Pretty but Pretty Shallow: Sarah Palin’s convention speech

Ezra Klein pretty much sums up my thoughts on Sarah Palin’s speech :

Over the past week, Palin had begun looking like a character from Twin Peaks. Tonight, she looked like an up-and-coming Republican politician. It was an auspicious debut, the sort of address that would be judged a success if she were a newcomer keynoting the convention. She landed clean punches, temporarily silenced some of her critics, and retold John McCain’s story with a keen sense for the drama of his experience. But I expected more. As delivered, the speech was effective as theater but curiously hollow as an enduring campaign argument: It contained the seeds of a medal ceremony for McCain, and marked Palin as a politician to watch, but it said nothing about the presidency she hopes to be part of.

Nowhere did we hear of the great things John McCain would do, Instead, we heard, over and over, of the agonies John McCain endured. The presidency was presented tonight as if it were the Medal of Honor, or a purple heart. As if it is only a quirk of our political process that stops us from simply finding the longest serving prisoner of war and gifting him the keys to the office. On a rhetorical level, it was effective, if only because McCain’s story is so powerful. But it is not, fundamentally, a sustainable approach to this campaign. If McCain is more appealing for what he did than what he will do, he will lose the election. It is, after all, only during the convention that you get to tell your story. Throughout the rest of the campaign, you have to argue with your opponent. And tonight, Palin added very little to that argument.

I think Ezra underestimates the effect that Palin’s attempts to rally the troops will have. Although conservative activists, ie real voters, are enthused about the Palin pick there’s been a good amount of backlash and shock from conservative elites, ie the rich white guys that run the party. Tonight’s speech was targeted to them as much as it was anyone else. She needed to remind these conservative elites why she’s an up and coming Republican that they should be excited about and she accomplished that goal.

However, like I said, Ezra is very much right in his point that, while the speech was “pretty” it failed to offer any substance on what a McCain presidency would look like, or how America would benefit. So in that regard, a very important criticism being levied from democrats that Palin has very little knowledge of America’s problems or solutions to solve them still holds true after tonight’s speech


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