Letter to the Editor – Not Just a Battle of Personalities

Max Weiss

In her October 10 piece, ‘The Cults of Personality,” Olivia Offner insists that some people support Mrs. Palin for the same reason that others support Mr. Obama: both groups only follow them as a cult of personality. From that common point, the reasons for liking Mr. Obama or Mrs. Palin diverge and not just because of their politics and policies (there isn’t enough of the The Maroon-News print to show all of those), but because of their ideas and how they conduct themselves. Mr Obama’s message inspires the best in people — emphasizing the positive qualities of our hopes and dreams and that our nation is not characterized by the policies of the last eight years. Sarah Palin’s message only raises doubts in her opponent and offers vapid patriotic platitudes.

From Mr. Obama’s stump, the message is “Change We Need” and “Yes We Can!’: overarching themes that everyone can relate to. Mrs. Palin says “Drill Baby, Drill!” and “Country First!”: the former plays to oil companies’ interests and the incorrect notion that America can fulfill its own demand for gasoline (we have 3 percent of the earth’s resource and consume 25 percent of it) and the latter comes from Karl Rove’s play book, which not-so-subtly implies that if you don’t support our campaign, you don’t support your country.

Moreover, there is a stark contrast in the way they acknowledge their opponents. After the March 4 Primaries when John McCain became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Barack Obama said of Mr. McCain at a rally, “I will honor my opponents’ accomplishments, even though he refuses to recognize mine.” When Palin discusses Barack Obama, her message is disrespectful, to put it nicely.

Not only does she mock his experience as a “community organizer,” but attacks his character. She makes statements to the affect of ‘[Mr. Obama] is not like you and me’ and asks her crowds, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” stoking rage in the Republican base and perpetuating dangerous rumors about Mr. Obama’s religion.

In response, people yell “a terrorist” and “kill him.” Exaggerating Mr. Obama’s relationship with ’60’s radical William Ayers is another example of this. This election, religious prejudice has become a proxy for racial prejudice, and the implications of Mrs. Palin’s statements play into that, fusing fear of terrorism, religious intolerance, and racism together into a message of fear mongering rivaled only by Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Barack Obama says, “There are no ‘Blue States’ and there are no ‘Red States,’ there is only the United States.” Whether she is dressing the carcass of a moose or looking at an electoral map, all Mrs. Palin sees is red. For all of these reasons I am offended by the notion that I — or any of my fellow Obama supporters, for that matter — are attracted to Mr. Obama for all the same reasons that other people are attracted to Mrs. Palin. Because behind the rhetoric — their least common denominator — are ideas and at the end of the day that is what we’re really supporting.