What Palin Represents

What Palin Represents October 17, 2008

Palin may be a joke, but she is a joke with a serious undertone. On one sense, Palin’s choice represents the last desperate gasp of a discredited politics, a politics that draws phony distinctions and plays to perceived grievance, all the while trying to distract from the issues. She is the ultimate embodiment of the know-nothing culture warrior. Of course, the problem with being a “know nothing” is not actually knowing nothing, but rather the lack of any desire to actually learn something, to increase one’s readiness for an office that embodies great responsibility. She seems content instead to stay within the bubble and stoke the fires of resentment. Like many who came before her, she will use the abortion issue in pursuit of her political goals. It is no accident that she stepped up the abortion rhetoric only when she was deemed to have abused power as Alaska governor, having made no mention of it at all in her convention speech. It is also no accident that for her, truth seems to be relative. Resentment invents its own reality.

When I say “ultimate embodiment”, I mean that she encapsulates all the worst elements of the modern pseudo-conservative movement in a single person. That’s pretty impressive, when you think about it. She has the arrogance and disdain for intellectual curiosity of George Bush, the secrecy and vindictiveness of Dick Cheney, the class resentment of Richard Nixon, the penchant for exploiting culture of life issues for political ends of Tom Delay, and the tendency to demonize opponents with an us-versus-them rhetoric that flows directly from a movement that gave us the Limbaughs, the Coulters, and the Fox News crew.

For when the Democrats nominated a mixed race highly educated man with an international background for president, Palin is held to embody a phony white working-class culture, with all its resentment of “elites” and foreign influences, its strident militarism, and its false theology of American exceptionalism underpinned by a blasphemous melding of Christianity with the nation state. The contrast is deliberate and stark, which is really the twisted genius of McCain’s choice. But while people with Obama’s background represent the future of this country, Palin hails from a culture on the wrong side of demographics, and that is — as much as it tries to ignore the wider world– a net loser from globalization. And it remains convinced of its moral superiority, which is the kernal of the problem. One thing that became crystal clear to me when I saw the outpouring of admiration for Palin from among the “base” (and I include some Catholic bloggers here) was that it was all about the culture, and the perceived virtues of this culture. Abortion definitely took a back seat.

And look what’s happening. It is no accident that her ultra-crude language and message (“palling around with terrorists”, only visiting the “pro-American” parts of the country) are bringing out the very worst in people, stoking racial fires that many had thought (hoped) had long faded. It is grossly irresponsible, but she seems totally oblivious to the effects. Even as McCain tones it down, she dials it up. I’m pretty sure she is not doing this deliberately, but I’m also sure that she has no idea what she is unleashing. Resentment creates blindness. The bubble feeds on itself. For when Palin invoked Westbrook Pegler’s homage to the virtues of small towns, she seemed unaware that Pegler was a notorious opponent of the civil rights movement who dabbled in violent rhetroric, once expressing the hope that “some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter [Bobby Kennedy’s] spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.” I’m not trying to tie to Palin to people like Pegler, but merely noting that she is playing with very dangerous fire here, and she doesn’t seem to realize it.

It I were optimistic, I would say that the Palin pick represents the “last throes” of a discredited agenda, and that the conservative movement will be reborn with nobler instincts in its aftermath. Let’s hope.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Palin personifies religion as a bazooka and America as a religion.

  • Palin personifies religion as a bazooka and America as a religion.

  • Christian

    And with this thoughtfully charitable post, I am unsubscribing from this blog. I’ve had enough of the vinegar.

  • Christian

    And with this thoughtfully charitable post, I am unsubscribing from this blog. I’ve had enough of the vinegar.

  • David Nickol

    Even as McCain tones it down, she dials it up. I’m pretty sure she is not doing this deliberately, but I’m also sure that she has no idea what she is unleashing.

    MM,

    I assume she is an instrument of the campaign, and everything she is doing is calculated. She seems clever enough to be making her own contributions, so I am not saying she is just dutifully reading speeches written for her. But any number of commentators have pointed out that there are two campaigns going on — McCain in the debates and other public appearances, and Palin out on the stump. I think she is doing exactly what McCain and his advisers want her to do.

    Unlike Christian above, I think you are being too charitable (on this point, at least).

  • David Nickol

    Even as McCain tones it down, she dials it up. I’m pretty sure she is not doing this deliberately, but I’m also sure that she has no idea what she is unleashing.

    MM,

    I assume she is an instrument of the campaign, and everything she is doing is calculated. She seems clever enough to be making her own contributions, so I am not saying she is just dutifully reading speeches written for her. But any number of commentators have pointed out that there are two campaigns going on — McCain in the debates and other public appearances, and Palin out on the stump. I think she is doing exactly what McCain and his advisers want her to do.

    Unlike Christian above, I think you are being too charitable (on this point, at least).

  • Bemused

    I’m with you Christian. What cracks me up is that the most vile and hateful contributors and those that comment in kind to this blog could not conceivably run for town dogcatcher and win that position, let alone become governor of Alaska. It is highly unlikely, judging from their missives here, that they could even manage an average day in the life of Sarah Palin.

    This is their empty Kingdom, and in here, and only here, they rule supreme. In real life? Not so much I’d wager.

  • Bemused

    I’m with you Christian. What cracks me up is that the most vile and hateful contributors and those that comment in kind to this blog could not conceivably run for town dogcatcher and win that position, let alone become governor of Alaska. It is highly unlikely, judging from their missives here, that they could even manage an average day in the life of Sarah Palin.

    This is their empty Kingdom, and in here, and only here, they rule supreme. In real life? Not so much I’d wager.

  • MM,

    You call this successful woman a joke despite the fact you likely have less than a tiny percentage of her accomplishments.

    As far her visiting pro-America places, well she visited my little township here in Ohio today and I came away very impressed with her. I’d like to see any of her critics attempt to maintain her schedule.

  • MM,

    You call this successful woman a joke despite the fact you likely have less than a tiny percentage of her accomplishments.

    As far her visiting pro-America places, well she visited my little township here in Ohio today and I came away very impressed with her. I’d like to see any of her critics attempt to maintain her schedule.

  • Habakkuk

    Resentment creates blindness.

    You should know. Resentment bubbles up from every post you offer. You must be a desperately sad person.

    I’m a new reader of this blog, but I’ve been amazed at the spirit of anger, judgment, and pride that animates so many posts and comments at Vox Nova. I came looking for some insight into the choice Catholics have to make this year, but all I’ve found is a mirror image of the kind of educated ignorance one finds at those smarty pants right-wing sites. That, and very little about Jesus Christ.

    So, Christian, hold that door for me. Bye y’all, and may the Lord bless you.

  • Habakkuk

    Resentment creates blindness.

    You should know. Resentment bubbles up from every post you offer. You must be a desperately sad person.

    I’m a new reader of this blog, but I’ve been amazed at the spirit of anger, judgment, and pride that animates so many posts and comments at Vox Nova. I came looking for some insight into the choice Catholics have to make this year, but all I’ve found is a mirror image of the kind of educated ignorance one finds at those smarty pants right-wing sites. That, and very little about Jesus Christ.

    So, Christian, hold that door for me. Bye y’all, and may the Lord bless you.

  • Tim F.

    An empty kingdom where these small people rule supreme! What a great description. Good job Bemused!

  • S.B.

    the tendency to demonize opponents with an us-versus-them rhetoric

    That tendency is found on all sides, and it’s self-refuting that you keep making this criticism only of Republicans.

  • In all this admiration for vacuous rhetoric, and the elevation of tepid criticism to the rank of hate speech, I have yet to see any of the points addressed.

  • Franklin Jennings

    I don’t see any admiration for rhetoric in the above posts, just criticism of your extreme lack of charity.

    You, without fail, always attribute the absolute worst possible motives to members of the other war-mongering, baby-killing ideology. This is absolutely contrary to evangelical counsel.

    And what I don’t understand is why? i mean, your guys will be the ones getting to prosecute the wars and kill the babies for the time being. The other guys aren’t likely to have any of the fun. They won’t be able to horn in on your action, and yet you display no virtue in pursuit of them.

    Relax, you’re side is already getting the chance to further the culture of death right here at home and they have less and less opportunity to steal your thunder.

  • TeutonicTim

    What does this have to do with Catholicism, or Catholics?

    I thought this was a Catholic blog, not a political shill site…

  • c matt

    God I hope Obama does not represent the (permanent) future of this country. The last thing we need is over-educated pompous fools who don’t have the common sense God gave a rock. Or worse, don’t have the moral sense to recognize murder when they see it (or don’t care, so long as it futhers their gain of power). But, alas, I fear MM is correct. The more educated we get, the less wisdom we acquire.

    On the other side of the coin, Palin seems to have a certain go for the jugular quality that, disturbingly, some find a little too admirable. We have had quite enough of leaping before looking, and perhaps Palin could benefit from a little more sober reflection. The “America can do no wrong” crowd is not much better than the verbal flatulence crowd.

  • ctd

    MM:

    Perhaps the points have not been addressed because you really did not make any. You have taken a few things she has said and done – which, although not always wise or the best choice of words – interpreted them in the worst way and taken them as reflective of everything you dislike about people not like you.

    Your post says more about you than anything of substance about Sarah Palin or the conservative movement.

  • Barack’s Minion wants posters here to address his points. Here’s an interesting one: “Resentment invents its own reality.” Which BM then illustrates by claiming that Palin began addressing the abortion issue only in the face of mounting evidence that she had abused her power as governor. Now, THAT is the kind of “reality” only an incredibly resentful mind could have invented! As for Palin and the abortion issue, one of the main reasons social conservatives initially promoted her nomination was the publicity she had received when her son Trig was born. Even though the public knew almost nothing else about her back then, it ws evident to everyone who had heard of Sarah Palin that she was a politician who actually “walked the talk” on the abortion issue.

  • The libininal cathexes toward the moose huntin’, baby rearin’, hate mongerin’ Sarah by the usual male conservative suspects here are as predictable as they are pathetic.

  • Franklin Jennings

    And now Mark Defrancisis actually, literally, dehumanises Sarah Palin, reducing her to an “activity, object, or ideal”. And I’ll bet he gets no “warning from Vox Nova” for such incredibly sinful action.

  • G Alkon

    MM, thanks for this great analysis of the “Palin” signifier…

    Ugh! — it makes my blood boil to read some of these responses. There is really no way to defend Palin, and the willful refusal of people to even glance at reality is so frustrating…

    One aspect of what she may represent that is especially frightening is a new exploitation of female sexuality by the right-wing. She embodies a peculiar conjunction of sexual attractiveness, sordidness, disreputability, family-values, and blunt power that is very scary and dangerous.

    Some men obviously desire her in a lascivious way; and this is stoked by her obvious sleaziness, her stupidity, the obvious fact that she was chosen for her looks, etc…

    And yet, at the same time, she claims to be a Christian, she has a big family, she is a “good person,” etc…

    She mobilizes lust and then gives it a “values” sheen… I have lots of cute babies!

    And the same thing happens with the power she threatens to wield; she is a nice small-town girl, but she is willingness to ruthlessly and unscrupulously “break the balls” of whoever crosses her…

    Repulsive.

  • david

    Mr. DeFrancisis:
    Your panegyrical profundity juxtaposed with crude indignity (baby rearin’!!) is the ultimate in superciliousness. You’re as sophisticated as you are malignant.

  • Pingback: Southern Appeal » Why I love Sarah Palin (redux)()

  • Nothing I said was intended as panegyrical…

  • little gal

    Mark:

    I see that you are making good use of that Word A Day calendar…

  • TwoCentsWorth

    Pathetic echoes of outrage from vox nova, the cesspool of impotent fools who pollute the internet with the stench of malodorous, hate-filled verbosity. As Our Lord Jesus said, every idle word will have to be accounted for, what a terrible judgement will those face who direct their uncharitable condemnation toward the just and the upright people of God. This blog can only be an abomination in the sight of the Lord God–nothing more.

  • Ms. Tang

    Hmm, hate speech? These are very strong accusations made against Governor Palin, and without substance. This is in the fine liberal tradition of “if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it is true”. Of course in liberal crybaby-dom, any critique of the extreme positions taken by their fearless leaders is considered “hate speech”.

  • Tom Crillo

    I hope all left leaning liberal Catholics aren’t this hateful. How can they ever hope to be able to reach across the aisle when they insult their opponents this way. Or, maybe they don’t ever plan on reaching out like they say. If they speak this way about honest, hardworking, faithful people like Sarah Palin ( who by the way the Vatican is delighted with), how can they ever hope to deal with the enemies of this country. Unless maybe they would give into them or join them.

  • TwoCentsWorth

    Here is a prophetic quote from Bishop Hermann which the unfaithful “catholics” at Vox Nova would do well to take to heart and repent in the 11th hour of our times: “Judgment Day is on its way. When my time comes, I will be measured by my Savior for the decisions I have made. I will either be acknowledged by Jesus or denied by Him in the presence of our heavenly Father. The question I need to ask myself is this: What kind of witness will I give to Him when I go into the voting booth this election day?

    The decision I make in the voting booth will reflect my value system. If I value the good of the economy and my current lifestyle more than I do the right to life itself, then I am in trouble. Pope John Paul II, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici tells us: “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”

  • TCW,

    This is such a fallacy. If I eat, am I showing disregard for the starving? If I enjoy shelter, am I showing disregard the homeless? If I enjoy life, am I showing disregard for the victims of abortion by continuing to live? Of course not.