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is VERY liberal and the mother of five children. Her family has never been an issue.

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