If you're late to the game on this, here's a quick primer. Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol is a finalist on Dancing with the Stars, one of the highest-rated shows on television. Each week contestants are booted off the show based on a 50/50 metric: the votes from judges and the votes from the general public. More often than not, judges give Bristol and her dance partner Mark Ballas the worst scores. However, the couple avoids elimination because television viewers vote overwhelmingly for Team Bristol.
What does this mean? Well to some, it means the Tea Party is rigging the votes each week by registering fake e-mail accounts and voting over and over again for Bristol. Others refute the conspiracy theory altogether. Still others watch this prime time saga unfurl and see something much, much bigger. You see, this is all a microcosm for the upcoming 2012 presidential elections. A reader at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish explains:
Week after week, Bristol ends up in the bottom of the judging and nevertheless continues to get tons of votes. Care to guess who's doing the voting? People like my in-laws, who think she's "adorable" and "trying so hard, just like her mother."
This is what scares me.
You may think I am being trite and that this is just a silly TV show, but I truly think it's a microcosm of the 2012 election season. For Bristol, it doesn't really matter that she can't dance. The point is, her fans adore her. They don't care that she's a walking contradiction - an unwed mother who now flaunts her "abstinence" all over the country for $15,000 dollars per speaking engagement. They just know that they "like" her and, more importantly, they love her mother.
These people don't seem to care that they are being fooled by Sarah. They don't seem to care that their heroine doesn't read books, know policy, or practice rational thinking. They don't seem to care that she is little more than a vindictive, petty, hypocritical Queen Bee with a paranoid streak. All they know is that she's "trying so hard" and she's "just like them." Bristol Palin is Sarah Palin.
And each week, far more qualified dancers get voted off the island. Sure, they are technically proficient, terrific athletes, and talented artists. But they can't keep up with Bristol and her two left feet. This show stopped being about dancing a long, long time ago. Now it's about image. It's about power. And it's about who our next president could be.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.