I am slack-jawed with admiration tonight.
The source of my amazement is reports that female McCain/Palin supporters have started making and distributing T-shirts that say “Read My Lipstick: MCain/Palin 2008”. And wearing them in large numbers.
This is deployment of multi-leveled irony as an offensive weapon. They are taking Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” remark and slugging him in the face with it. They are taking the MSM’s vile smears and insinuations about Palin’s sex life and sexual presence and slugging them in the face with that. They are kicking Gloria Steinem and every desexualized “Palin isn’t a woman” harridan in their collective teeth. Yes, they’re saying, you can be a former beauty queen who looks good in stockings and makeup and a pit bull at the same time, and we love you for it.
“Lipstick”, on pit bulls, on pigs, and on women, has been bouncing around as a loaded signifier in this campaign ever since the Palin nomination (was that only a couple of weeks ago?). With this move, the Palin supporters have appropriated it for their own. I predict that their opponents are not going to get it back; that every reference to lipstick from now on is going to remind everyone of the merciless, scurrilous rumor-mongering about Palin and how she has survived it with style just by unapologetically being who she is.
Whatever Sarah Palin’s substantive qualifications for VP may or may not be, I am an aficionado of political mockery and this is the sweetest, sharpest bit of street theater I have seen in decades. It’s a satirical body-slam of every dismissive talking head who has tried to declare Palin unqualified and unserious. It’s worthy of the Yippies in their heyday.
It’s not mainly Sarah Palin I’m admiring tonight, it’s her supporters, for cleverness and sheer brass. But OK, Palin deserves admiration too, for being the kind of person who can survive the most disgusting farrago of baseless shit I’ve ever seen flung at a politician, and for being the kind of person about whom this slogan can be such a devastating counterpunch.
Poor Obama. You have been so quickly and utterly outclassed at the charisma game. And by a gun-toting rural hick from a state nobody trendy ever goes to. That’s gotta hurt.
Of course, for Palin supporters that’s the final turn of the screw. Obama has already been responding to Palin’s presence in the race more than is tactically smart; that’s how he wound up uttering the “lipstick on a pig” gaffe they’re playing off of. He’s fraying, losing his cool. This is a shot — and a shrewd one, I’d say — at driving Obama completely bugfuck, increasing the odds he will melt down with a national audience watching.
None of it has anything to do with substance or issues of course. But considered purely as mindfuck it is beautiful. The Discordian in me bows in awe and respect.
I’m also a bit puzzled. When did conservatives — of all people — learn how to play this sort of game? Obviously while I wasn’t looking…