Adriaan Lanni and Wesley Kelman wrote an interesting piece in Slate this week, “Working-Class Hero: How the Palins’ enviable blue-collar lifestyle could help the McCain campaign.” Here are a few excerpts.
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Most of the initial reaction to Sarah Palin’s selection . . . threatens to obscure a seductive and misleading subtext in Palin’s biography that may play a key role in the election: the way she embodies the hope of a blue-collar life without economic insecurity.
Palin’s background reminded us of an Alaskan we met several years ago. We had just moved to Anchorage for a temporary job in the state court system and struck up an illuminating conversation with a bricklayer while on a hike outside town. He made a surprising amount of money—he had moved to Alaska because its wages were so high. He also had enviable stretches of leisure . . . . He exuded optimism; his life was good and he knew it, and there was no resentment of yuppies like us.
Palin’s family, warts and all, has some of the same features. Husband Todd’s two jobs—commercial fisherman and oil production manager on the North Slope—required little formal education and provide ample time off. Yet they pay extremely well. . . .
Mr. Palin’s income alone would put the Palins at about the same level as many well-educated, white-collar workers we knew in Anchorage. It is also enough money to enjoy a quality of life that is, at least to a certain taste, superior to what is enjoyed almost anywhere else, either in cities or in the countryside. Like the bricklayer, the Palins can hunt and fish in a place of legendary abundance. Their hometown may be a dingy Anchorage exurb, but it has cheap, plentiful land bordering a vast and beautiful wilderness, which is crisscrossed by Todd (the “Iron Dog” champion) and the Palin children all winter. . . .
This free and easy life is radically different from the desperate existences depicted in Barack Obama’s speeches. . . .
This disjunction between the good life for many Alaskans and the not-so-good life for working-class families elsewhere suggests several strategies for the McCain campaign. . . .
While Democratic policy tries to help blue-collar workers by making it easier for them to attend college and get office jobs—that is, by encouraging them to cease to be blue-collar—Palin’s Alaskan story offers hope from within the blue-collar culture. She validates the goodness of life in rural America because she has embraced a particularly exotic, turbocharged version of this life. Her biography, bound to be emphasized by Republicans, thus makes a powerful appeal to one of the country’s most decisive constituencies.
The rub, of course, is that however genuine it may be, Palin’s family life may not be possible outside Alaska. . . .
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To read the entire article, click here.