Whenever people catalog the perceived shortcomings of Sarah Palin one of the most commonly used words is “divisive”, which is just another way of saying some people like her and some people don’t. It never seems to occur to those who apply such labels that not only is this a perfectly normal state of affairs but the absence of it usually means the person in question is either a cult-leader or has nothing to say.
Indeed, in order to figure out who a person really is, it is often instructive to examine the enemies he or she has cultivated – and Sarah has cultivated some of the best. Anyone beaming down from the planet Twilo, knowing nothing about Palin or her politics, could reasonably survey the Mos Eisley Cantina collection of characters who stand in opposition to her and conclude she was worth a second look.
1. The Republican Establishment
Barbara Bush is only the latest in a long line of GOP patricians who have damned Palin with faint praise then suggested, with varying degrees of subtlety, that she quietly depart the stage so the grownups can take over.
This transcends Palin’s presidential ambitions, if in fact she has any. Although this has become the lightning-rod of recent commentary – because her book’s been out a while and there’s only so much you can misrepresent and fabricate – what really exercises her critics (and their name is Legion, though more often than not “Parker” or “Sullivan”) is her general popularity among the hoi polloi and her unquestionable influence in conservative politics. When they say “go away” they don’t mean “don’t run for president,” they mean “go away.”
Scant mention is made of the fact these are the same grownups who presided over the frittering and fumbling away of the same Reagan legacy they rhapsodize about on the Sunday shows – but perhaps the message is: “No, really, this time the grownups have grown up. We can take it from here.”
For those of us with reservations about this particular line of reasoning – like anyone who understands the Zen-like wisdom of Charlie Brown and the football – such assurances only reconfirm the wisdom of keeping Sarah around.
2. “Friends” on the Right
Others, nominally on the Right side of the fence, aren’t subtle at all.
Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and David Frum – to name just a few of the bitter old women involved – have each in their turn made pronouncements about Palin in which terms like “fatal cancer”, “joke”, “nincompoop”, “disastrous” and my personal favorite “a different version of Madonna” factor prominently. Perusing these utterances it’s easy to imagine some back-channel contest to see who can be most snide and condescending without actually leaving spittle on the page.
It’s early days yet, but I have to believe this exercise in amused contempt from Kathleen Parker has to be a contender:
In the nearly two years since she became the first female Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah has morphed from a pit bull with lipstick to a mama grizzly. Grrrrrrrr.
One never tires of Mom, I suppose. I’m a mom. You’re a mom. We all had a mom. Why, even some Democratic women are moms. Don’t they love their little darlings just as much as conservative women do?
The Mom Movement is hardly new. Soccer moms, long ago identified as a voting bloc, are nearly passe, iced from the zeitgeist by hockey moms and, now, mama bears. Womanhood has become a zoo. And we thought men were the beasts.
And don’t tell her she can’t. If you do, she’s just gonna get feistier and cuter. Next thing you know she’ll be a dadgum lioness givin’ heck to those media hyenas, just the way they can’t stand it.
Unhappily these are the cleverest bits, the money-in-the-bank zingers in what Parker imagines to be cutting-edge satire. To paraphrase Mark Twain, let us draw the curtain of charity on further comment.
Like the Republican old guard they relentlessly shill for, these scribes and pundits largely see political change in terms of replacing elites from the Left with elites from the Right, which necessarily includes them.
They see the Left as friendly opponents in a largely benign game, which will be won sometimes, lost sometimes, but will always begin and end with a handshake, and will be repeated in perpetuity with essentially the same rules. It does not occur to them that their opponents have been playing the game only insofar as it advanced their purpose, and are now poised to change the rules dramatically and, in the extreme case, cancel the game altogether.
Long story short guys, no amount of civilized sucking up to your Ivy League counterparts on the Left will make them like or respect you. You care deeply about this, Palin doesn’t, and that’s why you despise her.
3. The Media
So shrill and venomous has been the media’s reaction to Palin – reminiscent of the Ringwraiths screeching over the empty beds at the Prancing Pony – that it’s earned its own pseudo-psychiatric term “Palin Derangement Syndrome”.
This obviously is not how they prefer to roll. The Left traditionally operates best in an “iron fist in a velvet glove” mode. In practical terms, this involves donning a collegial, come-let-us-reason-together happy-mask and expressing half-baked and ultimately scary ideas through a gauzy filter of euphemisms, platitudes and specious logic. Historically that velvet glove doesn’t tend to come off as long as everyone nods and smiles.
It could be argued that everyone, including the Republicans, was nodding and smiling right up to the moment John McCain slipped away from his minders and chose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. Within hours it seemed, the media, which had shown a remarkable lack of curiosity about candidate Barack Obama’s credentials, background, associations and published utterances covered Palin’s home town like shad flies in search of the straight skinny on who really was the mother of her youngest child. The ferocity of the media attack, which continues to this day, gave even apolitical bystanders pause.
It shouldn’t have, even when the Left was machine-gunning the lifeboats after Palin returned to Alaska. The truth is, while it was politically stupid to engage in overkill in 2008, hound her all the way back to Alaska afterward and obsess on her now, they can’t help themselves.
Consider a recent contribution by Richard Cohen, who was so upset by Palin’s book it triggered flashbacks:
When I was 11, my father thought it was time to show my sister and me the nation’s capital. … I do remember we took Route 1 through Baltimore (no I-95 yet) and it was there that I saw my first sign with the word “colored” on it – a rooming house, I think. This was 1952, and the United States was an apartheid nation.
It is Sarah Palin who brings back these memories.
Given the fact he actually pressed the “Publish” key on this breathtakingly stupid juxtaposition it’s difficult not to conclude the flashback was drug-induced.
One of Cohen’s television counterparts, Ed Schultz – who for the uninitiated is kind of the Left’s answer to Ralph Kramden – offers a similar analysis. Those of you wondering how often, and in how many ways, you can string the words “race”, “racist”, “hate” and “hatred” together in a short segment pay close attention to this guy. He’s one of the best.
The syndrome however has probably achieved its finest flower in Andrew Sullivan, of the once prestigious Atlantic. When not demanding, in the words of William A. Jacobson, “a virtual inspection of Palin’s uterus to verify if Trig really is her son,” Sullivan produces cutting-edge prose such as that below. Presumably dictating this with a cold compress over his eyes, he explains why he temporarily shut down his blog in the aftermath of the release of Palin’s first book.
When dealing with a delusional fantasist like Sarah Palin, it takes time to absorb and make sense of the various competing narratives that she tells about her life. There are so many fabrications and delusions in the book, mixed in with facts, that just making sense of it – and comparing it with objective reality as we know it, and the subjective reality she has previously provided – is a bewildering task. She is a deeply disturbed person which makes this work of fiction and fact all the more challenging to read.
Since the Dish has tried to be rigorous and careful in analyzing Palin’s unhinged grip on reality from the very beginning – specifically her fantastic story of her fifth pregnancy – we feel it’s vital that we grapple with this new data as fairly and as rigorously as possible.
He might have added “… and, besides, I really need to lie down and somehow come to terms with the fact that this woman actually had the temerity to write a book,” but then again he may have felt it beneath him to state the obvious.
Bottom line, there is no happy-mask left for these people where Palin is concerned. With every new silly, counter-factual, hopelessly predictable hit-piece they churn out they might as well just add the boilerplate disclaimer: “I am a desperately unhappy, deeply neurotic pseudo-intellectual whose only pleasure comes imagining myself superior to Sarah Palin and every ‘ordinary’ American she represents,” because that’s what screams across the divide.
4. The Entertainment Industry
Liberals see themselves as part of the deployment; Hollywood celebrities are their generals … In general, wildly overpaid narcissists are the last people who should be commenting on subjects of any importance. But the Hollywood left [insists] on airing their infantile Oedipal disorders in public.
~ Ann Coulter, Treason, pp. 245-6
The entertainment industry, accurately described above, has taken up the cudgels against Palin and her family mining comedic veins almost exclusively limited to: “she’s so slutty”, “she’s so stupid” and “she’s so hypocritical”.
For sheer versatility David Letterman has to be at the top of the pack, incorporating all of these themes into one two minute segment:
Letterman, who knows a thing or two about sexual impropriety himself as it turns out, gained most notoriety for a joke he made about one of Palin’s daughter’s having sex with Alex Rodriguez during a baseball game. I don’t know about you, but, having a young daughter myself, my sides are still splitting over that one:
Further down (okay, way further down) the pantheon, but every bit as classy, we find the likes of Joy Behar and Sarah Bernhardt, cackling like the embittered wallflowers they are over Bristol Palin not winning Dancing with the Stars:
BERNHARD: She`s such a hooker. She got on a flight after losing last night.
BEHAR: How did they deal with ABC? I think that the losers come on the “View” and they dance. She said that her mother likes her being in the cage.
BERNHARD: This is what kills me —
DANA: Well, maybe that will prevent her from having another baby.
It would be extravagant to claim that before Sarah Palin dogpile we had no inkling how vulgar, nasty and breathtakingly obtuse our entertainment and entertainers had become. Ann Coulter alone devotes an entire chapter of Treason to the Post 9/11 reactions of industry members aptly entitled “Celebrity Traitors: ‘now that I’m sober I watch a lot of news'”. We can however assert with some confidence that with Palin our glitterati have dropped the pretense that it’s only about the US government and are now utterly transparent in their contempt for the type of American Palin represents, which is most of us.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, or even if her current influence in conservative politics is warranted, but arguably the fact that she is none of the people described above has to count in her favor.
If she achieves nothing else in her lifetime except having – just by virtue of who she is and what she represents – flushed some of them out of hiding, that alone should secure her a place in history, complete with statue, bank holiday and catchy song.
(Cross-Posted at NewsReal Blog)