Then, saying she was proud of being labeled a "redneck," she regaled them with a string of one-liners defining the term:
"You're a redneck if you've ever had dinner on a ping pong table."
"You're a redneck if you've ever had a custody fight over a hunting dog. Well, Todd and I haven't, but we've got friends who have!"
Can I get a vote here? What's the consensus on politicians who use internet joke lists as speech material?
I'm actually sort of divided on this issue. Clearly, Sarah Palin doesn't have time to write new and original speeches for her myriad appearances. If I were as famous and as busy as Palin is, I could definitely see culling a few yukster lines from the net for speeches. But she ripped off like six or seven of these asinine "You know you're a redneck if!" lines in a row from sites like Aha! Jokes, and that seems like a few too many to me. Sometimes the number matters — just like I think the maximum number of cats a single adult can have is three before it gets weird, I don't think you can steal more than four or maybe five jokes before some kind of line is crossed, even when the venue is an NRA convention.
Palin by the way seems to have settled in on a new rhetorical strategy, which is basically to run out one or another version of her "pit bull" line over and over again and not say anything else at all. She's tuned in to the fact that her audiences literally can't get enough of having their lunatic self-images massaged ("I'm a violent, illiterate pig who eats with her mouth open just like all you outstanding Americans!") and aren't really interested in much else beyond that — issues are really secondary.
Sure, she'll talk about immigration, or health care, or gun rights, but all that boring stuff is really secondary to the more important business of reassuring her audiences that that it's okay to be a slob who does nothing but shoot cute animals and watch TV. Most of all, Americans — the same Americans who buy everything TV tells them to buy and vote for the same shysters year after year, swallowing one lie after another whole — love to be told how tough and fearsome and independent they are. She was massaging this spot in a speech to a coalition of women against abortion group in Washington the other day:
Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, delivered calls to action to an audience dominated by women. "The mama grizzlies, they rise up," she said, to laughter. "You thought pit bulls are tough. You don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies. And I think there are a whole lot of those in this room."
The crowd went nuts at this. Palin has figured out that this is really all you have to do to win elections in this country — flatter middle Americans' moronic fantasies about themselves. The great thing about flattery is a) you can't overdo it as hard as you try, and b) it doesn't pin you down to messy political positions, controversies, things you can be harassed about by Chris Matthews and other press weasels.
It's basically a risk-free strategy. You get up on stage and you say, "I'm just like all you idiots. And you idiots rock!" People will fall for this stuff. The ingenious part in Sarah Palin's case is that she probably genuinely believes it.
She one-ups even George Bush in this respect. Bush was sincere in his respect for the citizen's right to craft important opinions about the world while drinking beer and watching baseball, and that came across in his speeches — it was a big reason for his success.
But Bush couldn't have spent more than ten minutes in a dirty trailer in Arkansas before signaling for the helicopter. The guy was just too used to being around rich people, nice houses, cigarette boats full of sheiks and oil executives, etc. Sarah Palin on the other hand really is the kind of person who you can picture eating egg salad off a ping-pong table. That and her utterly genuine stupidity and meanness can take her a long way — all by themselves, I think these things can win the White House for her — and it seems like she senses this on an animal/reptilian level. Hence the renewed emphasis on jacking off her audiences of late.
It'll be interesting to see if this works for her. Bear in mind there's no shortage of hokey-ass internet joke lists for her to mine. Someone should keep a count of how many of these bits she uses…