Op-Ed

Palin's 'one of you' pretense insults voters' intelligence

What is it about Sarah Palin that gets me so riled up?

Belinda Luscombe's recent article in Time, "Why Some Women Hate Sarah Palin," gives several possible answers, including "She's too pretty" and "She's too confident."

But my Palin problem has nothing to do with the fact both of us are women, and I don't have a problem with her being pretty or confident.

I do have a problem with her being wildly unqualified.

Two years ago, Palin was mayor of a town with 1/25th the population of Lexington. She is now governor of a state whose population is less than Jefferson County's.

Palin's unpreparedness for national office is painful to watch. Her acceptance of the vice presidential spot on the GOP ticket and her belief that she has a chance of winning reveals her assumption that American voters are content to settle for a sub-par candidate.

But I'm not content to settle, and I'm not alone.

Palin tells us continually: "I am one of you." This façade is one of the few weapons in her political arsenal, and she just keeps shooting it off. Perhaps most frustrating is that she actually isn't one of us.

Her net worth is well over $1 million. When she isn't purporting to be poor or diverting questions with charm, she's engaging in "misery battles," contests in which candidates fight over who has endured the most hardship. Instead of discussing who is better prepared and who has the best policies, recent debates have featured "who really has it bad," as if suffering were in some way quantifiable.

Certainly candidates of both parties use this tactic. Trouble is, Palin doesn't have much else.

Palin supporters say she is getting flak for using a folksy approach that differs from that of the typical candidate. They say she is being discriminated against for using colloquialisms and "normal" language. They tell me Palin isn't stupid.

By no means do I think she is stupid. It is precisely because I believe she is a smart woman that her debating method and campaign rhetoric come across as patronizing.

Palin hopes that by using Joe Sixpack, hockey mom, pit-bull, you betcha' and darn, she will convince us that she doesn't have a personal hairstylist or own an airplane. She hopes to convince us that she doesn't support a party and policies that would work against her very own economic interests were she truly one of us.

She hopes that by winking she can hoodwink the American public into believing that a candidate's personal charm is somehow more important than experience and expertise.

What we forget is that our president isn't supposed to be one of us. There is a reason that the vast majority of Americans don't run for president: The vast majority of Americans are not prepared for the job.

Imagine meeting with a doctor to discuss your impending open-heart surgery. She tells you that she has never actually done surgery before, but she winks and says she got a B-plus on frog dissection in biology class.

I'd have dinner with that surgeon, but I wouldn't let her cut me open.

While I am happy to hear that our candidates are shining examples of the American dream, I don't want them to be Average Joes.

Palin has proclaimed that she is average in class and interests, but has not proven that she is above average in her understanding of critical domestic and foreign policy issues.

This isn't just unacceptable; it's dangerous.

Should Palin be elected, she, like President Bush, would be used as a blank page to serve the purposes of those in power behind the scenes, those upon whom she is totally dependent for counsel.

The most offensive part of Palin's condescending, self-conscious use of vernacular is that she thinks she must stoop to an unprofessional level to appeal to the middle class. The unspoken assumption is that the middle class isn't interested in a candidate who takes debate seriously.

But the truth is, we want a candidate who understands that different situations call for different behaviors — that winks and colloquialisms are appropriate in a casual interview or in conversation with voters, but are inappropriate and disrespectful during a formal debate.

Americans want a candidate who understands struggle, and we want a candidate with a wide appeal. But we need to know that our country's representative will conduct herself with grace and professionalism when meeting with other world leaders and that she will be able to deal with any situation that arises with the appropriate respect, gravity and expertise.

The average American is capable of understanding serious debate. Palin doesn't need to pander to us. We're not choosing a pal, we're choosing a leader who will exert a huge amount of control over our sons and brothers, our daughters and sisters, our money, our bodies and our lives.

Every American wants and deserves a leader who is prepared to lead. And Palin is not.

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