Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Problems (and Not) of Sarah Palin

Us Dems are all up in arms about how much Sarah Palin spent on her wardrobe. Aha!--we cry--an instant showing of hypocrisy. Sarah and the McCain campaign are pushing the Obama-the-elitist-and-McCain-the-populist angle! And here they are spending lots of money! Proof that they are, in fact, elitists!

Unfortunately, to many people, elitism has much less to do with how much money you make or spend, and much more to do with how you communicate with them. I'm not talking about some intangible, mythical "connection," rather, about the candidates' accents. It's notable that the Republican party has milked this Eliza Doolittle's accent for all it's worth rather than teaching her which syllables to pronounce and how to say her vowels. And that Obama, unlike many successful Democratic (and of course Republican) candidates of the past, has nary a twang amongst his dulcet educated tones.

This all speaks less to how much money a candidate has, and more to how they were educated. And that's really what the Republicans are after: they want someone who was educated like they were. Obama is off-putting because his East-coast education is so foreign to them. Sad as that is, it is frankly a much more realistic basis for liking or disliking a candidate than is the amount of money they spend on clothes, or how many houses they have. I myself like to think I'll vote for the ticket that is the best educated (whether in schools or in practical experience) to lead my country--but for many Republicans, I think, that requisite schooling just looks different. In many cases people are going to vote for the person who is educated most like themselves, instead of someone who is educated for the position they are voting him into.

But I'm not here to argue that identity politics is wrong--I'm here to argue that it is very much at play, no matter how much various Republicans spend on Palin's wardrobe. Our crowing over absurd price tags misses the point: people will like Sarah Palin and think of her as non-elitist because she talks like them--no matter what clothes they dress her in at the ball.

The Problems (and Not) of Grant Balfour

OK, to everyone who is all up and impressed by the Ray's risk-taking in loading the bases last night: I just want to make clear that loading the bases in no way could have helped the Phillies. Who cares is four (or three, or two) guys score? It's the bottom of the ninth in a tied game, and so it's only about whether one guy can score--Eric Bruntlett, who's already on third. There are no outs (i.e., you can't just get a forceout or two elsewhere to end the game without the run scoring). So you have to make it as easy as possible to get Bruntlett out at home. And therefore it actually helps the Rays and not the Phillies to walk two guys to create the forceout.

It sounds all dramatic to walk the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, and in some ways those walks do signify drama: the Rays wouldn't have done it if the score had been more uneven, if one little hadn't meant the game, and if there hadn't been a lone baserunner on third that represented that run. But it's not that the Rays were impressively putting their World-Series lives on the line--or actually risking anything at all.

In other words, granting ball four was not among Grant Balfour's problems last night.

P.S. Much as I'm kvetching about this, it's the five-man infield that I find awesome. Never saw that before. Stuff for the ages.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alan Greenspan

Photo courtesy The New York Times

To me this picture embodies all the pathos, the sadness, the brokenness of a worldview gone wrong, of an old man whose success has suddenly crumbled into not just nothing, but into, as he knows, the suffering of millions, of billions. It's a Lear who has just felt control slip beyond his grasp in the land he handed over, listening with ears perked up to his verdict, meekly accepting his guilt, and helplessly staring a fresh unknown future in the face while carrying the burden of the entire past that he has been so mistaken about. You can see it in the pink watery droop just around his eyes, in the many wrinkles that just weren't there in the more familiar pictures, and perhaps most of all in the buttoned-up wry smile that speaks in negative of unshed tears, the unclenching of absurdity, and a fleeting vision of what had been and what was supposed to be--and an understanding better than most of the enormity of his error.