Make no mistake, Sarah Palin was not picked for her record as a less-than-one-term governor of Alaska. She was not picked for her foreign or domestic policy expertise. She was not picked for her name recognition. She was not picked because of her capabilities or intellect or ambition. She was picked because she was a woman. Which, if we’re going to talk sexism, hello there.
Which brings me back to the feeling sorry for Palin stuff. Not for long, mind you. But for longer than I ever imagined. Much of this – heck, probably 99.9 percent of this – I credit to the wonderful Julianne Moore. Her portrayal is richly nuanced and delicately layered. This is far more than mimicry, this is an attempt to understand exactly what is ticking under that Bump-It. And through her we watch Palin transform from a folksy deer in headlights to a savage political powermonger. Did Palin know she was in over her head? Almost certainly. Do I feel bad someone so out of her element was thrown into the deep end of national arena? Sure, some. Do I think McCain comes off too scott-free in the campaign’s collapse? Pretty definitely. Do I think Palin got a taste for the spotlight and decided to hold onto it at all costs? You betcha.
Which is not to say that I have a problem with Palin’s ambition. I do not. Women should be allowed to be ambitious, and nakedly so, just like men. All too often we talk differently about women’s ambition than men’s ambition. Women are pushy. Men are bold. Women are nags. Men are particular. So on and so on. God, it’s tiring.
What I have a problem with about Palin is her basic lack of competency, willful zealotry and calculating use of divisive politics. One of the biggest problems with politics today is we tend to demonize the opposition. Our side is all good, their side all bad. One side is right, the other wrong. Side of angels, side of devils. And so on and so forth. It’s a lousy way to run a country. Without compromise, two opposing sides will never agree to do anything. How can they – when the other side is evil. Or at least they want you to believe the other side is evil. As a strategy. As a way to distract us from what matters.
So when the McCain-Palin ticket says Barack Obama pals around with terrorists, it’s not much of a leap is it for whipped up crowds to call him a terrorist himself. Or when Palin draws imaginary borders around what she considers “the real America,” it’s not hard to paint the rest of us as simply un-American. And that, that’s what I despise about Sarah Palin. Not that she’s an ambitious woman. Not that she’s found some degree of success. It’s that she’s making our political discourse worse, not better.
That’s why a movie like “Game Change” really matters. It’s not the gossipy backstabbing and musical blame-game. It’s peeling back the layers to see what makes a person tick, and what makes our politicians work. It shows us real American politics – and no matter how pretty it smiles, it’s all-too-often ugly underneath.