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“Poor Sarah” (Or How Judith Warner Type Reasoning Can Lead To Shocking Results Come November)

First, let me get this out of the way:  I will not be voting for McCain/Palin.  With that said, though, I almost feel compelled to write about NY Times Domestic Disturbances writer Judith Warner’s latest article, “Poor Sarah.”  I will quote it and the end of the post but you can find it here.

If you ever want to see an example of the elitist, snooty, out of touch reasoning of liberal democrats that republicans are so fond of labeling all democrats as, then you don’t have to go any farther than Judith Warner’s article.  Although a jaded mind may think that all articles from the NY Times are dripping with elitist, snooty, out of touch reasoning, I think Judith Warner’s piece takes the cake and then buys the bakery after.

Judith Warner’s article can boil down to pretty much three things.  Number 1:  Sarah Palin is like Elle Woods, the heroine in Legally Blonde.  Number 2:  Anyone who supports Sarah Palin, and particularly any woman who supports Sarah Palin, mistakenly sympathizes with Sarah Palin, much like a prisoner would in a Stockholm Syndrome type of situation.  Number 3:  And, anyone who supports Sarah Palin is an idiot, because Sarah Palin is both “incompetent” and an “insult” to every man and woman alive in America, and perhaps the rest of the world.

Warner’s article speaks for itself but I thought I’d spend a few lines with my comments.  Judith Warner’s article is an example of the shroud of ignorance that many democrats are still living in — even after the second George Bush win.  I’m sorry to break it to Judith, and perhaps to some liberal democrats who are laughing to themselves over a cup of latte and a scone (pronounced skahn, not scone), but not every women has been duped into supporting Palin for the wrong reasons (such as sympathy), and not every woman who was born on this earth — by both God given mental faculties and reason — is born a liberal democrat with liberal values. 

Warner doesn’t admit this in her article, but let’s put it this way: if Sarah Palin was fat and ugly, would she be compared to Elle Woods or some other type of ditz?  I’m not a woman, nor have I ever in this lifetime been a woman, but when Judith Warner wrote this article, is she reliving her high school memories of the pretty and popular “girl” who beat her in school elections and won the prom queen?  On a more fundamental and primal level, Warner’s article just sounds bitter against her because, well, Palin is where she is and Judith, is, well, where she is.

Apart from that, Warner’s article represents the view that liberal democrats are right and that anyone who disagrees with that view is simply stupid, backward, and idiotic.  It’s different than saying someone is wrong for supporting McCain/Palin.  There is a fine line between saying someone is wrong versus saying someone is stupid, backward, and idiotic.  Not only does the latter resort to ad hominum attacks which do nothing to actually create constructive dialogue, it’s just simply so, so, well, as Elle Woods might say, “so, oh my god, like that’s so high school.”

Here’s the article from the NY Times:

I spent the past week in New York, helping my mother recover from surgery. It was a new role for me, taking care of my mom. It must, I think, have been somewhat destabilizing. Perhaps when previously untapped wells of care-for-others are accessed, there’s no stopping the flow. Or perhaps it was just that, after five days locked in stare-downs with my mother’s cat, my eyes were playing tricks on me.

This may explain why, on Tuesday afternoon when I went to The Times Web site and saw the photo of Sarah Palin with Henry Kissinger, a funny thing happened. A wave of self-recognition and sympathy washed over me. That’s right — self-recognition and sympathy.Rising up from a source deep in my subconscious. I saw a woman fully aware that she was out of her league, scared out of her wits, hanging on for dear life. I saw this in the sag of her back in her serious black suit, in the position of her hands, crossed modestly atop her knees, and in that “Mad Men”-era updo, ever unchanging, like a good luck charm.  Why, all of a sudden, was I experiencing this upsurge of concern and kinship? I knew, on the one hand, that this new vision of Palin had to be a mirage. Only a few hours earlier, I’d nodded along knowingly as a band of old-school liberals, gathered in my mother’s apartment to cheer her through her convalescence, tore the Alaska governor apart.

“He’s probably the first Jew she’s ever met,” one older gentleman, who himself had grown up as one of the only Jews in pre-World-War-II Lincoln, Neb., said of her meeting with Kissinger.  “No, there was Joe Lieberman,” his wife reminded him, putting me in a mind of the comedian Sara Benincasa’s utterly hilarious Palin parody, as a chorus of “despicable” and “disgusting” filled the room. My friend Mary has long said that I have a tendency to develop a Stockholm-Syndrome-like empathy for the people I write about. But I don’t think that’s what was going on here. I think — before I blinked — I had an actual flash of insight. I think I finally stumbled upon a major piece of the puzzle of how it is that so many Republican women can so passionately claim that Sarah Palin is someone they relate to. (It’s worth noting that polls have definitively shown that John McCain’s Palin gambit has not paid off in attracting disgruntled Democratic women voters.)

That the women who agree with Palin would also like her is not surprising. But the whole business of relating? That has remained mysterious for me. What, I’ve wondered, could the kinds of suburban moms I met, for example, at the McCain-Palin rally in Virginia, some of them former professionals with just two children apiece, one a former grad student making links between Palintology and the work of Homi Bhabha, have in common with a moose-killing Alaska frontierswoman with her five kids, five colleges and pastoral protection from witchcraft?  I think I’ve seen it now. In her own folded hands, her hopeful, yet sinking posture, her eager-to-please look. Sarah Palin is their — dare I say our? — inner Elle Woods.

I had thought of Elle Woods, the heroine of the 2001 and 2003 “Legally Blonde” and “Legally Blonde 2” films, a great deal during the week that Palin became McCain’s running mate and made her appearance at the Republican National Convention. The thoughts didn’t actually originate with Palin; my daughter Julia had recently discovered the soundtrack of “Legally Blonde: the Musical” and then the movies that inspired the Broadway show.  Re-watching the movies with Julia, I’d been surprised at how time, and motherhood, had tempered my affection for Elle Woods — a frilly, frothy blonde who charms her way into Harvard Law School and takes the stodgy intellectual elitists there by storm with her Anygirl decency and non-snooty (and not-so-credible) native intelligence.

I’d found the “Legally Blonde” movies fun the first time around. Viewing them in the company of an enraptured 11-year-old, who’d declared Elle her new “role model” after months of dreaming of growing up to be a neuroscientist in a long braid and Birkenstocks, was another story. “You can’t,” I’d admonished Julia, “accomplish anything worthwhile in life just by being pretty and cute and clever. You have to do the work.” “It’s just fun, Mom,” she protested. Right. You don’t have to be perennially pretty in pink — and ditsy and cutesy and kinda maybe stupid — to have an inner Elle Woods. Many women do. I think of Elle every time I dress up my insecurities in a nice suit. So many of us today — balancing work and family, treading water financially — feel as if we’re in over our heads, getting by on appearances while quaking inside in anticipation of utter failure. Chick lit — think of Bridget Jones, always fumbling, never quite who she should be — and in particular the newer subgenre of mom lit are filled with this kind of sentiment.

You don’t have to be female to suffer from Impostor Syndrome either — I learned the phrase only recently from a male friend, who puts a darned good face forward. But I think that women today — and perhaps in particular those who once thought they could not only do it all but do it perfectly, with virtuosity — are unique in the extent to which they bond over their sense of imposture. I saw this feeling in Palin — in a flash, on that blue couch, catty-corner to Kissinger, as her eyes pleaded for clemency from the camera. I’ll bet you anything that her admirers — the ones whose hearts really and truly swell with a sense of kinship to her — see or sense it in her, too. They know she can’t possibly do it all — the kids, the special-needs baby, the big job, the big conversations with foreign leaders. And neither could they.

The “Legally Blonde” fairy tales spin around the idea that, because Elle believes in herself, she can do anything. Never mind the steps that she skips. Never mind the fact that — in the rarefied realms of Harvard Law and Washington policymaking — she isn’t the intellectual equal of her peers. Self-confidence conquers all! (“Of course she doesn’t have that,” said Laura Bush of Palin this week when asked if the vice presidential pick had sufficient foreign policy experience. “You know, that’s not been her role. But I think she is a very quick study.”) Real life is different, of course, from Hollywood fantasy. Incompetence has consequences, political and personal. Glorifying or glamorizing the sense of just not being up to the tasks of life has consequences, too. It means that any woman who exudes competence will necessarily be excluded from the circle of sisterhood. We can’t afford any more of that.

Frankly, I’ve come to think, post-Kissinger, post-Katie-Couric, that Palin’s nomination isn’t just an insult to the women (and men) of America. It’s an act of cruelty toward her as well.

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About Mr. Cheeseburger 9000

I am Mr. Cheeseburger 9000. I like my burgers medium-rare with a side order of french fries.

7 responses to ““Poor Sarah” (Or How Judith Warner Type Reasoning Can Lead To Shocking Results Come November)

  1. Robin McDuff ⋅

    First, Elle Woods is certainly not a ditz in the film. She is a woman without the “normal” qualifications to go Harvard Law school. Yet, she is smart, has self-confidence and triumphs over the elites. It is not an insult to be compared to Elle Woods – but a complement.

    The problem is that the Couric interview has brought up a real problem for Palin. She did seem – as people on the right and left have pointed out – completely incompetent (unlike Elle Woods, may I add.) For instance, Elizabeth Parker, a National Review columnist and former supporter of Palin, has asked her to step down because – in her words and with her emphasis – she “Is Clearly Out Of Her League”.

    Warner’s article wasn’t bitter – it was saying that she felt sorry for the position that Palin has been thrust in. And, I agree. She is way over her head. Yes, she is smart and sincere with oodles of talent. But – ignoring whether you support or oppose her positions – she just isn’t ready or fit to be VP or President at this point.

  2. Susan Case ⋅

    These are the people we should feel sorry for:

    Today I drove from Cleveland, where I was visiting my sister who just had knee replacement surgery (we are both in our fifties), to my home in northern West Virginia.

    We stopped at a rest area on the Ohio Turnpike, where the McDonalds was extremely crowded and clearly understaffed. Being on a turnpike, there was no other choice, and I stood in line with all of the other hungry drivers.

    Tired as I was, I realized that I had it better than the people behind the counter and in the kitchen, who were struggling to keep up with the rush of cranky customers being kept waiting.

    One woman asked for “no cheese” on her burger. When it finally arrived, she opened the package to check on the contents, then exclaimed, “What part of no cheese do you not understand” to the poor counter worker.

    I suddenly thought to myself, “We should not feel sorry for Sarah Palin. She doesn’t have to work in an understaffed, under-air-conditioned McDonalds on the Ohio Turnpike. She has nannies and jets and a desk job. These people are the ones we should feel sorry for.”

    Being a good liberal, I actually try to have sympathy for all people, but Sarah Palin is a grown woman who made the choice that landed her in her current spot. I generally don’t think that we should feel “sorry” for ourselves, for our children, or anyone else for having to accept the consequences of choices that we make. That is what life is all about.

    I support Obama and Biden on all kinds of grounds, and I fervently hope that they prevail, for all of our sakes, including those workers in McDonalds. They’re the ones who deserve our sympathy the most.

  3. Catherine ⋅

    As a McCain/Palin supporter – and as a blonde twenty-something corporate lawyer who is constantly compared to Elle Woods – thank you for your refreshing and balanced take on the issue.

  4. Pingback: In VP Debate, It’s Biden The One Risking The Most « Maurizio - Omnologos

  5. Akira ⋅

    Your intro was interesting.

    Unfortunately, this woman’s writing [what’s her name again?] put me to sleep in the middle of the second sentence.

    BTW, you don’t seriously think that Obama is going to improve the lives of those McDonalds workers, do you?

    Okay, okay, just checking.

    I thought liberals weren’t supposed to be caught dead at McDonalds…

    If your friends saw you, you could say, “I’m just doing research for a Labor Studies project! They don’t even have wasabi tofu burgers!”

  6. Rebecca ⋅

    Ugh. Does anyone know how to read? She does say women agree with her. See paragraph 4.

  7. Pingback: In VP Debate, It’s Biden The One Risking The Most | Omnologos

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