Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is having a particularly difficult time going national with her small town and family values theme without the cooperation of her family. During the campaign, Palin had to address the teenage pregnancy of her daughter Bristol. The campaign promptly announced that the teen father, Levi Johnston, would marry Bristol. (After the campaign, it was announced that the marriage was off). Then Britstol’s mother-in-law, Sherry Johnston, was arrested as a drug dealer. Now, Todd Palin’s half-sister, Diana Palin, 35, has been arrested for burglary while Levi Johnston has accepted an invitation to participate in a tell-all, tabloid show (The Tyra Banks Show).
I tend to be less interested in the family problems of celebrities and rarely post such stories unless they have legal or policy implications. However, Palin represents a damaging trend in American politics that portrays her family and small town as somehow morally superior or more patriotic than the rest of the country. Just as Gary Hart could not object to people following his private life when he invited the scrutiny, Palin cannot both use her family and town as a model and then condemn the media attention that follows such a campaign.
The ongoing episodes of Palin Peyton Place should focus attention on the need for politicians to move away from the moralistic and divisive politics that characterized the Palin “small town values and family values” campaign. Had Palin not used her family and her town as a critical part of her campaign, such matters would be dismissed as matter for tabloid interest alone.
Diana Palin was arrested in Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla allegedly breaking into a house in a robbery attempt. Police say that the house had already been burgled twice that week and Diana went straight to a bedroom cabinet where cash was stowed. She was surprised by the owner, Theodore Turcott, with a handgun who emerged from the bathroom.
To make things worse, Diana brought her 4-year-old daughter on the job and the four-year-old came into the house during the attempted burglary in a scene much like the one recently in Washington state.
While such family felons is not good for any politician, Palin has emphasized family and small town values to distinguish her from politicians from major cities. She also emphasized her own family as such a model. Obviously, she can hardly be blamed for the actions of family members, but the entire thrust of the campaign insulted many people who felt that the Palin campaign was suggesting that liberal and big city families were somehow morally wanting.
In the meantime, Sarah Palin’s representative released a blistering statement on Levi Johnston’s
tell-all segment on Tyra Banks where he reportedly discussed issues like his sex life with Bristol and what he views as her hostile or strange behavior. The Palin family stated:
“Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We’re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship. Bristol’s focus will remain on raising Tripp, completing her education, and advocating abstinence. . . . It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child. . . . Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions.”
I have no intention in watching the show and frankly agreed with Sarah Palin that Levi is a creep for doing such a show. However, for those of us who object to the incorporation of religion into politics by Palin and others, this is really a case of the chickens coming home to roost. The problem with using your family as a national model — if not political props — is that the image rises or falls on the family. More importantly, the suggestion that small towns like Wasilla are morally superior or more patriotic was a classic divide-and-conquer political ploy that has now backfired mightily for the Palin camp. From witchhunters to oxycotin dealers, Wasilla has not proven a particularly great model for such national exposure as the superior way of life.
In the meantime, Palin was dumped as the speaker for a major dinner in Washington in an open tiff with Republican leaders, here.
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