Imagine. It’s 2008. There’s a new star in the political sky. Someone lighting up the airwaves. The cameras can’t seem to shy away. They are a shiny new paint job on the same old establishment, but we definitely like the look.
A year ago, most Americans didn’t even know this person existed. They burst onto the scene and made a splash. They had no practice on the national stage. Not a dime’s worth of experience in foreign policy. They are as politically polarizing as any politician we’ve seen in decades. On one side, they are ‘everything we’ve always hoped for.’ On the other, ‘It’s terrifying to think they are just a heartbeat away from the presidency.’ So who am I referring to? Sarah Palin? Nope. Let’s just call this one ‘Renegade.’
With all the talk of Sarah Palin reemerging on my computer and television screens, I feel inclined to address an issue that occurred to me often during the campaign, and still today. If someone asked the difference between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, most Americans would laugh out loud and respond with a, ‘Where do I start?’ I, on the other hand, would simply say ‘’
As much as it may tax the souls of conservatives and liberals alike to hear this, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are cut from the same cloth. They are the extremes of their parties. They energize their own sides of the spectrum. Going from sheer anonymity to complete stardom, they rose to top in 2.7 flat. But, most significantly, they are utterly despised by their opponents. Ignoring their stance on issues (which seems to be the norm anyhow), I dare say that Palin and Obama are estranged siblings.
We all know that the Hollywood camera loves a twenty-year-old athlete, a seventeen-year-old starlet, and….. a mid-forties politician? Okay, so, the last doesn’t always get the most screen time. But, Obama and Palin do. No one can spike TV ratings quite like the smooth talk of President Obama, or the folksy lingo of Governor Palin. Just ask Sean Hannity, who reeled in over 4 million viewers when he interviewed Palin a few nights ago. Or Rupert Murdoch, who negotiated with the White House for months just to land a 10 minute spot with the President. Granted, the President, whoever it may be, is always in high demand. But, Obama carried the same clout on the campaign trail. These two are not politicians, they’re celebrities. Everyone wants a clip, a sound bite, an autograph, or a picture. How many failed vice-presidential nominees can write a book that makes the best seller list days before it’s even released? And how many presidents have people wearing T-shirts with their picture on them a year after the election?
Possibly the most unique similarity Palin and Obama share is their ability to rally support and infuriate opposition. When Palin was named John McCain’s running mate, he jumped ahead of Obama in the polls by 8 points. This wasn’t because Democrats and Independents changed their minds. It was the effect of sleeping Republicans, who went into hibernation sometime in 2005, waking up and feeling the thrill of a real fight. Obama’s VP selection, on the other hand, may have put more people to sleep than it woke up. But, Obama himself was a young, promising Democrat with a halo of true liberalism above his head. He talked like Joe Lieberman and voted like Dennis Kucinich. He was the Kris Kringle who could finally sign off on a 50-year-old Democratic Christmas Wish List. Each candidate was a sign of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ for their supporters. Obama just got to the Copyright Office first.
But, as I mentioned before, this surge of support sparked rage and fear in the hearts of opposition. Republicans knew that Obama would turn out a class of voters who they would just assume stay home in November. And this support could elect the most liberal President in our nation’s history. He became the symbol and the start of everything conservatives hoped would never happen to this country. Sarah Palin, just the same, terrified the liberals on the left. Though she had slim to no chance of ever getting elected in 2008, just the threat made the media and Democrats skewer her before she got off the ground. She was everything conservatives wanted, just like Obama was everything liberals wanted.
Finally, the most obvious similarity the two share is the one, much to my own bewilderment, most people can’t seem to grasp. It is often said that Sarah Palin seems nice enough, but just doesn’t have the experience, especially in foreign policy, necessary to run the country. Sound familiar? Then, how about, ‘I can see Russia from my house.’ Putting aside the fact that Palin never actually said those words, her foreign policy experience was significantly lacking. But congratulations, Tina Fey, for successfully preying on the gullible public sentiment and making most people believe you actually were Sarah Palin.
But, here’s where the media prevails over reason. Barack Obama didn’t have any foreign policy experience either. He was a community organizer (for the sake of sanity, I’ll take that term at face value), a state legislator, and a first term U.S. Senator. Not once, even in the Senate, did he deal in matters of foreign policy in any kind of hands-on capacity. On domestic issues, Palin may have been more qualified, due to her executive experience. Obama had only ever served in a legislative role, never once presiding over or running anything. Yet, Palin was the target of the ‘only heartbeat away from the presidency’ attack ads. The same ads could have been run with Obama’s name and been entirely accurate. But, what is most disconcerting is the place of the name on the ticket. Obama and Palin have about the same amount of political experience. But, somehow, the media was far more concerned with the experience of the second in line than the man actually vying for the job. Only in America, I guess.
To his credit, Obama knew exactly how to capitalize on America’s cloudy memory. Since he had been campaigning longer than Palin, he and his allies created the illusion that he was more experienced than Palin. When, in reality, they have served in politics about the same amount of time and almost entirely in state roles. Again, Palin and Obama are more alike than they are different. Neither one yet has the experience to run the most influential nation in the world.
So, while liberals continue to plead with the public as to just how irrelevant Palin is, she will continue to have massive support from the right. And while the Oval Office continues to erode his popularity, Obama will always be defended from the left. They are a source of intrigue, for both enemies and supporters. Though they couldn’t be further apart politically, they have more in common than most politicians. And who knows, they may just be primed for a bipartisan Middle East peace tour in twenty or thirty years.