Thursday, July 9, 2009

The cult of Sarah Palin

Ordinarily, the resignation of a governor facing ethics charges would be greeted with yawns and finger-wagging as if to say, "See, he became too big for his britches."

But when Sarah Palin, the former Republican Party vice-presidential candidate, announced last week that she would step down from her post as governor of Alaska effective July 26, it only added to her legend. That is, to her supporters.

And I think that says a lot about them.

Of course, those of us who follow politics are wondering what her next move is -- a run for president? Senator? Political commentary from a conservative perspective? (Only with the last would the former TV reporter have any serious bona fides.)

Anyway, to some people Palin's resignation is just about one woman who wanted the power of the office but not the baggage that came with it. Many have even said, "It's all about her."

But this Palin-worship isn't really about her; rather, it speaks to the delusion under which the political right has always operated (but which is becoming more obvious by the day to us non-conservatives). Palin represents little more than a microcosm of much of the conservative movement in general -- impetuous, arrogant, whiny, paranoid, clueless, classless, juvenile. Folks have actually rallied around a figure that resembles them -- but in a negative sense.

In a way, that shouldn't surprise.

Conservatives have always sought some "magic bullet" that would turn people against their opponents and toward them -- that's been their strategy since Nixon -- because doing things that way is easier than actually defending their proposals and the personalities that espouse them. I can't tell you how many right-wing media outlets tried to slander both Bill and Hillary Clinton, insisting that they had "information" that, if publicized, would "finish them off for good." And when it doesn't happen -- well, the media are "hiding something." All because they refuse to admit that their own agenda today is offensive and impractical and has fallen flat, their candidates are to a man (or woman) fatally flawed and their appeals are now falling on deaf ears.

They got lucky with Reagan, who in their view came in riding on a white horse to save the day from evil liberals and a malevolent press corps; perhaps they believe that they can catch lightning in a bottle once again even though times have changed. It's a lot like a football team trying the same play that no longer works because the defense knows it's coming and how to counter it.

With apologies to Bobby Caldwell, what you won't do, do for hate ...

When Palin was announced as the running mate for John McCain, she was touted as a reformer -- that's since proven dubious -- and a "Washington outsider" (according to Jane Mayer, writing in the New Yorker, an outright lie).

During a recent Facebook discussion, a Palin supporter insisted that the Democratic Party "feared" her. If she wants to believe that ... well, she's entitled her her opinion.

But the demographics don't support her claims, especially long-term. Let us remember that 60 percent of the "youth vote" -- that is, under-30 -- voted Democratic (read: liberal) during the last general election, and people generally don't change their voting habits over a lifetime. A few months ago Sen. Arlen Specter, until then a Republican, switched to the Democratic Party. Reason? His power base in the Philadelphia suburbs, generally under the category of "Rockefeller Republicans," during the Clinton years began trending Democratic because they couldn't abide the right-wing extremism that began to typify the national Republican Party.

All of which leads to the main point: It's Palin, not her critics, who is out of touch with reality. What's more, the same must be said for her worshippers, who will b---- and moan about her treatment at the hands of those not of their party. But as the late Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne said, "Politics ain't beanbag." If she can't take the scrutiny, she has no business even running for office. And they thus don't have the right to complain.

No comments: