walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

a few remarks on the popularity of the political phenom from Alaska

I won't mention her name here.

Post-election day, she's been _everywhere_. Judging from the snippets appearing on Countdown, Rachel Maddow and elsewhere, her kitchen in Wasilla has served up an incredible amount of food to reporters over the last weekish. And that's exactly what I want to talk about here, once I get through a little of the setup, viz. all those people quoted during the campaign as saying they identified with her. I think I blogged about how mystified I was by the number of women willing to be quoted on air as identifying with a woman from Alaska, mother of five, etc.

Mother of _five_. The childless-for-life rate is still climbing and we've got a meaningful number of women identifying with the mother of _five_? Really?

On Beat the Press (this is a Boston area show that recaps the media's coverage of the previous week's news), Niwa (slightly annoying guy from Emerson College) commented that if _he_ tried to chop carrots and talk about energy policy at the same time there'd better be medical assistance nearby because he'd wind up cutting a finger off. And at this point, I had a huge epiphany: the Phenom from Alaska Actually Participates in Her Domestic Life. And this is an absolute novelty and Revelation to politicians and punditry at the national level. Those people don't cook daily (much less more than one meal a day for people including children). I don't know about the Phenom, but I'm perfectly prepared to believe she swishes a brush around her toilets every once in a while -- or at least she has in the last decade or so. Most people active at the national level have outsourced their entire home life: people to care for the kids, people to care for the house, take out, restaurant and prepared meals, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. If they haven't, they're desperately concealing their domestic life because Failing to Outsource the Chores is a Serious Social Faux Pas. Remember the old definition of the middle class (having at least one servant)? As near as I can tell, it's now the definition of the political class.

Let me be really clear here: I don't have a problem with outsourcing one's domestic life. Okay, I do -- I think you should participate in your children's lives. I do -- I think you have a responsibility not to mention you're the worst kind of fool if you miss participating in their lives. We don't want the Worst Kinds of Fools making decisions for us all, now do we? But I also believe that more than just the parents should be involved in raising the kiddies, so child care is fine by me. And if you can get someone to cook the kind of food you like, and clean your house and etc., more power to you just try to treat them decently. And pay them well.

But a _lot_ of people in this country cannot afford to outsource their domestic life. Quite a lot of this country is doing the domestic work for the other people. I strongly suspect that when the phenom appeared on the horizon, a lot of people went, _finally_ someone who really knows the cost of a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and _not_ because it appeared in that morning's briefing. When I run across folk like Niwa who are amazed that someone can chop carrots and speak intelligently about energy policy, I want to push the carrots aside and start gesturing with the knife to make an entirely different set of points (pun intended) about how women in general and non-rich people as well _have_ to be able to multi-task in the home and that doesn't mean our voices shouldn't be heard when policy is being made.

That said, I've heard the phenom on energy policy and I'm not that impressed. The episode also included footage of the phenom on Cessnas (compared to a tin can -- that explains why she doesn't commute several days a week by plane from Wasilla to the capital). I suspect that if the phenom manages to make the transition to a national-level political career (she won't, so don't lose sleep over it), either elected, appointed, or as a pundit on TV (actually, that's remotely possible -- literally. If they set up a studio in her home, I'm sure she'd love to do it), she'll be outsourcing her domestic life just like her competitors and colleagues and over time, her appeal on that basis will erode. Whether she can replace that appeal with anything else is an open question. I kinda doubt it, but you never know.

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