The lesson from the Palin affair seems to be that if you are white, Christian, and have smalltown values, an unmarried pregnant minor in the family is a private matter. But if you are black or brown and “urban,” an unmarried pregnant minor in the family is symptomatic of a social epidemic, a scourge afflicting the body politic. Just as young man George Bush’s dalliances with drugs were a youthful indiscretion and a personal problem, while a young black man’s drug use is the fault of the “community” and gives rise to an immense juridical and incarcerating apparatus.
Not that conservatives have a monopoly on duplicity. Candidate Obama says that the Palin family’s predicament is off limits, not a subject for political discussion. Author Obama, in The Audacity of Hope, says something quite different: “We know that many in the inner city are trapped by their own self-destructive behaviors. . . . perhaps the single biggest thing we could do to reduce [inner-city] poverty is to encourage teenage girls to finish high school and avoid having children out of wedlock.” For social critic Obama, teen pregnancy is a political matter, a primary cause of poverty and social disintegration. Or at least teen pregnancy in certain geographical settings.
Liberals, who spent the Clinton years bellowing about the politics of personal destruction, happily created the frenzy over Palin, her daughter, and her baby. It started in the blogosphere with the Desperate Housewives‘ scenario of Palin pretending to give birth to her daughter’s baby. When that was revealed to be wrong, they took to hinting at what Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy and her smalltown, moose-hunting roots said about her cultural standing; in a word, Palin became white trash. In another word, she became “black,” adding a racialized facet of the liberal portrait of her that was already heavy with sexualized innuendo (PTA member, smalltown mayor, choosing career over children) about her unfitness to be “our” leader.
Despite liberals’ outward protestations that the Republicans have doomed themselves, they clearly are worried, as the panic over Palin’s children suggests. But Democrats are the doomed ones, not only because of their usual summertime run to the right that makes them indistinguishable from the Republicans, but because they don’t, as Pinocchio Theory suggests, understand affect. For them, wonkery, logic, and calculation are enough. Biden was the logical choice for VP because he snapped together with Obama like a puzzle piece, filling in the latter’s gaps in experience, gravitas, foreign-policy mastery, etc. Problem is, the candidate running on “change” and “hope” picked as his running mate the ultimate insider, the cynic, the well-oiled and oily glad-hander. Biden is affectively empty, a politician like all the others. Palin is just the opposite, and becomes all the more sympathetic when she gets attacked on sexist grounds. Don’t liberals remember that Bill Clinton became more popular the more he was attacked as an immoral lout?
All of this is why McCain-Palin will win in November. Not that I care one way or the other. It’s a tossup as I see it, though I am glad that this tedious campaign has finally entered its comical phase. But I won’t listen to liberals whine about the rest of America (or rather, the 20% of Americans who will have voted for McCain-Palin) being evil and stupid because they didn’t vote for Obama. They only have themselves to blame.