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It is reliably reported (The Times, London) that the McCain camp is expecting a miracle, its expectations rather resembling those of a millenarianist group camping on a hillside awaiting The Second Coming.
The anticipated miracle is the shotgun marriage of Sarah Palin’s pregnant seventeen-year old and her eighteen-year old redneck (his description, not mine) boyfriend (aka, in polite Republican circles, as her “fiancé”) coming just in time to save a faltering political campaign.
For those who don’t know America well, big white weddings with all the trimmings remain – despite the social and sexual upheavals of the last half century, despite wars and threats of wars – an important part of popular culture.
A couple may have been living together for years, may even have had kids, but when “the guy” finally gets around to “popping the question,” the world suddenly reverts to 1953, Ike and Mamie are in the White House, and Spot the dog is every child’s favorite literary character.
The couple may not have a dime to spare after trips to Disneyland and a second air-conditioned SUV, but the parents are paying (an obligation often requiring a second mortgage), so who cares? Planning begins immediately on throwing away $20,000 or more in one afternoon. After all, marriage is once-in-a-lifetime, even though at least half of all American marriages end in divorce.
Well, it is by appealing to such boiled-frosting, satin-ribbon fantasies that Republicans hope to push John McCain over the campaign finish line and into the White House.
The last week or two of the campaign would be ideal timing, surrounding John McCain and Sarah Palin in a fluffy, sugar-sprinkled haze. Imagine voting against the distinguished-looking old man in a tuxedo on the front pew with the beneficent countenance of a proud grandfather? Or the mother, gowned rather than in mukluks and hunting gear, eyes moist, watching “her baby” march to the alter?
Clearly, this is not matter on which an election anywhere should rest, much less in the world’s most powerful country, one staggering through war and financial crisis. Indeed, the Republican campaign, as it well deserves, has faltered on the merits. McCain is a tired old man with a sour temperament and a narcissistic personality who picked as his sidekick a person who would have reached the limits of her talent as captain of a cheerleading squad. Although certainly not the limits of her ambitions, but isn’t that what America is about, your reach exceeding your talent?
The hope may not be without some basis. The event, if it happens and happens in time, will of course be exploited to the limits of broadcasting and publishing and advertising. Money will flow from the same immensely rich sources that accomplished such past miracles as a nose-job for a witness against Bill Clinton. Theirs will undoubtedly be the most publicized and costly wedding in Alaska’s history.
Imagine the glamor with heads of state attending, all those with whom Sarah Palin has recently had five-minute appointments? Perhaps we’ll see Henry Kissinger himself, hobbling to his seat, resembling nothing so much as Doctor Strangelove taking faltering steps from his wheelchair, declaring to his Fuehrer that he can walk.
Perhaps there’ll be the president of that wealthy narco-state, Columbia, surrounded by bodyguards and arriving in an armored limousine.
Perhaps, too, the Mayor of Kabul, better known in America as the President of Afghanistan, will be there, exotic in his flowing robes.
And I’m sure there will be a large delegation from across the Bering Sea, Russian officials familiar with Sarah Palin, her just-over-the-backyard-fence neighbors as it were.
The sight of the nervous young woman marching up the aisle will remind many of the young Princess Diana. The swollen tummy might detract from the fantasy, but that can be artfully disguised by a good dressmaker. In the haze of dewy-eyed sentimentality, few will ask about the judgment of a mother who pushes a seventeen-year old girl into marriage and motherhood, or of just how the sweet young Diana turned out.
And the same with the spiffed-up boyfriend who only wanted to play hockey and “hang-out” and find more girls like Sarah’s daughter at parties. He will look handsome and almost iconic, shaved and showered in his tuxedo. Few will reflect on the inappropriate pressure brought to bear on this young man by the governor of his state, or, indeed, what kind of a husband someone with his attitudes might be.
But if Sarah and her daughter cannot set this event before the election date, its importance will decline considerably, the free nose-job donors fading away, the publicity evaporating, the international guests sending regrets, and the Palins in need of a second mortgage.
JOHN CHUCKMAN lives in Canada.