Six Characters in Search of a Blogger

1.2 Off to Never-Never-Land with Rachel Maddow (in a good way)
November 12, 2008, 1:08 am
Filed under: Women of Campaign 2008 | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ll teach you to jump on the wind’s back, and away we go.  -Peter Pan

Rachel Maddow is like the Peter Pan of MSNBC.  I’m not talking simply about the physical resemblance; it isn’t a stretch to see Maddow playing the part, flying across the set in a green tunic and her pixie hair cut, leading the “Lost Boys” of Olbermann, Matthews, Scarborough and Buchanan as they fight the good fight against FOX  (Bill O’Reilly as Captain Hook, anyone?)  No, what I’m referring to is her enthusiastic, easy boyishness; her absolute self-confidence; how skilled she is at what she does.  It’s like inhaling a little bit of magic dust every time I watch her.

Anyone with their eyes on the political scene in recent weeks–or for that matter, anyone who watches late-night television–must be aware of Maddow by now.  She has been taking the talk shows by storm; she’s mixed drinks with Martha Stewart, chatted on the couch with Jay Leno, been called the “Queen of Cable” by Stephen Colbert.  And here’s the thing:  the “Queen of Cable” title could actually be true.  Maddow has been a phenomenon, often beating her opponents Larry King and Sean Hannity in their 9pm time slot on rival news stations CNN and FOX.  And her show only premiered in September.

So what is this magic dust that Rachel exudes?  Where does this Peter Pan phenomenon come from?  The most succinct answer I can give is that she is simply being herself:  a highly intelligent and incisive pundit with a sharp wit, extraordinary memory, a cool head, and a polite manner.  And here’s the best part:  she’s a Democrat.  With a big, big D.  For years, liberals have had to endure pundits from their own party who, although they made sense to us, couldn’t penetrate the vast fog of political rhetoric Republicans would spout.  They were the nerds cowering in front of the bullies–think of Alan Colmes facing Sean Hannity.  Or if they weren’t nerds, they simply couldn’t beat the Republican strategy of TALKING SO LOUD AND WITH SO MUCH FORCE NO ONE COULD GET A WORD IN EDGEWISE EVEN IF THEY TRIED.

Enter Rachel, with her extraordinary calm and impeccable analysis–and with one, quick insight/puff she blows the Republican political fog away.  It’s like watching Peter Pan fly circles around pirates, with a little bit of playful glee thrown in for good measure.

What is also amazing about Maddow is her background–Ivy League without the pretention; Rhodes Scholar without the hubris; a prison AIDS activist; a doer of odd-jobs and deeds before she landed an on-air slot at a small Western Massachusetts radio station.  And her career has simply proceeded on from there–she got a gig as a co-host on an Air America radio show during its nascency, and from there started appearing as a guest on CNN and MSNBC.  After that, it was only a matter of time before The Rachel Maddow Show was born;  her talent was undeniable.   

But why is all of this important?  Because Rachel Maddow represents all of the promise in progressivism, at least as it is represented in television punditry.  Her intelligent analysis allows the big D Democratic argument–that government can effectively improve our society–to move away from its popular caricature in modern America, that of the bleeding heart, big spending solution.  Think of her as the next evolutionary step beyond Keith Olbermann’s eloquent and righteous outrage; Democrats can be playful and funny, too.  And win arguments with their wits, not with their volume.   

As I sit on my living room couch in my pajamas, typing away, I’m realizing that the Rachel Maddow/Peter Pan comparison seems to be a particularly apt symbol today, as indignant bloggers around the country react to Sarah Palin’s latest barb.  In her Monday night interview with Greta Van Susteren of FOX News, Palin called us “those bloggers in their pajamas, sittin’ in their parents’ basements, just writin’ garbage.”  

Let me pause here for a moment of Maddowian self composure.  Deep breath.  Ahem.  The pajama issue aside, if Sarah Palin is our nation’s future, then I don’t mind saying that I would rather be in Never-Never-Land than here.  I don’t think I could endure more of the passionate ignorance, religious intolerance, unchecked militarism, willful deceit, and championed mediocrity that has marked the last eight political years in our country.  So yes, I would like to go to a place where time seems to stand still.  Could we make it this one moment, now?  This moment when possibility is so palpable, despite the immense challenges we face as a nation?  This moment when my country doing right in the world seems possible again, when intellect and eloquence in prized politically, when “yes we can” is a better answer than “no, let’s just trust big business to do it”?    

Rachel, let me just say, should the worst come in 2012, I will be waiting for you here by the window in my pajamas. Promise me that we’ll just jump on the wind’s back, and away we’ll go.  Even if it’s only to your house in Western Massachusetts.  


The Rachel Maddow Show airs on MSNBC, every Monday through Friday at 9pm EST.  Check it out!