Is it starting to seem like this presidential race is between Obama and Palin? I feel as if Biden has disappeared and he's been in my own metro area at least three times since his convention. Unless something drastic happens in terms of Biden's media presence, then I don't see him having much of an impact at all in this election.
I could say the same thing about McCain. More and more stories about McCain contain the phrase "actuary tables," which may go a long way in explaining why Palin keeps on dominating the headlines.
Beyond that, Palin continues to capture the national imagination. She polarizes. She puts the so-called culture wars right back into the collective ethos. She attracts huge ratings (mazel tov, Charlie Gibson!). She fires up the far right. She fires up both the far and moderate left even more. Despite ubiquitous predictions that the Palin bump, or fad, or fascination, or whatever you want to call it, will disappear...well, she's still all over the place.
She makes an affective connection with the far right. It's about identification. It's about demagogue appeal. It's about anti-intellectualism. It's about making the case that being an every-person is more important than good judgment and intelligence.
Even more interesting, though, the left's affective response. Over and over again, I hear "she scares me." Many seem to fear not only her platform but, more broadly, who she is. In terms of religion and ideology and leisure-time pursuits and lifestyle. She put a tanning bed in the governor's mansion. She eloped. She went to community college before university. She only traveled abroad once in her whole life. Everything about her becomes a signifier. I'm not faulting anyone for following these signifiers (full disclosure: she scares me too.), as they are endlessly fascinating. For instance, her response to Charlie Gibson's questions about gender: in my family, it's a non issue, you do what you want to do. Brilliant and, yes, scary. A subtle jab at affirmative action, at the notion of feminism, a jab at Obama and H-Clinton too.
I wonder, though, if the left's (including the moderate left's) affective disdain for Sarah Palin will become the Obama campaign's fatal flaw. Too much about the hunting and the praying and the shotgun weddings (her own and her kid's) and the rest. Not enough about her disengagement...she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was. Not enough about her record on civil liberties...umm, an advocate of small government asking a librarian "hypothetical questions" about banning books?
A friend emailed me last night and fearfully called Obama our generation's Adelai Stevenson. too thoughtful, too engaged, too intellectual for the era. Here we are. Obama vs. Palin. Two weeks ago, I'm saying I like Obama's chances. Now, I'm kinda scared.