Palin, Portia and Populism

US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin could do with a boost of encouragement amid all the ridicule directed at her intelligence, or supposed lack of it, even by some of her own GOP members.

Long before her face-off with Democratic opponent Joe Biden, Palin had endured the public’s dark humor with the perennial perkiness that part characterizes her on the campaign trail. Scoring a small triumph patronizingly handed to her by her colleagues – that she rose well above the level of expectations in her performance during the debate with “Joey the Shark” Biden, she has nevertheless been sequestered away from the prying eyes and ears of the mainstream media, intent on transforming her tiniest, most insignificant gaffes into incidents of cosmic importance.

Rumor has it that Palin was discreetly flown down to Jamaica to spend a couple of days in coaching with local Opposition Leader Portia Simpson-Miller. Having been herself the butt of criticisms that have mistaken her appeal to the masses of common folk as evidence of vacuousness, ‘Mama P’ may be arming Sister Sarah with some useful strategies on how to defeat the forces of elitism and intellectualism that challenge her as she reaches out to her “Joe six-pack” audience, even as the campaign gets “down to the wire” with barely a month to go. As you already know, Portia’s been there, and has done that.

Though their styles are different, both women have been identified as having assumed the roles of attack dogs, viciously defending their party and constituents, barely concealing their contempt for the academic achievements and intellectual pursuits of their opponents. Do not be deceived by Palin’s disarming “foksy” demeanor, or be fooled by that smile that seems to be frozen around the perfectly applied maquillage; for she can bare her fangs in a moment, without the slightest provocation, to rip to shreds the well-intentioned ideas of her rivals.

As for Mama P, you can rest assured there will be no hint of a smile when she delivers fi har classic tear-off draws diatribe, if you dare to draw her tongue or mash her corn.

But hasn’t the Governor of Alaska revealed that she can hold her own in the face of ridicule and doubt? Palin’s performance in the campaign’s single VP debate was a masterstroke, aided and abetted by Democrat Joe Biden’s reluctance to live up to his killer-instinct reputation for fear of being labeled sexist, and moderator Gwen Ifill, intent on appearing unbiased after the McCain camp issued glowering remarks on her upcoming publication The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, timed for release on inauguration day.

Palin ran roughshod over all the rules governing the debate, cheerfully informed the moderator how she would choose to respond to questions that appeared threatening, and recycled the old Cheney message, usually delivered with his trademark snarl, deftly rendering it palatable with her unmistakable charm, perkiness – and you betcha, a series of well-placed winks.

As is the case with Portia, Palin and her intended audience appear not to be dazzled by Ivy League degrees and advanced academia; their hot button is identification with the masses, and the folksy, down-home, soccer/hockey mom approach is a sure-win bet for the Alaska state governor as is Mama P’s petulant pout and cantankerous outbursts with her own voting bloc.

Then there is the evangelical connection. While Portia had her personal prognosticator and trainer to help her flex her spiritual muscles, Palin’s Prophet Phinn has emerged a demon-slayer of Kenyan origin — word has it that he has the perfect goozum to counteract the mesmerizing power of his paisan Obama– giving her the spiritual covering she needs to navigate those precarious political pathways. Speaking of Phinn, where the devil is he since prophesying Portia’s general election win?

Sarah Palin could benefit from his prophetic skills, with such a disturbing dearth of “sevens” in both her personal history and the circumstances surrounding her ascension to power. Both women have unapologetically directed their appeal to those the educated consider unschooled with a pronounced disability in critical thinking. Palin’s focus remains on regular America — those of guns, religion and beer, and Mama P’s loyalty remained with her base, Jamaica’s so-called lumpen, with much disaffection tagged the breh-breh. A kind of “deep calling unto deep”.

Yet for Jamaica, the breh-breh were victorious in their face-off against the very lettered challengers to Mama P’s PNP leadership. It was not only a personal triumph for the leader of the opposition; it provided a very telling indicator, a warning that the masses will no longer pay homage to those who have used education to keep them alienated from accepted society, and have kept upward mobility a distant dream. Breh-breh values are now part of mainstream society, and all that the vote accomplished, was to formally declare it.

Portia played the populist card and retained leadership of her party. But can Sarah Palin pull off a victory for John McCain at the polls on November 4? Be warned, all you who are naïve enough to believe that a tanking economy, a senseless war and a host of other issues are enough to sway votes. Could a wave of anti-intellectualism be slowly sweeping through the hemisphere?

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