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Sarah Palin Plays Chess

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Addressing the Tea Party, Sarah Palin wrote three notes on her hand: "Energy, Taxes, Lift American Spirits." Why? She already had notes in front of her on the podium. Surely she could remember three simple themes. Why write notes on her hand?

Here's my take on why: she knew that they would be visible when she gave the speech. And she knew that she would be made fun of -- as so stupid that she needs to write notes on her hand. And that's one of her most effective tactics -- to be made fun of. It's an integral part of her strategy of standing in for hardworking, Middle Americans, derided by the condescending, know-it-all liberal elites.

So what does the Obama administration do? Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had a great idea: he made fun of her. He wrote a grocery list on his hand at a White House briefing, and belittled Palin for not being able to remember her message. Thus the White House became a vehicle for Palin's narrative of the snooty elites who think they're better than average Americans.

Palin is a brilliant strategist. First, note that I just repeated Palin's key talking points: Palin has even us fellow travelers at The Huffington Post repeating, "Energy, Taxes, Lift American Spirits." Talk about earned media.

Palin's ploy also spoke directly to ordinary Joe and Jane. By writing her script on her palm, she got to identify with the unscripted real folks, heightening the contrast with the golden-tongued Obama and his reliance on the teleprompter. Hasn't everyone sometimes written a note on her hand? Doesn't putting your message on your palm literally define the common touch? The elites were clueless.

Sarah Palin is playing chess. I don't know what game the Administration is playing, but they just walked right into her carefully laid trap. Palin, the strategist, is amazing to watch. Her brilliance is her ability to tap in to the class conflicts that drive American politics these days. Obama, whom I have supported since Iowa, just doesn't get it.

Here's what he doesn't get: He believes in the American dream. He believes that if you work hard, even if you come from a modest, single-mother family, you can make it. You can even become President.

For him that's true. In fact, it's true for everyone in the White House. They're all there based on merit and hard work.

But there are millions and millions of Americans are out there, working as hard as they can, some just as smart as Obama, who never get anywhere. They clean your shirts, mop your floor, fix your TIVO, sell your computer service contracts. They work hard their whole lives, and they feel left out, disrespected, undervalued -- treated as if they are stupid.

So there's the Obama Administration's spokesman reinforcing Palin's narrative, showing that the elites think that average people who write notes on their palms are stupid.

We progressives better wise up, or the class conflicts that are driving American politics are going to defeat our most cherished goals: universal health care, addressing global warming, and all the rest of it. Smugness is fuel for the fire for Americans in the "missing middle" -- people who are neither poor nor rich. Americans whose incomes are between the 30th and the 87th percentile see themselves as hardworking people whom the American system has not served well. After all, incomes in this group have fallen by 13% since the late 1970s.

Have they lost ground because they are stupid? They don't think so.They think they've been screwed by the elites. What do you think?

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