Whenever I call either of my parents back in the U.S., both of whom are supporting Barack Obama but live in different states, I am amazed by their stories of people they know who just "hate" Obama. That is, they don't just disagree with his policies, they LOATHE the man. By contrast, as much as I think Bush Jr. has screwed up so many things, I can't muster enough emotion to hate the guy. Nevertheless, I have a relative who regularly forwards email racist rants about Obama that have just horrified me (most seem to originate with those same idiots behind the Kerry swift boat scam, but that doesn't seem to matter). When I sent a reply countering many of the ridiculous untruths in her one of her emails, I received a terse "Thanks for your opinion, Eric," and I was immediately taken off her mailing list. All this vitriol is another sign that America has become terrible polarized in the last decade, and it makes me worry about the future. I suspect that the basis of these reactions has to do with race and the misperception that Obama is somehow tied to radical Muslims, but most of these Obama haters tend to deny their implicit racism, and they feel justified about hating Muslims anyway.
And, to add to my worries, McCain has now made a terrible choice for a VP candidate that says much about his (a) mental state, (b) low regard for the presidency, (c) beliefs about affirmative action, and (d) lack of concern for the rest of the world. Even the fairly conservative The Australian ran a column today titled "Reckless pick bad news for Australians." Geoff Elliott writes:
"What McCain has done in selecting Palin is an entirely political decision to win him the general election, which proves again that self-interest always triumphs in politics.
But in terms of foreign policy, in which Australia has most interest, this is a reckless move and potentially stressful to our alliance in the event that early in the next administration Palin were elevated to the presidency."
What gives me comfort, however, is reading the twice-weekly columns of one of the last sensible people in America, Maureen Dowd. Her words are always laced with irony and wit, and today's column is no exception. In "Vice in Go-Go Boots," Dowd suggests that the very people who staunchly oppose affirmative action will have no problems with the way that McCain has picked someone who is so utterly unqualified for one of the most important jobs in the world. Here's an except, but please read the entire column if you have the time:
The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.
So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch “Miss Congeniality” with Sarah Palin.
It’s easy to see where this movie is going. It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on “Meet the Press” triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on “Meet the Press” a lot.
Americans, suspicious that the Obamas have benefited from affirmative action without being properly grateful, and skeptical that Michelle really likes “The Brady Bunch” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” reject the 47-year-old black contender as too uppity and untested.
Instead, they embrace 72-year-old John McCain and 44-year-old Sarah Palin, whose average age is 58, a mere two years older than the average age of the Obama-Biden ticket. Enthusiastic Republicans don’t see the choice of Palin as affirmative action, despite her thin résumé and gaping absence of foreign policy knowledge, because they expect Republicans to put an underqualified “babe,” as Rush Limbaugh calls her, on the ticket. They have a tradition of nominating fun, bantamweight cheerleaders from the West, like the previous Miss Congeniality types Dan Quayle and W., and then letting them learn on the job. So they crash into the globe a few times while they’re learning to drive, what’s the big deal?
Obama may have been president of The Harvard Law Review, but Palin graduated from the University of Idaho with a minor in poli-sci and worked briefly as a TV sports reporter. And she was tougher on the basketball court than the ethereal Obama, earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.”
The legacy of Geraldine Ferraro was supposed to be that no one would ever go on a blind date with history again. But that crazy maverick and gambler McCain does it, and conservatives and evangelicals rally around him in admiration of his refreshingly cynical choice of Sarah, an evangelical Protestant and anti-abortion crusader who became a hero when she decided to have her baby, who has Down syndrome, and when she urged schools to debate creationism as well as that stuffy old evolution thing.