AMERICA: WOOOOOO!!

I am not exactly a grizzled veteran as a teacher, but I do have a few years under my belt at this point. While I am not yet as good at it as I need to be, I'm beyond the point of having trainwreck moments in the classroom. It's rare that I am at a loss for words or without a clear plan of what to cover that day. Today that happened, although the story isn't as entertaining as you might hope.

In my campaigns class we are talking about positioning the candidate – creating a brand and carving out a niche relative to the other candidates. We discussed this using the 2012 GOP field as examples. You know, Mitt Romney is the successful businessman with enough leadership skills to win elections in Massachusetts. Tim Pawlenty is a non-Mormon, less blow dried Romney. Huckabee is the flag-bearer for evangelical Christians. Haley Barbour is the good ol' boy party insider. Ron Paul is the libertarian. You get the idea.

Then we got to Sarah Palin.

No one was sure what to say about which issue Palin "owns" or the niche she carved out. Someone half-jokingly said "woman." When no one put forward a serious answer it fell to me to make the point. And suddenly I realized that I have absolutely no idea how to explain what Sarah Palin stands for…at least not in a classroom setting. What issue does she have any mastery over? What issue does she even talk about consistently, even if not well? Where is she located in ideological space? How can we even vaguely describe what she stands for?

This stuck with me for some time after class. Is it the social issues? Lots of Republican politicians have identical positions or stronger. She certainly has next to no grasp of foreign or economic policy. Yet we have to admit that she has a loyal following even if the mainstream GOP is waking up to the reality that she's poison. What are Palin and the Palin Crowd really about? We all intuitively understand it, but it's pretty difficult to put into words.

I came up with two answers, neither entirely satisfactory.

First, if Barack Obama says the sky is blue, she says it's green. Palin is about complete and consistent opposition to all things Obama. She loudly leads the charge against the dark-skinned secret Muslim usurper and underminer of the Constitution. She represents Real 'Mericans who know what a Real 'Merican looks like, and Barry Obama ain't it.

Second, and tied to the first point, Palin is essentially the American equivalent of European and Asian ultra-nationalist movements. Palin is about the politics of blood, of national identity. Sarah Palin isn't about a policy or an ideology; she is about American exceptionalism and restoring Real America to its rightful place in the world (and Real Americans to their rightful place in America, of course). To support Palin is to demand that the American social order of the 1950s (or earlier) be restored, that white folk with no fancy book-learnin' be placed once again on the altar and worshipped for their salt-of-the-Earthiness. A vote for Palin is a vote to return to the Disneyland, Leave It to Beaver fantasy of an idealized white Christian America of years past – mowed lawns, picket fences, two Ford freedom, and so on. This is to be Ours, as We are Americans and You are not.

Now if I can only think of a neutral classroom-appropriate way of describing Palinism as an American spin on the platform of your average Central Asian nationalist party. But honestly, what else is it but an affirmation that We are the chosen people and all would be righted if only our society was structured around that fact?

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82 Responses to “AMERICA: WOOOOOO!!”

  1. rumor Says:

    Sincere question, Ed: why can't you just describe Palin in your classroom they way you do here in your second last paragraph?

  2. Hobbes Says:

    @rumor – there are certain neutrality standards that profs are supposed to adhere to. Sometimes they get ignored, but for non-tenured faculty that can be dangerous, so you have to try to be as objective as goddamn possible.

    With that in mind, I'd probably go this route: Sarah Palin is the heroine of the working class American. She isn't one of them, but she speaks to them directly and casts them as the foundation of her country – she isn't the businessperson, she isn't the evangelical, she isn't trying to fight for the working class because the working class doesn't need fighting for. She's doing away with the idea that the working class should hope for a better life for their kids because what better life could they want than to be working class Americans?

    Romney makes the Wall Street people feel good about themselves. Pawlenty, same. Huckabee makes the evangelicals feel good about themselves. Palin makes the working class feel good about themselves.

  3. canuckistani Says:

    Can't you say she is the living embodiment of the paranoid style in American politics, as filtered through reality television?

  4. No Name McGee Says:

    Man, it's a good thing I'm not in your position. I would not have been able to prevent myself from saying that Sarah Palin's unique quality, her "special purpose" if you will, is something that she both has and is: a cunt.

  5. timmyg Says:

    Makes me glad I teach in Asia, where I can say whatever the fuck I want. Land of the free.

  6. Ike Says:

    Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu.

  7. Nunya Says:

    Seattle is known as the Capital of Alaska even to Alaskans. As such, I have had many opportunities to meet Alaskans and while I admire their grit and that they all seems to have at least two jobs involving some sort of brute force, they tend to have no idea of just how things work in the lower 48.

    Alaskans hate the government, almost to the last fiber of their being in spite of getting more federal dollars per capita than anyone in the country and an $8,000/year bonus from the permanent fund just for spending 6 months or more in the state. Most livlihoods are derived from extraction industries and like all miners, fishermen and loggers, they resent controls on their ability to earn vast sums of money even when that regulation ensures that their children might also be able to have a shot at those same jobs.

    When I saw Sarah Palin for the first time, I was almost impressed at the Republicans' choice. She was cute, down to earth and folksy without seeming like a complete hayseed from the great white north. Of course, as long as she was able to stay on message… namely about 30 minutes, that worked out just fine.

    When her true ignorance of life in the cities of America started to show up and her utter lack of knowledge of anything other than the goings on of the meth capial of Alaska was shown, that luster wore off. I can assure you that people in Alaska took no notice. Most people in the deep south didn't notice either. After all, she's "good people" in ther eyes.

    She doesn't represent anyone with a respect for education, any concept of the larger world, or any regard for the average worker but she does represent the shallow, closed minded America that seems to garner so much airtime these days.

    I think she's finished, politically, but she never really cared about politics. As one of the few relatively attractive women in Alaska, she's always had an inflated sense of importance. She is now leveraging that power to make a metric fuckton of money off of the yokels that love her.

    So yes, she does have a brand. I'd like to name that brand "Skeeter, Inc."

  8. HoosierPoli Says:

    What did George W Bush stand for as a candidate, besides being non-threatening, white, religious, and an empty vessel for corporate interests? He was impregnated by neoconservatism, but it was basically incurious acquiescence to the reality presented him by Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld. I can see the same thing happening with Palin. Except she has none of Bush's political advantages, she's actually an awful politician.

    Thankfully for everyone involved, I think she's more than happy to milk her celebrity. I mean, once you've started raking in five-digit speaking fees, free campaign stumping just looks so prole.

  9. eetraveling Says:

    I don't think "woman" is such a silly answer. She's selling a version of American womanhood that resonates with certain voters. It's a tough-love mother who will fend off a predator. A frontierswoman. It's a kind of appeal to the working class, like Hobbes says, but a gendered one.

    Mind you, I don't think she really IS that kind of woman — she clearly doesn't have much real persistence or strength. I think some of her supporters just love the added bonus of raising a middle finger to all genuine feminists. They want to have their cake (the sex appeal) and eat it too (the anti-woman policies).

    But I think it's that frontierswoman spirit, a "hearkening back" that conservatives just love, that has become her brand.

  10. Tosh Says:

    This has nothing to do with this post.. I just wanted to make Ed giggle…

  11. Mo Says:

    Oh please. If she weren't pretty, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. NoNameMcGee nailed it.

    A blow-up dollie for conservatard fantasies.

  12. RandyH Says:

    Sarah Palin's all about White Trash Resentment politics and her game is to always claim victim-hood in any argument. The "Lame-Stream Media" is always out to get her because she's just a plain huntin' and fishin' kinda gal. Therefore she will not give any interviews. When she has a scripted answer or a teleprompter in front of her, she makes a decent appearance but all other times it's Word Salad shooting out of her mouth.

  13. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Palin's purpose is to play to a particular Republican base, and at the same time distract liberals with her antics while the real conservative machine continues to dictate the issues of the day. The best solution to Palin is to ignore her. I got sick of Palin the day that the Oxford Dictionary decided to make "refudiate" a word. It was a huge fuss because of course refudiate is not a word; and yet these morons make it a word. The whole point of adding words to the dictionary is that they should be words in common usage. Yet Sarah Palin became so speshul that her typo suddenly gets made into a real word.

  14. Tosh Says:

    Wants the referent to be relevant…
    *antipostmodern?*

  15. Halcyon Says:

    I think you all missed the "spite" portion of what she's selling. Sure, everyone else is there partly to stick it to the hippies, but that's her niche. If it makes a liberal somewhere happy (or if they think it might sometime, somewhere make a liberal happy) then she's against it. If it makes hippies mad, she's for it. That is 90% of her shtick and 100% of her policy thinking.

    And, No Name McGee, she has neither the warmth nor depth that that implies.

  16. Tosh Says:

    Reactionary: Im OK with that..
    Revolutionary: Not even close.

  17. daphne Says:

    She would say commonsense conservatism. I would say professional victimhood.

  18. J. Dryden Says:

    Not that there's anything new about Naked Self-Interested Presented As Folksy Sanctimony–we Americans didn't invent the brand, but mmm-mmm, do we do it right; in the English speaking world, only Australian politicians give us good competition in this field.

    Ah, but here we are talking about her. Deplore her as much as we might, she wins. What is she 'for'? For Sarah Palin being the subject of the discussion. Period. So long as shiftless journalists will start articles about her with "Love her or hate her" (and really, can one think of anything more shudder-inducing than someone so indifferent to her affect that she does not distinguish between being loved and being hated?), so long as Slate keeps running columns about her latest moronic gaffe, so long as we continue to play along with the collective joke that is her demand for our attention, she wins.

  19. Patrick Says:

    There is a pretty big anti-intellectual movement amongst Republicans. IMO, she represents the rejection of expertise and authority: the idea that government should be run by an average person that you identify with rather than someone who his specialized in running government, whom you probably have little in common with.

  20. Bobby Flashpants Says:

    Ed – regarding campaigns and the teaching thereof, are you aware of the board games 1960 and Campaign Manager? Both were developed by the same people, and essentially turn the Nixon/Kennedy and McCain/Obama elections into 2 player strategy games. They're very in-depth and factor in a lot of actual campaign strategy as game strategy. 1960 is older, bigger, and takes longer to play, while Campaign Manager packs just as much gaming goodness into a simpler and quicker game. They're both published by Z-Man games.
    Please note- I am not a shill for the company, just a fan. Also, 1960 was itself derived from an earlier game by the same devs, Twighlight Struggle, which is based on the Cold War.

  21. Jimcat Says:

    What's wrong with just saying "nationalism"? It's obvious enough and I don't see how it would get a professor in trouble.

  22. gorillagogo Says:

    Sarah Palin is the "pissing off the liberals" candidate. She has an uncanny ability to tap into the lizard brain of spite that motivates a large swathe of the teabagger movement.

  23. acer Says:

    Canuckistani nailed it. (Note: Hofstadter's big-city collectivist Jewishness may be classroom-inappropriate.)

  24. displaced Capitalist Says:

    I'll just leave this here for giggles:

  25. Erin Says:

    Nunya, Permanent Fund dividend last year was around $1,200. Not sure out of which ass you pulled $8,000.

    I don't hate government with every last fiber of my being; I hate the assholes who are elected and don't want to do their jobs.

    Seattle is capital of Alaska only to a few Southeastern communities that can fly to Seattle in less time for about the same money than to Anchorage. The actual capital, Juneau, has direct flights to both Seattle and Anchorage.

    There are a lot of people in this state that obviously vote against their interests. My girlfriend's dad is one of those people who stockpiled ammunition the day Obama was elected, whines about how much property tax he pays and is voraciously against a seasonal sales tax (no state income tax in Alaska and no sales tax in Anchorage; property owners carry the burden). He's an example of the kind of person who believes Joe Miller was a viable Senatorial candidate; one person out of thousands. There are a few spots of blue here, the rest is occupied territory.

  26. a Says:

    She is a celebrity, just like Richard Hatch. Seriously, what has that guy done besides play on Survivor & not pay his taxes & just last week he was once again in the news.

  27. bb in GA Says:

    Not one of you LIBERAL FEMINISTS called out NoName's Maher-like anti-woman slur on Ms. Palin.

    Isn't that speshul?

    //bb

  28. John Says:

    As others have said, Palin's niche is best described as Nationalism. Personally I would say Ultra-Nationalism, but then I sometimes deal in exaggerated extremes, so that may just be bias speaking.

    Recall the 2008 campaign, with talks of Real America and the "real Pro-America parts of this nation". Recall when she was heckled at that one rally and her response was something along the lines of, "You'd better thank the troops that give you the right to do that", or somesuch.

    Her platform is not one of celebrating and honoring the freedoms we have, but rather the "benefactors" that "allow" us to have those freedoms. Her platform is not pride and respect for the people of this nation, but only the people of this nation that demonstrate sufficient "Patriotism". Her problem is not with presidential teleprompters (as we can well see from her little "hand-written" cheat sheet, natch), but rather that the president using a teleprompter is not sufficiently "American".

    Ultra-Nationalism, plain and simple. The true shame is that there are very large chunks of this nation that either don't see the naked nationalism, or don't remember what happens to countries that embrace Nationalistic politics too heavily.

  29. Da Moose Says:

    I don't think you can really discount the "woman" comment from one of your students. I think if you take her rhetoric or what she seeks to represent and put those characteristics into a man, that man is a nobody. Certainly, the two main points you make are highly pertinent. But, I think what puts her over the top is her vagina. Think of her as a Eva Peron only just a lot dumber. Of course, then again, one could argue that Eva Peron had enough charisma to put her over the top even if she was Evan Peron. So, maybe that's not the best comparison.

    Interesting piece though because it illustrates that our country is at another major political crossroads where traditional 20th century political stereotypes in America are rapidly becoming a piece of history. The future is, indeed, uncertain which is a good thing. I am glad that the status quo is finally being challenged in these ways even if it is very painful to watch at times.

  30. acer Says:

    @Nunya:
    Back before it mattered, wasn't the First Dude involved in some bullshit Alaskan Independence movement? That's how I think of Palin's base: delusional charity cases who think the very forces keeping them alive and solvent are in fact oppressing them. There's plenty of room in AK. Why not just call the whole thing off, let them establish Teabagistan there and see how it goes?

  31. "Fair and Balanced" Dave Says:

    A vote for Palin is a vote to return to the Disneyland, Leave It to Beaver fantasy of an idealized white Christian America of years past – mowed lawns, picket fences, two Ford freedom, and so on.

    Oh, you mean the time period when a large portion of the populace had good paying jobs thanks to strong labor unions and the top Federal income tax rate was around 90 percent?

  32. Mo Says:

    Still can't bring yourselves to recognize that she's selling SEX, gussied up in nationalism or whatever conservatard delusion du jour?

  33. Caerid11 Says:

    The best way I have of describing Palin is this: if she wasn't a beauty-pageant winning MILF, then her biggest accomplishment in life would have been running Wasilla's most notorious meth-lab.

  34. acer Says:

    The good news is that Palin is in serious trouble now. The bad news is too horrifying to contemplate:

    http://www.doublex.com/blog/xxfactor/bachmann-will-form-presidential-exploratory-committee

  35. Another Luke Says:

    Her base is the rubes like Joe the Plumber.

  36. bb in GA Says:

    @acer

    Would y'all get a pant load if AK became T-stan? Wouldn't Miz Sarah and the gang then go on up to ANWR and "Drill baby drill!"?

    And pro'lly sell it to China just to SPITE you. :-)

    //bb

  37. Sarah Says:

    Here is a blog post which has seemed to me to be the best explanation of Sarah Palin's appeal (which is pre-Nov 2008, but I think the general theme still holds true):

    http://imnotsorrydotnet.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/consider-the-source-2/

  38. johnsmith1882 Says:

    A couple of posters have mentioned one or the other of the two things that I think she represents, but I feel the need to combine them: resentment, and know-nothingism. She is the queen of willful, proud ignorance, and all it stands for. The second dove-tails into the first, as when you point out her willful ignorance (not stupidity, there's a difference), the claws of white-trash resentment come out. Put another way, she's the lowest common denominator, the worst of both worlds.

  39. ladiesbane Says:

    Do you remember the "Flaming Moe's" episode of The Simpsons? When a big restaurant chain (Tipsy McStagger's Good-Time Drinking and Eating Emporium) wants to buy the drink recipe, Moe wants to meet Tipsy McStagger himself. The rep says, "Oh, there is no Tipsy McStagger; he's just a composite of other successful logos." THAT is Sarah Palin. All spin, self-promotion, and desire to win the popularity contest that other people call Democracy. I don't think she even wants the job; she just wants celebrity power. The ignorant, self-serving way she ran the office in her half-term as governor would be a great place to start a class toward identifying what she's all about.

    The zeitgeist into which she tapped is the anti-intellectual attitude seen in her "I don't need to think, I only need my values" (i.e., unexamined sentiments, personal choices, and vague generalities) position that mirrors the worst, most thoughtless trend in America. She makes them feel secure. The wink, the syrupy tone, the good looks — it's all the things the Right hated about Clinton, really.

  40. johnsmith1882 Says:

    @ acer
    While it's an empirical fact that to look into those dead doll's eyes will drive one to the brink of insanity, I don't think that we have to worry too much about her. The crazy retard vote (the 27%ers) won't be enough to pull her across the line. Although, she could end up as the VP on a ticket, say under Huckabee? That would almost be too good to be true, she would be a worse drag on the ticket than Palin was two years ago. But ya can never underestimate (overestimate?) what the righties will do, tis true.

  41. acer Says:

    @bb:

    Teabaglunchistan does not acknowledge the wily yellow hordes unless it's with bullets. A commie is considered 3/5 of a person. We can wreck the environment without your multi-culti globalism, thanks.

  42. Sarah Says:

    "Not one of you LIBERAL FEMINISTS called out NoName's Maher-like anti-woman slur on Ms. Palin.

    "Isn't that speshul?"

    Sorry bb, I just got here. I'll certainly agree that the c-word is a little harsh and that sexism against Sarah Palin or any other female neocon is still sexism, but I can't help thinking a couple of things: that on some level, she's bringing the sexism on herself by working with the party that wants to bring us back to the time when women were barefoot and pregnant and subject to the whims of their husbands and fathers, therefore making it a little hypocritical for neocons like yourself to complain about sexism against her, and that it is in fact true that the only reason why she has any leverage at all within the GOP (indeed, the reason why she was chosen as a VP candidate in the first place) was based on her looks–attractive white lady with a low weight-to-height ratio and therefore pleasing to the eyes of the male white voter, AKA the GOP base. If she looked like, say, Gabby Sidibe (who won an Oscar last year and was subject to a whole range of nasty comments because of her looks) we wouldn't even be talking about her and no one would know who she is or give her the time of day, least of all the GOP leadership, therefore it is again hypocritical, on that second count, to complain about sexism against her.

    Again, I'll reiterate that calling her a cunt is sexist, but she was chosen based on her looks because sex does sell (look at all the products that get marketed under that principle for proof) and the GOP was trying to sell the McCain-Palin ticket with that principle. Complaining about sexism against a candidate who is chosen for sexist reasons (indeed, is still on the national stage for sexist reasons) does not compute.

  43. Amanda Says:

    @fair and balanced dave: You mean going back to a time when women had no opportunities, blacks were still treated as second class citizens, and the white Christian male was king sounds good to you? Sign me up, Dave, let's take the DeLorean back together. I'll do your laundry like a good housewife and sternly nod my head in frustration when you talk about the n$&&ers who dirtied up your drinking fountain.

  44. Monkey Business Says:

    I think Sarah Palin represents the triumph of style over substance. She's an attractive conservative woman, which if she had something even vaguely resembling an intellect would be a formidable opponent. Fortunately for the rest of us, she is about as politically astute as your average mouthbreather, which relegates her to being the standard-bearer of people that judge their presidential candidates by who they'd rather have a beer with, rather than any kind of ideas or qualifications.

    I consider her particular brand of conservatism the most dangerous of all, as it marries the anti-intellectualism of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the intense hatred of anyone non-white and non-Christian of Apartheid and the Holocaust, with an ultra-Nationalist streak rivaling Germany pre-World War I and II. Basically, all the worst elements from some of the biggest disasters of the last 150 years. The idea of giving someone like that the keys to our nuclear arsenal is insane.

  45. terraformer Says:

    As suggested above, it's about resentment and sticking it to progressives.

    A regular commenter on another site (that links to this one) summed it thusly:

    "Today's conservatism is defined as being against whatever progressives are for, updated daily."

  46. Basilisc Says:

    How about a combination of Jacksonian Anti-Elitism and Nativism. Both have strong, deep, lengthy roots in the US political culture and both terms are more or less neutral.

    Of course, it's less than a half-step from anti-elitism to anti-intellectalism (and from that to outright stupidity); and it's less than a half-step from nativism to jingoistic bigotry (and from that to outright racism). But you can let your students make those connections.

  47. bb in GA Says:

    @Sarah

    Sounds to me like the analog of "She was askin' for it.." in a rape case.

    //bb

  48. Zamboni Sam Says:

    I think she's easy to sum up: anti-intellectual jingoism.

  49. Sarah Says:

    "Sounds to me like the analog of "She was askin' for it.." in a rape case."

    Nah, false analogy. As a matter of fact, the reason why that's a false analogy is already covered in the post, so you're either playing dumb or you actually are dumb by making this claim. Either way, it would be a waste of time for me to spell it out for you.

  50. Paul W. Luscher Says:

    Just say Sarah Palin is the living definition of a reactionary. That should do it.

  51. ladiesbane Says:

    bb, no! I too missed this thread, or I would have commented sooner. Sarah Palin's trades so heavily on her physical attractiveness as a female, and has so little else to offer, that it seems inexcusable that she was offered a chance at the Vice Presidency. She doesn't fill Dan Quayle's shoes, much less Aaron Burr's. Can you argue that her scholarship, experience, activism, oratory, military service, or any other track record merit this invitation? If being a heartfelt conservative and anti-feminist were all it takes, they would have asked the very bright and sharp Phyllis Schlafly (who was also an early Palin bandwagoneer, incidentally, as well as a divorced woman who supports criminalizing divorce, and in many other ways is a perfect fit for the new right wing hypocrites.)

    Palin was vaunted for the same reason that Bobby Jindal and Michael Steele were: the GOP wanted to expand the brand. As a brand representative and public figure, Sarah Palin is a hollow mockery. The new GOP likes their women pretty and not too bright. So NoName's zeugma, though vulgar, was valid; defending rapists by a null argument ("she asked for it") is not. Plus, what's with the all-caps? Being a feminist doesn't give me bad vision, sir.

  52. Major Kong Says:

    With a lot of hard work and more than a little luck she might just make a passable night manager at a Denny's somewhere.

    Not day manager, mind you. She's not ready for the big-time just yet.

  53. Bob Says:

    @bb: "Not one of you LIBERAL FEMINISTS called out NoName's Maher-like anti-woman slur on Ms. Palin.
    Isn't that speshul?"
    Just as I find it absurd when conservatives demand every Muslim on the planet weigh in every single time any Muslim anywhere does or says something violent, sexist, etc. I really don't feel it my responsibility to call out every numbskull on the left. I had enough confidence in the readers of this post to decide for themselves that such language was wrong that I saw no reason to pound the point home. But you feel it important to police the comments for us as we are apparently too simple-minded to figure such out for ourselves. Isn't that speshul?
    @"Fair and Balanced" Dave: "…and the top Federal income tax rate was around 90 percent?" The top marginal tax rate was 91%. No one paid 91% of their income to the federal government.

  54. Liberal by the grace of Darwin Says:

    You can always tell when bb is trolling: He switches to that annoying disingenuous hayseed horseshit SOUTHERN CRACKER good ol' boy speak — which obviously (to me) takes a fair amount of intellect to type up so perfectly and typo-free. "But iz jest a-jarshin' ye! Hee haw!" *played off by banjo*

    When he switches back to educated grammar, shit got real.

    You're welcome.

  55. Ellie Says:

    I think that a lot of the comments are touching on what Palin is "about", but missing the most important part of what's going on.

    Palin is all about taking REAL victimhood and justified anger of the white working poor, and RE-DIRECTING it on to the approved targets.

    Those people the comments here are calling "white trash"? By and large, they ARE victims. They're victims of job outsourcing, union-busting, bad education, ignorance, soulless corporatism, miserable wage-slavery, dishonest banks, predatory lenders, under-regulation of business, and over-taxation compared to what they actually get for their taxes. Problem is, they lack – and pretty much have ALWAYS lacked – the education and the intellectual skill to figure out the real reasons why their lives suck so bad.

    Palin – like so many other blow-hards of the right – tap into the existing misery, anger, and ignorance, encourage it, and REDIRECT IT AT THE WRONG TARGETS. The problem isn't out-sourcing corporations, low wages, or unregulated banks – it's unions! Why should "lazy", "spoiled" union members have good jobs, when you're suffering in a crummy no-heath-chare job and tons of debt? Look over there – blame them! The enemy isn't the rich, its the blacks/immigrants/homosexuals/liberals who aren't "real Americans" like you – look! Over there! Blame the people who don't look like you (and please ignore the fact that you might have similar economic predicaments to those people even though they look and talk funny)! The problem isn't that you get nothing for your tax money or that the rich pay nothing – the real problem is that your money is "stolen" by big-city liberals – blame the left! The problem isn't that our culture has devolved into soulless consumerism – the problem is a lack of sufficient flag-waving jingoism! The problem isn't that America's mainstream religions are failing to provide relevant, meaningful spiritual guidance – the problem is homosex and abortion! The fact that you're falling behind despite two wage earners in the workforce has nothing to do with the economy or the lack of health care or child care – the problem is feminism! So on and so forth.

    Palin is "about" manipulating a key component of the Republican voter base, in the same way that those people have been manipulated for ages and ages. She is not unique. She gussies up the message with folksy-talk and a pretty new face, but it's the same old playbook the right's been using for decades. (In fact, it's essentially the same damn thing Reagan did, except that several decades ago it worked on a much bigger segment of the population, and the production values were higher.)

    What actually surprises me is that smart people on the left think Palin is "about" something new or special, when she's nothing but the same old tactics in a sexy new package.

  56. bb in GA Says:

    The "Muslims must denounce argument" is bogus because I let enough time pass in cyberspace, that a least a notice from your side should have shown up.

    Sarah, I'll cop to really being dumb sometimes rather than playing dumb.

    Are you and ladiesbane saying that you believe that since Ms. Palin trades on her attractiveness consciously that somehow attenuates the effect of using vile and degrading terms for her rather than dealing with specifics she might offer?

    If I said something really mean and sexually degrading about some Lefty woman, say Ms. Garafalo, for any reason, could I ever justify it?

    I think not.

    I think you are just covering for your boy NoName with the mildness of your rebuke. Same for NOW's comment on Maher.

    Shucks, I Love you too, Lib_BY_ Grace

    //bb

  57. johnsmith1882 Says:

    @Ellie,
    I agree with every word of your post, but still feels as though you haven't hit the nail squarely on the head. What you describe, the obfuscation and fear, are the tactics of American conservatism as a whole, not just Palin. That is all of what conservatism has to offer, without fear and obfuscation, it's even emptier than the hollowed-out shell of an ideology it currently is. Your example of redirecting middle-class anger at the wrong targets is the ultimate example of conservative tactics, fear and obfuscation welded together and utilized to the fullest measure.

    The question though, is, what does Palin represent? After reading your post and thinking on it a little longer, I think that she represents the "we're not even pretending anymore that this isn't about racism, and fear, and demagoguery, all the vile shit we've been up to for the last forty years, behind the thin facade of 'fiscal responsibility and small government'. We're not even gonna pretend anymore that this isn't what we're really up to, what we really stand for." That's what Palin represents; modern conservatism not even bothering to pretend anymore that it isn't lying to your face, picking your pocket, sending your kid to fight some sand-niggers, pushing old ladies into traffic, kicking your dog, and cutting the middle class's throat. No, it's nothing new, but they were never this openly brazen about it.

  58. jwm Says:

    Wow, seriously? She is the working class, everyman outsider who approaches Washington with a common-sensical 'who do they think they're foolin?' attitude. How is that hard?

  59. Middle Seaman Says:

    Palin is an extreme and simplistic right winger who hates and despises democrats (Obama included) and all their goals and values. She sees business as the most important component of the country and fully identifies with all their values and needs. She is also a flame thrower.

  60. BillCinSD Says:

    I'm going with New Age Horatio Alger hero — Ragged Dan for the 21st Century.

  61. Sarah Says:

    Well bb, I suppose I'm saying that since Palin actively denounces the activities of feminists and joins in that activity with *your* boy Limbaugh (who was quoted as saying that feminism is about ugly women participating in society), then she shouldn't expect a lot of enthusiasm from feminists in denouncing the sexism which is directed at her. She's actively trying to take us back to pre-1950, fer chrissakes, and possibly to pre-1920 or even pre-1848 (the time period when sexism and derogatory comments directed at women were par for the course), and in doing so unraveling the sweat, blood and tears of generations of women who have fought for the right to vote, get college educations, work outside the home, and be treated like human beings. Feminists, like any other group, have limits on their resources of time, money, and patience, and given the choice between coming to the defense of someone like Palin (or Bachmann, or Malkin) who would then turn around and bite me for my trouble, or picking low-hanging fruit like the recent attempts in *your* state to criminalize miscarriages (which is so fucking stupid I can't even articulate), I'm going after the low-hanging fruit, especially considering that it's more relevant to me.

    I assume you are talking about Bill Maher. I have no idea what NOW did or did not say about him, and since I am not a member of NOW I doubt they would care what I thought about their statements one way or the other. I am aware that he is a sexist douchebag, but his non-sexist related content is awesome enough that I can compartmentalize and overlook his douchebaggery. What, you think I'm going to call for HBO to get rid of him and sign Limbaugh, Hannity or Beck instead? We can't always have things exactly the way we want, although it's a model we should be striving for, and in Maher's case I think we have to take what we can get. I don't get HBO anymore, though, so if he said something really egregious recently and NOW blew it off, then it would probably be up to their dues-paying members to say something to them about it.

    I don't know NoName (contrary to what you seem to think, liberals don't all know each other) and I can't even say for sure what his ideological leanings are, but I think he was just articulating what the GOP leadership thought about Sarah Palin when she was picked for VP (even if they weren't willing to say it out loud or use the c-word if they did). So, if the GOP leadership brought her in to bring some T&A to the 2008 campaign, why on earth would you object to a liberal who is simply saying that out loud (even if he did not have to be quite so vulgar about it)? The whole point of this post and this discussion is that she does not *have* any "specifics" that she "might offer" beyond window-dressing.

  62. Noskilz Says:

    How about just going with she's a good example of someone who traffics entirely on the strength of attitude – the nth generation of style over substance campaigning. It works – she has devoted fans, got to be the govenor of Alaska and McCain's running mate – but between the fact there doesn't seem to be much of anything underneath the posturing and the concerns of the particular fanbase she's playing to, the breadth and depth of such a candidate's support among the general public is rather limited.

    If someone in class really wants to try to run with the idea that there is much more to her than that, it's likely to be a very short trip, and you won't even have to be mean or snarky about it.

    I'm not sure what a good term for such a political figure would be – niche fantasist? Novelty Act Candidate?

  63. The Fash-est Says:

    Now if I can only think of a neutral classroom-appropriate way of describing Palinism as an American spin on the platform of your average Central Asian nationalist party.
    Heh. What's that word for ultra-nationalist authoritarian conservative movements?

  64. mother earth Says:

    many, many, good thought provoking comments here. I think @Ellie comments resonate the most with me. Or maybe I just think Palin is the modern day version of the snake oil salesman. They've been around for a long, long time and it's the same old spin, what I've got will cure all, buy it here. Sarah is just selling that a vote for her will cure America and return us to those glorious and grand good old days.

  65. bb in GA Says:

    Sarah:

    Thank you very much for taking your time to fill out your position. Time is a precious commodity.

    The reference to NoName as "your boy" was a rhetorical device we learned at troll school. I wasn't being literal.

    I'm not asking you to do any research, but do you have any handy quotes from the 2008 Repug high ups that say something like

    "We picked Ms Palin cuz she has a (sexual appurtenance) that just won't quit!"

    OR

    are you just doing that ol' psych thing – projecting what you think the Resluglican leaders thought/think/thank?

    In the interest of accurate quotation from someone in your reciprocal manner designated as "my boy":

    From The Undeniable Truths of Life (via google) by Rush Limbaugh:

    "24. Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society."

    //bb

  66. jjack Says:

    When Sarah Palin ran for Governor of Alaska her niche was exactly what you point out: not having an ideology. She was going to use "common sense". People ate it up and she used it to her advantage. On a national stage she is using it to her disadvantage by trying to pretend she has an ideology (which would require her to know a thing or two about…anything) and failing miserably.

  67. Sharkbabe Says:

    She's a wankdoll for the Fox/viagra crowd. That's it.

  68. Ruthie Says:

    "And suddenly I realized that I have absolutely no idea how to explain what Sarah Palin stands for . . . . What issue does she have any mastery over? What issue does she even talk about consistently, even if not well? Where is she located in ideological space? How can we even vaguely describe what she stands for?"

    Sarah Palin is about WINNING! The desperate, winning-at-all-costs sort of victory that appeals to people who dream of the odds favoring them, and who rationalize their purchase of Lotto tickets as an "investment." Palin's supporters identify with her dysfunctional domesticity because they too are not perfect. In a world of TV soundbites between snacks, Palin's views expressed in terms of horrifying cliches and word-salad run-ons resonates. In short, Palin is the Charlie Sheen of politics: Even if you can't stand her, you don't want to change channels because you might miss the inevitable train wreck.

  69. Ellie Says:

    @johnsmith1882:

    "I think that she represents the "we're not even pretending anymore that this isn't about racism, and fear, and demagoguery, all the vile shit we've been up to for the last forty years, behind the thin facade of 'fiscal responsibility and small government'. "

    Putting together your comment with what I was trying to get at, let me rephrase it this way:

    The power-brokers on the right have spent decades doing what I described – i.e., victimizing the poor (first) and then the middle class (next in line), while doing their damdest to convince one group of victims (the straight white Christian ones) that the bad effects of right-wing policies were the fault of the other (non-white, non-Christian, and/or gay) victims. They did it through a combo of tapping into and encouraging pre-existing prejudices, while also seeding new & improved hatreds. After decades of this, they have a base tat consists, in part, of poor, straight, Christian white people who are not ENRAGED. They're enraged at all the wrong targets, but that's the point. And now there is a lot of seething rage out there – what to do with it?

    Palin taps into that angry demographic by being "one of them", and being the epitome everything that the stereotypes of the "bad" people aren't – she's NOT what they've all been taught to hate and revile – she's the "opposite" of the enemy, the embodiment of the "good". [Black and brown people are lazy; she's white and "hard-working." Feminists are ugly and childless; she's pretty and has a big family. Non-Christians are sinful; she's a good Christian with "typical" family problems that she solves in the "right" ways (e.g., preggo daughter has baby, not birth control or abortion), unlike those evil sexually-deviant homos and baby-killers. "Elite liberals" are eggheads who talk in fancy intellectual language that's hard to understand, teach liberal indoctrination in schools, and think they know more than "ordinary" people because they read a bunch of irrelevant books (the US has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism); she's poorly educated and "plain talking", with "common sense", and hasn't been "corrupted" by effete intellectualism or too much useless book-learning. Union members are foreign and socialist; she's an all-American frontierswoman who believes in entrepreneurship and "personal reasonability", not "government handouts". Etc.]

    In sum – she's one of them, and she's mad too!

    But who exactly "one of them" is, and what they're all so mad about, has been CAREFULLY ORCHESTRATED. Working-class white Americans have been systematically TAUGHT how to think of themselves, and how to define the other. They've been TAUGHT how, and who, to hate. (Yes, there were pre-exiting identities and prejudices – but it's all been manipulated and the worst parts nurtured and magnified, ON PURPOSE.)

    Palin is this: the embodiment of the identity they've been taught to have, and the opposite of the "other" they've been taught to hate.

    That identity is, as you pointed out, an ugly one, created for ugly purposes, and it no longer needs to be hidden.

  70. Ellie Says:

    oops – there's an extra "not" before "ENRAGED" in my last post!

  71. Andrew Says:

    What's non-neutral about describing Palin as an ultra-nationalist and white Christian supremacist?

  72. cleter Says:

    Well, what did George Wallace stand for? She's basically Hot George Wallace.

  73. Senescent Says:

    She's the candidate of national identity.

  74. RMGHicks Says:

    Lots of great comments here. It is well nigh impossible to determine what someone like Palin stands for. Attempting to plumb the depths of her mind leaves one looking into an endless empty void.

  75. My Says:

    I hate Sarah Palin. Think about what it takes to truly hate a person you have never even met, who has never done anything specifically to you personally or otherwise.

    I hate her because: she is vapid; she has no dignity; she works to dissolve the dignity of others; she is vacuous; she is a tool, for the right, for the fascists, for the plutarchists, for the nuttiest of the wingnuts, for herself, for anybody with some bucks or an easy question; she is proudly ignorant; she is a phony; she is famous for being famous a la politics just as so many others are a la music/TV/etc; she doesn't even truly care, such that she would be happy doing anything that got her similar rewards; she's a liar; she does not give a shit about her fellow man/woman/American citizens, to a man/woman/American citizen; she is a willful hypocrite; she is a totem for all these things and more to people who are too lazy to wake up.

    Fuck Sarah Palin.

  76. My Says:

    Oh, and to answer Ed's situation: Why the fuck, after all the time and effort you've put into getting as far as you have, would you even discuss her? Why waste the time? Why give credence to something so….so distractingly useless? Shit, talk about what Luntz does to help manipulate people's emotions, talk about media consolidation, but don't waste your students time talking about Snooki effing Palin…

  77. My Says:

    students'

  78. petester Says:

    Dunno if you were looking for a serious answer here. Can't say I bothered to read the bile stream the Internet has probably produced here, but I think I have a good answer for you.

    America is used to believing that we are special. That we rose up from tyrannical rule and created something that has shined. We are used to spreading our own culture and generally being the best, or at least the pushiest. Maybe that's not true, but it's at least how people lived in the past.

    But now China and India are on the scene and growing fast. We can't say for sure what America's future is because we haven't invented it yet. But we know that we are surrounded by crap we know we can't control. Govenrment, Big Buisness, Terrorism. Stuff that could very likely derail that future landing us firmly in the land of "meh".

    So what Sarah Palin is about is stroking the fears of mediocrity. She's about reaction. She doesn't really have a niche other than, "I don't like that". Whether it's Obama or otherwise.

  79. labradog Says:

    Calling Palin a "vagina" is the most metaphorically accurate and appropriate political descriptor.

    Some may refer to a valuable assistant as a "right hand man". This isn't a circuitous compliment to our prehensile extremity – it is a metaphor for a dominant operative.

    Well, Palin came to prominence through a crude political calculation that the McCain campaign needed "a woman". Not "a woman who is…", or a "woman who has done…" or "a woman who can…".

    Palin's sole qualification for her nomination was the physical certainty of her gender. The certainty that she did, indeed, possess a vagina. A vagina that guaranteed that she is, legally and is perceived by the public, as a woman. McCain and the GOP needed nothing more from her. She provided the actual and metaphorical vagina that was needed. No further elaboration as a human was relevant

    McCain/Palin'08 was more friendly to the ear and eye than "McCain/somebodywithavagina'08".

  80. g Says:

    I strongly disagree with those who call Palin a cunt, or who justify calling her one. It's simply inappropriate.

    She completely lacks the requisite warmth and depth.

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