Sarah Palin has now had some 140 hours of fame and counting. Not a bad record for a former mayor of a town of some 9000 inhabitants (for those who read me in Latvia, it is approximately 3 times more than my favourite town of Saulkrasti, but much, much less than, say, Jurmala), who became governor of Alaska in 2006.
But, what is more exciting (and frightening) by far, Palin, having no experience of large-scale politics and no experience of the world outside North America (she had no passport for travelling abroad until last year), has managed to do what Senator McCain’s supporters had tried hard, but could not do all these months: she put the Republican candidate’s campaign in the spotlight. Soap opera news about her daughter’s pregnancy has tempted even the normally sane CNN, not to mention other news media. What is more, she is exactly the person to captivate the anti-intellectual conservative voter (and there are lots of those in the US). The Guardian today quotes a member of the Texas delegation at the Republican Convention saying “As Texan, we believe in gun rights, the Bible, and againsts abortion and against gay marriage. The things we believe in she believes in.” The conservative TV personality Ruch Limbaugh has a shorter formula for the same political creed: ” Jesus babies and guns.” With that level of argumentation, Palin’s experience of politics and foreign relations should not matter.
It is not just the anti-intellectual conservative US voters, however, that might have to deal with Palin in the event if McCain, and not Obama, wins the election. The delicate issue of health (McCain is over seventy and has mixed health history) might one day put Vice-President Palin in charge at the White House. What if, say, the situation in global politics by that time is even worse than it is today (and there are signs it could get worse)? Surely, an all-out conservative without much understanding of the world outside the US would be likely to revive Bush-style tensions with Europe as soon as it comes to different positions on some major issue of global politics?
And then, East Europeans may once again be the first in Europe to trade liberalism against security. With Russia on the upswing of imperial muscle-flexing, the Poles and the Balts are likely to be the first to buy wholesale Vice-President Palin’s message to the world, whatever that might be. Because, for many among our political elites, security comes first. Shabby-genteel concerns like women’s right to control their own bodies (birth control) or grown-up people’s right to choose their spouse (gay marriage) come second. Or not at all.