I am simultaneously awed and repulsed by former Alaskan Governor and 2008 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s sway on the voting public. The former emotion is influenced by the undeniable statistics that underpin Palin’s track record. Six of the 11 total Senate candidates that Palin backed in this month’s mid-term elections won their seats. And of the five that didn’t emerge victorious, two of them, former Nevada assemblywoman Sharron Angle and Alaskan attorney Joe Miller, were defeated by a hair despite being two of the most dangerous candidates on any ballot anywhere.
Those who dismiss the real power of Palin do so at their own peril, no matter how vile I find the woman. I was quite sure in late 2008, after Barack Obama handed John McCain a resounding defeat that crossed party lines, that Sarah Palin would retreat to the Alaskan wilderness she calls home, living out the rest of her life as a political afterthought, a wacky footnote in Presidential election history.
But while Palin may not be able to recall books or magazines that she reads, the woman is a publicity machine virtuoso. Somehow, by freeing herself of the shackles of her elected office, a move many of us never saw coming, she has grown only more politically powerful. She’s like a Gremlin that someone fed after midnight. The woman is everywhere: Fox News, reality TV, candidate meet and greets. She also seems to genuinely hold together a close knit family, raising a special needs child and servicing her backwoods hottie of a husband, Todd. She somehow appears to get more attractive with every public appearance, like a rifle-toting Dorian Gray. It’s challenging at times not to admire the lady. As something of a multi-tasking wunderkind myself, I must begrudgingly hand it to another.
However, that does not mean I like her personally. I absolutely abhor her politics and just about everything she stands for: pro-life, pro-guns, anti-regulation, and many times, anti-sense period. She is equal parts fascinating and nauseating. As a card carrying liberal who worships CNN and avoids Fox and other GOP media arms, it has up until recently, been fairly easy to limit face time with Sarah Palin.
But then ABC announced its cast for Dancing with the Stars Season 11 and I knew my luck was about to end. Bristol Palin, Sarah’s 19 year-old daughter and a successful “teen activist (cough)” was chosen as one of the “celebrity dancers (double cough).” What were the odds that Sarah Palin, a nearly unparalleled media whore, would pass up the opportunity to support her offspring on TV’s #1 show?
I must admit, at first I sort of clapped my hands together with glee. What a train wreck this would be! Bristol was going to suck! And initially, I was not disappointed. Witness the mid-October routine in which Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas donned gorilla suits to dance the jive accompanied byThe Monkees theme song. Horrifying. Deservedly so, the teenager found herself at the bottom of the leader board and on her way to elimination.
Not so fast…
I realized to my horror, and all too belatedly, that Sarah Palin’s continuous presence in the audience, and inside the packaged clips that precede each choreographed dance routine, might be something of a motivator for the show’s audience, which skews older and Republican. As a contestant’s final standings comprise an amalgam of judge’s scores and democratic viewer votes (dammit!), week after week, the teenager has escaped certain death.
As the show lurches toward next week’s finale, the bodies of far better dancers whom Bristol has knocked off lie in its wake: Audrina Patridge, the talented, if vacant former star of MTV’s The Hills, Rick Fox, the sexy and suave retired L.A. Laker, and just this past Tuesday, the most shocking defeat of all. R&B singer and actress Brandy was eliminated despite receiving a perfect score of 30 for her engaging Argentine Tango.
What the hell gives?
Although violence is never the answer, I find myself sympatico with viewer Steven Cowan from Vermont, Wisconsin, a man so incensed with Bristol’s triumph over Brandy that he shot his television. New York Times’ columnist Gail Collins writes this morning:
“According to a police report posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Cowan became so upset by the political implications of Bristol Palin’s continuing victories on “Dancing With the Stars” that he shot the family television, precipitating a 15-hour standoff with local police. The complaint notes that Cowan did not think that Bristol ‘was a good dancer.'”
Although I did little more than launch my remote across the living room on Tuesday night, I sympathize with Cowan’s rage. We have come to begrudgingly accept Palin’s influence in the political arena, but please Tea Partiers, leave the integrity of Dancing with the Stars untouched.
Too late I guess. At this point, it seems inevitable that Bristol Palin will walk off with the coveted Mirrorball trophy next week. Our only hope of salvation is the mobilization of the Jennifer Grey/Dirty Dancing/ Ferris Bueller lobby. Get out the vote! The future of reality TV is at stake! Maybe the pending miscarriage of justice will spur Democrats more than minor issues like war, tax reform, health care and the economy were able to on November 2.
God bless America.