But who are the Good Guys? John McCain and Sarah Palin think they are, and in this piece in the current issue of The Tablet of London, I try to explain the campaign to Britons through the lens of the Old West:

Tablet cover--The Wild West.jpgNow, in 2008, with terrorists posing a new threat, a new sheriff walks down these dusty streets, with a faithful but fiery gal by his side, ready to take on the evildoers: John McCain of Arizona and his trusty sidekick, Sarah Palin of Alaska. So thorough is the “Westernisation” of the Republican presidential ticket that the cover of The Weekly Standard, the flagship periodical of the neoconservative right, depicted McCain and Palin as Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in the classic High Noon. It all works (even that all-too-noticeable age difference). McCain plays up his reputation as a “maverick” – also the title of a popular 1960s TV series and a 1994 film remake – and Palin is routinely described as a pistol-packin’ mama who talks as straight as she shoots and would just as soon field dress an opponent as debate him.

That was certainly the case during the debate on 2 October between the vice-presidential candidates. Palin’s Democratic counterpart is Joe Biden, the senior senator from the tiny Eastern seaboard state of Delaware, and throughout their 90-minute duel Palin repeatedly underscored their divergent pedigrees by mixing tough talk and folksy charm and invoking the term “maverick” so many times, it threatened to become a verbal stampede.

Yet the paradox of all this Republican campaign hype is that the sturdy conservatism of the Old West is largely a myth, a national legend whose fictions McCain and Palin themselves represent.

Will it work? Or will the McCain/Palin tough talk backfire? Maybe they should stick with the “Star Trek” motif… 

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus