Palin and Obama

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

In a post on why there is so much hatred directed toward Sarah Palin, (Not Hating Sarah Palin)  Henry Neufeld make the following comment,

“If the left had really wanted to see Palin diminish as an issue, they should have stayed away from exaggerated attacks and rumors. But the right should have done the same thing with Barack Obama. Despite huge differences in personalities, stories, and political views, I think very similar frustration has fueled hysterical anti-Obama rhetoric on the right. Those on the right simply could not and cannot understand Obama’s personal popularity.”

Frankly, this is the sort of intellectual equivalence that drives me nuts.  Let me first stipulate that certain aspects of the left and right are equivalent. There are thoughtful  people on both sides and kooks on both sides.  That given, there is little equivalence between the “average”  liberal opposing  Palin, and the average conservative opposing  Obama.  

Nor do I think that the average conservative “simply could not and cannot understand Obama’s personal popularity.”  They understand it all too well, which granted, probably is a source of frustration. 

Concerning the liberal attacks on Palin, they are quite simple.  ANY Republican, and especially any conservative who might reach a position of power is savagely and personally attacked by the left with some combination of:  dumb, heartless,  greedy, uncaring, racist, bigot, homophobe, etc.   The facts are irrelevant.  Not only will these attacks not be questioned by the mainstream media, the mainstream media will for the most part join the chorus. 

Thus many liberal still think that Reagan was an “amiable dunce” despite the fact that those who have actually studied his writings know that he was a serious political thinker.   Another example, is the common claim that George W. Bush is likewise dumb.   According to one report, “Indeed, Bush is known to read…  little – both for official business and for diversion.”   Like so much of the lefts attacks the facts are somewhat different.  By virtually any standard Bush is a very serious reader,  reading on average about 100 books a year of which about half are non-fiction.  In comparison it looks as if Obama reads less than 10 a year.  

The list of other examples is long.  Bork, Thomas, Bush 41,  Quayle,  Gingrich,  and now Palin, to name but a few.  Whoever the Republicans nominate in 2012 is, that person will likewise be savaged. 

What was surprising about Palin was not that she was viciously attacked, but that she generated such a strong ground swell of support so quickly.  This is a testament as to why she was seen as one of the rising stars in the party, and was on many conservatives short list for potential VP candidates, including  mine.   

But context is important, and frankly another part of the groundswell of support was that, for many she brought hope to the campaign, especially given the fact the party seems to have lost its conservative principles, and frankly, so many republicans were having a great deal of trouble voting for McCain, even in light of Obama.   

For example, when it became clear that McCain would be the nominee, I wrote a column outlining  the problems I had with him.   I ended by writing, “For me, my current plan is to vote for McCain in November, and I will detail my reasons why in a future post.”  While I did vote for him, I never could quite get around to writing that future post.  

For those who think she was a drag on the ticket, the simple fact is that from the time of her announcement to when McCain suspended his campaign because of the housing induced financial crisis, was the only time since McCain’s nomination that it looked like Republican might actually have a chance to win. 

As for Obama, the “average” conservative knows very well why Obama is so popular: his media image.  It is just a fact that if all you hear about someone is positive you will tend to have a positive view of them.  Virtually the entire entertainment and new media  has fallen for Obama, a young, black, good looking , relatively unknown politician who, at least when using a teleprompter, gives good speeches. 

He has never been seriously challenged by the press, and instead sends tingles down their legs.  Thus Obama is allowed to make sweeping generalities and vague but nice sounding policy statements without having to get down into the actually details that might alienate voters.  Thus for the most part his campaign was simply  hope and change,  without having to actually fill in any details.

Even now what do we know about him?  Actually very little.  For the press often seem more anxious to defend him than to question him.   As I cite in my book Preserving Democracy,  reporters when over Palin with a fine tooth comb, while taking Obama at face value.   Perhaps if reporters had asked Obama some of the questions they asked Palin, things may have been different.

More importantly, it is not so much that conservatives “hate” Obama, but that they strongly oppose his policies, I don’t think the reverse is true for liberals and Palin.  This goes to a core difference between liberals and conservatives.  Whereas conservatives tend on average to think that liberals are wrong, liberal tend to think conservatives are bad.    For example, while conservatives think that  Obama’s handling of the economy is seriously misguided, and will lead to even greater problems, liberals tended to see Bush’s handling of the economy as corrupt and aimed at “helping his buddies.” 

I would also say there is a greater degree of partisanship on the left.  Over the last eight years conservative  had many strong disagreements with Bush’s domestic policies, in particular Campaign Finance Reform,  Spending,  Immigration, and the Stimulus bill to name just a few.  In short they were guided by principles and supported him when they agreed with him, and opposed him when they didn’t.  This is continuing with Obama.  While there is much for conservatives to oppose with Obama,  many give him generally good marks on his handling of the war so far.

Liberals, on the other hand,  seem more driven by partisanship.   One clear example,  they opposed the increase of the debt under Bush, but are ok with an much greater increase now that Obama is in charge.   In short it is clear that while they complained about “Bush’s debt”  the focus of their complaint was Bush, not the debt.   

Thus while at the fringes  there may be a correspondence at the extremes, there is a significant divergence between mainstream liberal and conservative attacks.

Jul 9th, 2009

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