Should we? Perhaps. The game plan of the Democrats has to be radically overhauled. This is no longer going to be a campaign only about "issues" or the State of the Union. It is also about cultural divisiveness and pushing voters into their "zone of discomfort" many of whom are now likely to cast the November ballot in an emotional, not cerebral way.
Dean, in his comment, beat me to George Lakoff's article (link: Narayan Acharya) explaining precisely this aspect of public oratory - whether the speaker focuses on external realities or emotional symbolisms. Republicans have bamboozled the public time and again by pushing cultural and social hot buttons even when they are running on an abysmal record of external realities and managed to win. Democrats, who pride themselves on caring for bread and butter issues have failed even when reality dictates that they should win handily. Bread and butter for some inexplicable reason always lose to mom and apple pie. Sarah Palin, predictably did just that - spoke about all the things that make America "great" but she did it in a way that I wasn't expecting. She smiled, she looked disarming and was even quite funny in a middle schoolish way. That was a vast improvement over Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee who tried the same thing earlier but came off sounding lame, vicious and hokey respectively.
Palin said many things last night. She paid homage to family, country, hard working "ordinary" people, common sense and of course, John McCain. She railed against the media, congress, Washington insiders and other "elites." She did not once mention Bush-Cheney, Afghanistan, education, health care or the economy. But what she conveyed most effectively to her audience was that Barack and Michelle Obama are not one of "us." She managed to exoticize and alienate them sufficiently to sow a seed of doubt in some minds and irrigate those who had already planted it. It was done masterfully. Hillary couldn't do it with her barely repressed anger and McCain can't do it because he is a lousy speaker. Palin took on Obama's record and without overtly ridiculing it, managed to thoroughly trash it. The "othering" of Obama was Palin's designated task and she exceeded the expectation in what some are calling a "Steel Magnolia" style. Ma Palin managed to imply that her five precious kids (and yours too) may not be entirely safe if Obama becomes president.
Even some otherwise intrepid souls are a bit shaken. My husband, who was lying on the sofa before Palin began was about to doze off. He sat bolt upright about ten minutes into the speech and was very concerned by the time she had finished. John Dickerson of Slate is worried. Even Brian Leiter admits that she was effective (and deceptive). Strangely enough, though I am quite easily unnerved by right wing shenanigans, I was not very nervous. I will wait for the media to their job - dig deep into her record and interview those who know her well. I will also wait for Palin to face the media without a prepared script. Instead, I am seething. Once again, I see an attempt at hood-winking, Swift Boating and race baiting by the ruthless ignoramuses. Once again, I fear they might succeed (do I then have to continue blogging for four more years?). Hard to imagine, but McCain-Palin may turn out to be even more ugly than Bush-Cheney. I have to hope that Chicago politics have taught Obama to take body blows and push back.
One last note on last night's gathering of the sharks who came to feed on "red meat." Every featured speaker, including Palin, mentioned that he / she has "always been proud of America." This was a blatantly orchestrated move to belittle Michelle Obama. I really wish that the Obamas will have the gumption and the guts to ask these splendid patriots if they were also "proud" when lynching, Jim Crow and other criminal indignities were being inflicted upon certain Americans who don't quite look like them.