The release of Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue, has been an occasion of great frivolity amongst those of us on the left. We get to mock her inability to tell Iraq from Iran and her penchant for rewriting her fuck-ups as frustrated angst. For good measure, we rerun all her greatest hits: the shaman, Tina Fey, the lipstick, the Couric fiasco...you know. It's great fun, and we all can make ourselves feel better about the much more sinister aspects of anti-Obama nutballdome creeping out from under every slime covered rock at an increasingly alarming rate.
There's no way that such a kook, no, such a dimwit kook could possibly ever get the keys to the nuclear codes, we smugly reassure ourselves. The America electorate is not that dumb.
But it doesn't have to be.
Let me explain: Darwinian evolution tells us that natural selection selects in favor of those individuals who most successfully exploit the environment that they inhabit. Creatures that live in cold climates get gradually more fur covered, critters that eat tall plants develop longer necks, etc. You know the theory. But what if we export something sort of like natural selection to political evolution?
Through dint of her obvious dimness, Sarah Palin is spectacularly unqualified to be President. But that particular attribute may not be the thing that decides if she's going to own the Oval. In fact, it may not be important at all. G.W. Bush, as I'm sure all but the most densely arranged of us can agree, was not qualified to be president either. A "C" student with no particular passion for much other than coke and booze, W. spent most of the first half of his life doing the rich dick thing and embarrassing his parents. However, George did have one shining attribute. He was a charismatic.
The success of Bush in securing the White House for two terms was based not on his wisdom, his deference, his intellect, or his judgment, all of which we expect to be in the exceptional range for our Presidents. In fact, he sucked at all of those, as became all too apparent by 2006.
W. succeeded because he was the perfect puppet for men who lacked the charismatic presence that is the only true necessity in these times of tweets and sound bites. Using Bush as a proxy, orcish neocons like Cheney were able to advance a radicalized version of American Exceptionalism that was previously relegated, literally, to the crazies.
And here's how Darwin applies: the proxy thing? It works. Political "selection" did not select Bush for the things that we traditionally desire in a leader. It selected Bush because of a potent combination of fear, vote rigging, ideological bluster, tactical cover-ups, and a dangerously shallow uber-patriotism.
That last bit sound familiar? Are you a "Real American?"
Power in the general sense is not interested in how it is held, only that it is held. In other words, Bush was successful in that he held power for the maximum time allotted. People took note, believe me. And they thought, "man, if we can do that once, we can do it again." The formula worked. The creature grew fur, the neck sprouted to great lengths, the political blueprint on how to seize power without having to actually have any of the prerequisites was recorded for future reproduction.
To be fair, the patsy controlled by a scheming, brilliant mind is an old form of human behavior, and we can find many examples of it throughout our tiny history as a country. But, in living memory at least, the office of the President has always seemed somewhat protected from this kind of crass manipulation.
The true Bush legacy is not a wrecked economy, a ravaged environment, or the twisted mess that is Iraq and Afghanistan. It is that the most powerful office in the history of the world is exquisitely and profoundly subvertable, if only you know how.
Sarah Palin could easily be the newest species in a highly successful linage of patsies. Groomed to be passionate about her righteousness, wrapped in designer clothes and shallowly glamourous, willfully ignorant of any real issues and accepted by a frighteningly large number of Americans as "genuine," Palin is Bush 2.0. She represents a new level, the next step in a political evolution that is increasingly convinced that only a rigid ideology of short-term exploitation and control will solve humanity's problems.
In fact, she's perfect for the job.
All of a sudden, I'm not really in the mood to laugh at her much anymore.