September 14, 2008

Hurricane Sarah

In a rather tone deaf "why-oh-why" Op-Ed piece in yesterday's NYT, Bob Herbert rattles on about Hurricane Sarah, the Truth, and the various issues facing the country he thinks are being ignored. A key passage:
"With most candidates for high public office, the question is whether one agrees with them on the major issues of the day. With Ms. Palin, it's not about agreeing or disagreeing. She doesn't appear to understand some of the most important issues".
Surely this misses the point of her candidacy: in this low-lying identity-politics-drenched landscape, for many voters the question isn't so much whether one agrees with a candidate on the major issues of the day, but whether one identifies with the candidate.

For some people, what else is there? If you're unsure what issues will be important or will spring up unannounced in the future, or you don't have a clue what the "real" issues are supposed to be, you might reasonably look to the candidate's character; for many, that equates with "identity". And besides, the rush of having someone a lot like you up there on the big stage is undeniable (especially if there's never been anyone like you there before), and you're more likely to trust their judgement on issues close to your heart (and ignore the petty details to do with the issues Bob Herbert might think important). In identity politics, some sort of objective truth or knowledge surely doesn't really matter that much; more important is whether a candidate recognises or shares your truth, your knowledge, your experience. Identity not only shapes truth, it transcends it; Palin's identity sometimes just makes wider truths irrelevant.

(I'm on record in my real life for most of the past three months as predicting a big McCain victory in November — not even close — but I don't have the courage of my convictions, I'm often wrong, and I can't help wondering if this particular hurricane will peter out before making landfall (or wreak merry havoc for years to come…)).

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