Friday, January 09, 2009

Class(less) Bias

If you keep up with Sarah Palin news (and why wouldn't you? Everyone else does.), you know that she recently suggested that the media was harder on her than they are currently being on Caroline Kennedy and that this difference is due to a "class issue." I think Palin may be right, in a way. And so I actually want to take this question of a "class issue" seriously for a few minutes.

Let's just dismiss Palin's point about the media going easy on Caroline Kennedy. As Jason Linkins notes, this isn't true ("you know?"). From Kennedy's grammatical tics to questions about her lack of qualifications, the media has been on it all along. So let's just ignore Caroline Kennedy and consider Sarah Palin in isolation: did she have such a tumultuous tenure in the national spotlight because of her class? Yes, but maybe not in the obvious sense of that word.

Sarah Palin's problem is indeed a "class issue": she just doesn't have any. Seriously, is there any way to call her "classy"? Is she particularly excellent in any way? Is she particularly meritorious? Is she dignified? Elegant? She can't express a coherent thought in English. She barely graduated from college (from somewhere. And with a degree in... something). Her political experience derives from governing fewer people than live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her immediate and extended family brings to mind nothing so much as a Spears family reunion.

But you know what's funny about Palin's complaints on this issue? She likes it that way. Her entire public image is explicitly based on her lack of class. What's strange is that she expects us to take her seriously despite this. I don't see any reason why we ought to pretend that intelligence, education, and dignity are irrelevant to holding national office (Alaska can can elect whoever it wants within its own borders). But that's a question that voters can settle (and hey, they did). It isn't the media's fault that America found Palin to be a confidently undereducated idiot (the most dangerous kind) and decided that's a bad thing. Thank goodness there are still enough people in this country who want to be governed by someone smarter than average.

As for Caroline Kennedy--even if she gets the Senate appointment, she will have to run again in two years. We'll see then how voters feel about her education, her speaking skills, and her qualifications. That's the kind of class that's important, both to voters and to the media. As for Governor MooseMunch? Well, maybe she could start by trying to read a book.

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