Friday, December 4th, 2009

Palin, Hawai’i, and Idaho :: A Retreat Into Whiteness Addendum

From Sam Tanenhaus’s piece on Sarah Palin in this week’s New Yorker:

Palin, though notoriously ill-travelled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii (Jeff note: The school she attended was Hawai’i Pacific University on Oahu.) She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. “Hawaii was a little too perfect,” Palin writes. “Perpetual sunshine isn’t necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls.” Perhaps not. But Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: “They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.” In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, “because it was much like Alaska yet still ‘Outside.’ ”

Palin’s discomfort is easy to understand. Race is often the subtext of populist campaigns; their most potent appeal is to whites who are feeling under siege by changing economic and cultural conditions. Palin’s strength with this constituency can only have grown since the last election. It’s the reason that her bus tour is passing through the small cities and towns (Fort Wayne, Indiana; Washington, Pennsylvania) where the 2008 election might have been won. Already, she has drawn thousands of fans, some pitching tents overnight in the hope of receiving an autographed book. She is avoiding major cities in the Northeast and on the West Coast, a pointed assertion of her contempt for metropolitan élites. When McCain asked if Palin’s husband was prepared for the rigors of a national campaign, Palin assured him that he was, and also that they were the couple for the job: “We felt our very normalcy, our status as ordinary Americans, could be a much needed fresh breeze blowing into Washington, D.C.”

A final note to add: Palin was introduced at the RNC by Hawai’i Governor Linda Lingle, the first Republican to be elected to that office in over 30 years. Lingle had moved to the islands from California during the ’70s. There has been no mention of any Wailuku date on Palin’s book tour.

posted by @ 7:52 pm | 1 Comment

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