Politics And “Dancing With The Stars” or Why Won’t Bristol Palin Go Away?

I never thought I would find myself writing about, of all things, Dancing With The Stars here on The Watch. The only reason I am now is because this season Sarah Palin’s daughter was one of the contestants. I refer to the young lady as “Sarah Palin’s daughter” instead of using her name for a reason. Bristol Palin was on that show through no merit of her own. Thus far her only life accomplishment has been having a child out of wedlock. And even that was only notable because… she’s Sarah Palin’s daughter.

The reason I’m writing about this is because Bristol Palin had consistently been kept on the show by voters while much better dancers were being sent home. Her presence on Dancing With The Stars had become a cause for the political Right, as web sites were organized to rally Conservatives to Bristol Palin’s side. As with all things that are touched by Sarah Palin and her family, Dancing With The Stars was politicized this season. These people, the Palins, could politicize a trip to McDonald’s for a burger. I can hear Sarah Palin now.

“No Big Mac for me, thank you,” she would say. “I’ll just have a good, old fashioned American cheeseburger. I’m a simple girl from Alaska, not some Washington elite who needs a special sauce on his hamburger because her thinks he’s better than average, hard working Americans.”

Bristol Palin’s presence on Dancing With The Stars became a cause for the Right because that’s how those people think. For the Far Right and the Religious Right, any issue is reduced to a simple paradigm of “us or them”. If you are part of their cabal, as Sarah Palin’s daughter most certainly is, individual merit has nothing to do with it. These people voted for Bristol Palin because they thought it would piss off Liberals. And in their bizarre alternate reality, they most likely believed that Liberals were pulling together groups to vote off the young Palin. Her dancing acumen (or lack thereof) never entered into it, in spite of the fact that DWTS is a dancing competition.

For the record, and for the sake of my immortal soul, I feel that I should state that I’ve never been a fan of Dancing With The Stars. I’ve never willingly watched it before, and I haven’t been watching it this season. I largely rolled my eyes and shook my head when I found out Bristol Palin was going to be on the show. But as the season wore on, and it became something of a scandal that better dancers were being sent home while lead-footed Bristol Palin remained, we wound up watching the dancing portion (the first night) of the finale. I wanted to see for myself if Bristol Palin deserved to be in the finals based upon her dancing merit. From what I saw, she did not. She moved like a linebacker trying to stomp on a mouse. Fine for a high school play, but certainly not worthy of a nationally televised dance competition.

I also took a personal dislike to Bristol Palin. I quickly tired of hearing her whine, much like her mother, tossing out rubbish like “There’s lots of haters out there who are just waiting for me to fail” and saying that winning would be “a big middle finger to all the people out there that hate my mom and hate me”. Classy broad, huh? In the end, it was satisfying to see Bristol Palin lose not because she was Sarah Palin’s daughter or because of some misplaced political ideology, but simply because she was someone who didn’t deserve to be in the finals, and who acted like a disgruntled child, dismissing her coaches and seemingly expecting to be excused from putting in as much work as other contestants. For me the scene where Bruno whats-his-name and Palin’s partner were cajoling her to join them in a silly, free form dance to loosen up, which they did while she simply stood there with an annoyed look on her face, was instructive. When you add on top of that the fact that Bristol Palin repeatedly dismissed anyone who didn’t vote for her as “a hater”, and you discover quickly that there’s little to like about the young woman.

In the end, I applaud Bristol Palin for participating in Dancing With The Stars. She clearly didn’t want to be there, and probably only was because of some master plan of her mother’s (Sarah Palin seemed to enjoy her participation much more than Bristol did). But in the end she rose to the occasion and fulfilled her obligations. Not of being a dancer. No, it’s clear she’s not, and never will be, anything but a ham-fisted dancer. Bristol Palin’s reason for being on Dancing With The Stars was to keep her mother’s profile high in the media. To that end, she certainly succeeded. Bristol Palin should be applauded for having the nerve to carry on the family tradition of getting a lot of media attention while apparently not being very good at anything. But at least Bristol Palin saw it through to the end (not quitting half way through like her mother did the governorship of Alaska).

One would hope that Bristol Palin’s defeat (she didn’t just lose, she came in third) and the plummeting ratings of mom Sarah Palin’s own television show Sarah Palin’s Alaska would mark a turning of the fortunes of the Palin clan. One would hope these things together might mean that the public fascination with these inept people was fading. Somehow I doubt it, though. We live in a culture in which Celebrity is more important than accomplishment. Half of the stars that flitter through our collective consciousness are famous mostly for being famous. Sadly, that trend seems to be extending to our political leaders, as well. How else could an airhead like Sarah Palin seriously consider a run for the White House in 2012? Simple. She understands that, in the end, elections are largely popularity contests. And just as Bristol Palin got a free pass for much of Dancing With The Stars because a large portion of the American voting public was willing to support her irregardless of her capability, large portions of the American voting public support Sarah Palin despite ample evidence that the woman is all empty talk and sound bites.

I applaud Jennifer Grey for winning this year’s Dancing With The Stars. She was clearly the better dancer. Whatever the reasons, the voters rose up and selected the most qualified person based upon her individual merit, and were not seduced by the cult-of-personality that centered around a less capable contestant. Now if we can get the American voting public to do the same thing during our political elections, this country might have a chance of surviving in some recognizable form.

In the end, I’m glad that “Sarah Palin’s daughter” lost. Not because of any personal animosity toward the young woman herself. Rather, I am pleased that she lost because of that fact that for a lot of Americans her merit for being on that competition was intimately linked to the fact that she was Sarah Palin’s daughter. On a personal level, I take no joy in the fact that Bristol Palin lost. But I am quite pleased that “Sarah Palin’s daughter” lost, if for no other reason that for a lot of people that was enough of a reason for her to win. I believe the Palins have been skating by on their celebrity for far too long. It’s good to see that, at long last, a few well-placed “you betcha’s” was not enough to win.

Sadly, since most of today’s articles on Jennifer Grey’s DWTS win sport pictures of Bristol Palin and not of Jennifer Grey, I won’t be holding my breath. Somehow I suspect that actually winning the competition was never the Palin clan’s main goal.

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