Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin's Small Town

Frank Rich draws attention to an aspect of  Palin - Nick Cohen's personal Zahir - that has preoccupied me, her claim to small town authenticity. 'We grow good people in our small towns with honesty, integrity and dignity,' she said her her acceptance speech. Well yes, as undoubtedly they do in their big cities. H, I and D are not monopolies of the rural backwater. Judging by my own experience, I'd say the proportion of lying, corrupt bastards in the country is about the same as it is in the city, though it is probably true to say they are less able to express their unpleasant personalities in a rural context simply because their behaviour is more visible. Perhaps it's different in the States, but I doubt it. Anywhere in the world, the virtues of the country are the virtues of non-human nature. But sentimental political rhetoric often evokes the small town as some kind of paradise of hard work and solid values. It is, in America especially, a right-wing thing. The Republican 'base' is seen as predominantly non- and anti-urban by cynical party operators who wouldn't know one end of a pig from another, with or without the aid of lipstick. The left, in contrast, is more sentimental about the city; experience of the ghetto of the sink estate is seen as the true badge of political authenticity. None of this is true of British political rhetoric. Nobody's going to try and run with the small town thing since John Major sort of tried to do it with cricket matches and old ladies cycling to church. Nevertheless, the British left broadly derives its own unspoken idea of authenticity from the city and the right from the country. The country pub bore spouting Daily Mail leaders and pining for the return of Thatcher is as much a national figure as the Dave Spart demanding more 'resources' for his latest scheme to alleviate poverty and fight racism on South London estates. The apparent success of Palin suggests small town sentimentality is still a very potent force in American politics. It relates, I suppose, to the yearning of a young country for the simplification of life, for an essential purity. I sympathise. The possibility of truly escaping to simpler, stranger places is one of the things about America that makes me think when I am not there that I should be. But Palin is all too obviously a fake and, for the moment, a puppet. Even if she weren't, I think in the real world I'd rather have an urban sophisticate of the right or the left in charge than a rural hick. Big politics is a ghetto, not a village.

9 comments:

  1. The apparent success of Palin suggests small town sentimentality is still a very potent force in American politics.

    Some sort of national desire for all to be well, some form of entrustment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Small towns play an important part in the American psyche and are linked to the pioneering spirit of the settlers. American presidents talk about the 'folks' and folksiness is the tone of much discourse. This isn't to patronise what us a very sophisticated, innovative and diversified society. It's just the relaxed way many Americans relate to each other. However, when I think if urban sophisticates here in the UK I am reminded of Bremner, Bird and Fortune's dinner party sketches, many of our ridiculous media columnists and too many BBC contibutors (I was in a BBC lift on Thursday - one of their staff looked at me and said 'You're wearing a suit - you obviously don't work for the BBC' - mentally I was saying 'Fuck you you scruffy little equal opps urchin'). Give me Sarah Palin any day. These comments remind of the patronising treatment Thatcher had.

    ReplyDelete
  3. But Palin is all too obviously a fake and, for the moment, a puppet.

    Among the world's memorials, one will have one day to raise the most monumental of all, one for Bryan’s epistemological errors. More than his loquaciousness, it is his tenacity which impresses one. No shred of compunction for her fakery has prevented Bryan from stalking the most stunning woman in politics, his prose growing ever more purple. One measure of the increase in such compulsive behaviour can be gleaned from a sum total of five posts, to date, or some 3000 words, perhaps, expended on what - a mere phoney?

    Come on Bryan, Chuck - a hick she may be, but, clearly, she’s not a fake and, for the moment, she‘s a pivot rather than a puppet...

    D.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I suspect you might have been reading too much of Andrew Sullivan's berserk frothing on Palin. There is that similar disconnect from reality. Plus all these repeated gross simplifications and caricatures of the Republican base... it all has that whiff of what John Carey was talking about in The Intellectuals and the Masses. As for Sullivan, he really needs to calm down, gather up his toys and put them back in the pram.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Palin is the result of a calculated and demented geometry. The lines of cynicism, anti-intellectualism, racism and demographics all intersected on her locus. Voila, a star is born!

    ReplyDelete
  6. One comment: Straw Dogs

    ReplyDelete
  7. Another comment: Tom Lehrer "My home town"

    ReplyDelete
  8. I live in a very conservative and also racist small town. Racism exist and I'm speaking about those who are around me. Don't try to act as if racism doesn't exist I hear it I see it I live it everyday. No I'm not african american i'm white and i've heard some very ignorant views about why my community won't vote for Obama and its mainly because HE IS BLACK! They support Sarah Palin because SHE IS WHITE. In MY community and in MY small Norman Rockwell very conservative town they are afraid of and disgusted by black people. That wasn't the point I was trying to make I was using it as an example. My point was, the republican party are hypocrites because they have had generation after generation of young women displaced, homeless and abandoned by families and churches because they have been taught by the party that unwed teenage pregnancy is wrong and an embarrassment. Sarah Palin doesn't agree with the teachings of SEXUAL EDUCATION in 2008! She supports the republican party's so called values who has had a large influence on families and churches who disown their young women because of their unwed pregnancies. No. Republicans will never admit to that happening, they will just find other ways to distort that statement to accommodate their view. Go ahead support Sarah Palin, support John McCain that is your choice, but if those two get into office, believe me a lot of you McCain/Palin supporters will be sorry, just like you were with George Bush.

    ReplyDelete
  9. t seems to me that Sarah Palin is appealing to the type of person described in:

    Between Jesus and the Market: The EMOTIONS That Matter in Right Wing America by Linda Kintz.

    A truly scary book.

    ReplyDelete