Christina Patterson: We loved you Sarah because you made us all feel smart


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The Independent Online

Frankenstein couldn't have done any better.

Or maybe it was Frankenstein, and not Chuck and Sally Heath, who created the walking, talking, blinking, winking, grinning, snarling, hair-tossing Rocky Horror Show of a creature that was unleashed three years ago as a prospective leader of the Western world.

You could almost see the plastic wrapping. Here she was, this Executive Barbie, in her heels, and her glasses that weren't really glasses, and her chic little suit. Here she was, her hair in a style that made you think of all those films where the secretary suddenly takes out her hairpins and whips off her glasses and her boss whispers that he never realised she was so beautiful. Here she was in the kind of make-up you learn to do when you've won the local beauty pageant, and when you want to make sure that the glasses which say "serious" don't trump the eyeliner that says "hot".

She was so doggone cute, this Vice President Barbie who spent $150,000 on hairstyles and clothes in her first month of campaigning, so darn flirty and folksy and foxy that at first no one really noticed what she was saying. Americans did, and a lot of them seemed to like it. For the rest of us, it was a bit like watching The Wire. You could see the eyes glint, and teeth gleam, and great mascaraed eyelashes like spiders' legs, but you couldn't really make out the words.

When the subtitles came, it didn't really help. It wasn't just the down-home hokey, the donchas and betchas and how's-that-workin'-out-for-yas, or the words that sounded like words, but weren't. It wasn't the cosy references to a God who also wrote himself notes on his hand, or the through-the-looking-glass logic that turned healthcare for poor people into "death panels". It wasn't even the pro-guns, pro-life anti-science of a former Miss Congeniality whose idea of an energy policy was "drill, baby, drill". It was the fact that even when you'd seen the words written down, and translated into a language that bore some resemblance to English, they didn't seem to make any sense.

It was, of course, a little bit alarming to hear that the woman who wanted to become the second most powerful person in the world, but who didn't have a passport until 2006, thought she could see Russia from Alaska, and that Afghanistan was next to the US, and that North Korea was an ally, and that America was fighting a war in Iran. It was a little bit worrying that the only piece of Supreme Court legislation she could name was Roe vs Wade. And it was really quite worrying that a woman who wanted to shape policy that would affect the lives of millions said, when she was asked which newspapers she read, "all of 'em that have been in front of me", but couldn't name a single one.

It was definitely a little bit worrying that a woman who wanted to be second in command of the free world seemed to know as much about it as someone who'd spent her life in an Afghan cave. It was worrying that so many people seemed to support a woman who didn't seem to know anything about geography, or history, or politics, or science, or current affairs, or even about things she'd done – like support the building of "a bridge to nowhere" – which she then said she hadn't. And that even the things she said she knew how to do – like hunt, and fish, and catch caribou – she didn't really know how to do, except, according to some of her neighbours, as a tourist.

But although it was quite worrying, and although it made you think that the people who wanted her to be second in command of the free world must also not know very much about geography, or history, or politics, or science, or current affairs, which was also quite worrying, since their votes would determine, among other things, which wars were fought where, it was also gripping, and it was also funny. It was gripping because it couldn't not be gripping to see a woman so ambitious that even as a student she was called "Sarah Barracuda", and so ruthless that she has fallen out with many of her friends, neighbours and colleagues, describe herself as a "hockey mom". And it was funny because slapstick is nearly always funny, even though it's also embarrassing, and sometimes so embarrassing that it's painful.

It was also thrilling. It was thrilling because it's always thrilling, if you're in a nasty mood, to see people who seem to think quite highly of themselves make an utter idiot of themselves in public, and also because it makes absolutely everyone in the world feel smarter, and better informed, than they did before. We loved Sarah Palin – and let's be honest, we did all love Sarah Palin – because, like those mousy secretaries in the movies who beat the blonde and bag the boss, she makes us feel fantastic. If Miss Mediocrity from Nowheresville can run for Vice President then maybe we, sitting on our sofa, stuffing down Doritos, can do great things, too.

We also loved Sarah Palin because she wasn't a fortysomething posh boy who popped out of the womb dreaming of the speeches he'd make at party political conferences. And because her speeches didn't sound as though they'd been written by committees. Didn't sound, in fact, as though they'd been written at all.

It's a fine line between politics as fun, and politics as farce. Sarah Palin crossed it the first time she spoke, but at least if you're laughing, or scowling, or even if you're wincing, you're probably still awake.

When Tranströmer trended on Twitter

It isn't all that often that you find yourself agreeing with a Nobel Prize committee, or at least that you find yourself actually recognising the name of someone they've picked. But there's something weirdly thrilling about the award of this year's Nobel Prize forliterature to the poet Tomas Tranströmer. For a start, he's Swedish, which is a bit like "British jobs for British workers", and which also gives those of us with Swedish roots a nice little glow of pride. Then there's the fact that he's no spring chicken – that he is, in fact 80, and can't talk, because of a stroke – which gives almost everyone still writing in the world a tiny little ray of hope. And then there's the name, a lovely, musical, alliterative name that has, even more alliteratively, been "trending" on Twitter. "The only thing I want to say," he says in his poem "April and Silence", "gleams out of reach." To which one can only say: quite.

My little lesson for all the party leaders

Dear Dave, Ed and Nick, I know it's not the size of the dog in the fight, though I can't quite remember which dog or which fight, and I know that we can turn this ship around, even though a minute ago it was a boxing ring for dogs, and I know that we're not a country of bad people, or soggy people, or people who want something for nothing, and I know that families are always hard-working, unless they're feral, and need "more help with parenting", and I know that they're all "struggling" and "squeezed". But what I can't quite work out is why you seem to think that people who aren't married, and don't have children, which is actually quite a lot of us, don't also have a vote.