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Wall Street & Sarah Palin

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Casual conversations over last few days reveal that the selection of Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate was not a popular choice on Wall Street. Not many who work at investment firms seem able to avoid mentioning that she was the mayor of Wasilla, a place which strikes many as more foreign to Wall Street than, say, Beijing.
When pressed for an explanation and supplied with a few cocktails, some of those we talked with admitted that they suspected Palin wouldn't like them very much. Her life seems almost a repudiation of the aspirations and achievements of so many Wall Streeters. She is married to a man whose job involves having a strong back, working in oil and fishing. He earns a good-enough living doing this and his recreation time is spent on snow machines (not, as we would have said, snow mobiles), hunting and exploring the wilderness. No rounds at Shinnecock for the Palins.
What's more, she has so many children, one of whom is already having a child. It's like the Palins are trying not only to prove that they can enjoy a life without conference rooms, spreadsheets, beach houses and bespoke shirts. They're outbreeding those of us whose lives are characterized by those things. Even Wall Street's former uber-mother, Zoe Cruz, only managed to produce three offspring.
The Wall Street reaction to Palin illustrates more than class snobbery. It illustrates an important political dynamic that is commonly overlooked. We often hear pundits discuss the importance of "likeability" of a candidate for public office. But the truly more influential characteristic is the opposite: people judge candidates by their evaluations of how much the candidate would like them. Obama's supporters imagine that they'd get along fine with Obama, that he would enjoy spending time in their company. Palin's detractors suspect she might not even to respond to an invitation to their party, and if she did show up she'd be full of contempt. We're all narcissists in politics.
Of course, much of America may feel differently about Palin. Tired of politicos who often exude contempt for people with blue-collar jobs and old fashioned moral perspectives, they may finally have a candidate who would like them. We expect that Palin will go out of her way tonight, when she speaks at the Republican convention, to show these Americans that she really does like them.



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