Monday, November 3, 2008

The Antithesis Of Sarah Palin

In my book Rachel Maddow is the antithesis of Sarah Palin. Rachel is the one good thing I've gotten out of all the coverage I've watched this election season. I'm one of the hoards of new viewers which propelled the Rachel Maddow Show past Larry King Live in the ratings wars. Her style has forced me to re evaluate every other talking head I currently watch. I found most of them suffered in comparison--well, maybe not Anderson Cooper. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Anderson Cooper because of his coverage of Katrina.
A lot of my friends are watching Rachel Maddow, and they're doing it because she is smart, really smart, funny, really funny, and really nice. Some of them are voting for McCain.
Rachel is not afraid to treat her viewing audience as if it has both a brain and a vocabulary and she assumes they can pay attention to a topic for more than 10 seconds. She treats Pat Buchanan with dignity even as she skewers his commentary, and he respects her in spite of it. She didn't treat Barack Obama any differently than she does Pat Buchanan. Like with any of her guests she made Obama get deeper with his answers and didn't let him get away with sound bites.
This is such a refreshing change. Rachel also doesn't interview a pack of argumentative guests at the same time, which probably has a lot to do with maintaining the civility of her show. My daughter is as much in love with Rachel as she is Anderson Cooper. Actually now that I think about it, they do both kind of have an innocent kind of look, and both are not afraid to use self deprecating humor. Personally, I'm glad my daughter has found another talking head to idolize because I was getting sick of all the Anderson Cooper references.
***NOTE TO McCAIN CAMPAIGN*** You should have let John be John. The two best things I saw him do were the Al Smith Dinner and SNL. The only two times I even caught a glimmer of the old John McCain and it was bittersweet.
The reason I think Rachel serves as the perfect antithesis to Sarah Palin isn't because she's a lesbian, although that in itself would qualify in some people's minds. It's because she is flat brilliant, a Stanford/Rhodes scholar, a social activist rather than an evangelical activist, and she makes totally different assumptions about the people she is talking to.
She doesn't dumb down the conversation to stereotypical Joe Sixpack's assumed level. On the contrary, she assumes Joe is fully capable of understanding the points she is trying to make. If Joe has no problem getting the intricacies of NFL offenses, Joe is capable of getting the intricacies of the Wall Street melt down. She will not accept the dumbing down of America's political discourse, nor will she accept it's current state of incivility.
She and Pat Buchanan prove it is possible to disagree fundamentally and still be nice about it. You do not have to dehumanize your opponent to make your points, and you can still give the the respect of HEARING what they are saying while still disagreeing with them. Wonder of wonders, it's perfectly acceptable to even admit they might have a point you hadn't considered before. This is so refreshing. It's dialogue, not diatribe.
With the political season coming to a close, and having given MSNBC a huge ratings boost, I hope that Rachel's numbers keep increasing rather than decreasing as some experts expect will happen after the election. Sure's she's liberal and on MSNBC, but it's not so much what she says that makes me one of her ratings boosters, it's how she runs her show.
If Maddow was in the conservative camp, and had gotten politically active, the Hillary folks would have really had to take a look at a McCain/Maddow ticket, and Sarah Palin would still be in Alaska.
Sarah Palin should spend the next four years watching Rachel Maddow and take some lessons in how to treat the vast majority of the American electorate and her political oponents. We don't need any more attack dogs with lipstick.


  1. I've been watching and listening to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC since her first show went on air. She is brilliant, refreshing in her comments and as well I love the fact that she has Pat Buchanan on as a regular. It is so refreshing to not have diatribe spun at you and to finally have thoughtfulness, intellect and humor in serious subjects. One can clearly see the deep respect Maddow has for Buchanan, despite their differences, and I believe Buchanan has deep respect for her as well. Maybe that is why it is such a hit.

    I agree 100% with you Colleen. Palin could certainly learn a lot by listening to Rachel Maddow.

  2. Colleen, there are not too many folks for whom I have an immediate visceral reaction of admiration. My "detectors" seem, alas, wired to pick up the opposite stuff, and alarm bells go off quickly.

    Rachel Maddow is one of those who, from the moment I first heard her on NPR, immediately drew me to her. I couldn't have been happier when she got chosen for her current spot, and am finding, like you, she's widely admired. My 80-year old aunt, who is a voracious news watcher, thinks she's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    The others who have provoked a similar visceral reaction of admiration? Whoopi Goldberg, whom I saw defending Lance Bass when some of her colleagues on "The View" were beating up on him. And Jessye Norman. I could listen to her hum and be entranced.

    I learned to admire Anderson Cooper tremendously during Katrina, but for some reason, have never felt that same warmth for him.

  3. Talk about LITERAL synchronicity, Butterfly! We were posting at precisely the same time.

    I, too, think Colleen's comparison between Sarah and Rachel is wonderful, and very thought-provoking.

  4. It's way cool to be on the same page at the same time Bill. Love ya.