“So Sambo beat the bitch!”
This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
According to Lucille, the waitress serving her table at the time and who asked that her last name not be used, Gov. Palin was eating lunch with five or six people when the subject of the Democrat’s primary battle came up. The governor, seemingly not caring that people at nearby tables would likely hear her, uttered the slur and then laughed loudly as her meal mates joined in appreciatively.
I'm not sure if I believe this particular accusation. I'm interested in the fact that James travelled from Toronto to Alaska to report on Palin. The left doesn't view the media as engaged in any kind of credible coverage of the Bush administration and the McCain campaign. Thus, bloggers like Glenn Greenwald and independent progressives like Charlie James have started doing their own independent reporting and getting it published in progressive outlets like Salon. "Sarah Palin Investigations" looks like a growth area for this kind of journalism.
I'll need more than the evidence of one person before I'll view Palin as an open racist, but I don't have any trouble seeing Sarah Palin's mockery of Obama as growing out of the legacy of American bigotry. The broad put-downs in Sarah's speech work in ways that parallel the mechanisms of racist, sexist, and homophobic ways of slamming people. Another example of a group subject to these kinds of put-downs is white Appalachians who are similarly mocked through images of going barefoot, being uneducated, and speaking lousy English. In all these cases, the point of the clever put-downs is to mock the aspirations of the targeted group to be treated with respect, participate in basic social functions like marriage, enjoy political rights, hold office, and exercise responsibility.
This is exactly what Palin does in the lines below, mock the pretension of Barack Obama to believe that he is a fit person to be president of the United States.
But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate.
This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot — what exactly is our opponent's plan?
. . . In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.
They're the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners, or on self-designed presidential seals.
Among politicians, there is the idealism of high-flown speechmaking, in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things . . .
Given that Barack Obama is African-American, there is a question of whether the put-downs in Palin's Republican Convention speech are racist in character.
I'm not altogether sure.
In 2000 and 2004, the Republicans displayed a similar kind of monumental contempt for John Kerry and Al Gore. Certainly, the GOP cared little about their charges of Kerry flip-flopping or Al Gore being dishonest. The McCain campaign is rife with both. As was the case with Palin's speech on Obama, the main point was to heap so much degradation on Kerry and Gore that it seemed ridiculous to even think they could be president.
In this sense, it appears that the Republican Party and their right-wing core have succeeded in transfering a good of their racist, misogynous, homophobic, anti-immigrant and religious fury onto white liberals. As a result, the right has started to mock white liberals in the same way they've mocked the various minority groups they've historically despised.
Ultimately, I can see where Palin was striking out at Obama in the same way that she would have struck out at any moderate or liberal Democratic candidate. But I would still the animus as an outgrowth of the bigotry that's still such an important part of the Republican Party.