Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sarah Palin: Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, My Thoughts

I just received my copy of “Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare” and have been skimming through it. The entries are a collection of articles, essays, and blog posts written over the past year or so about Sarah Palin that I have already read but there are several that I missed the first time around and most are well worth another read. I know that some of my friends and relatives, or perhaps I should say friendly acquaintances, are fans of Sarah Palin (I find that I am becoming less and less tolerant of stupid people as friends, and frankly, am finding it difficult to comprehend how, in the face of all the evidence, people can continue to support Sarah Palin).

Checking my Facebook page, which I do once or twice a week, I noticed that a friend in the Tri-Cities of Washington State posted that her husband had gotten her not one, but two (adding three exclamation points) signed copies of Sarah Palin’s book, having obviously loved her so much as to have stood in line so long (and spent the money for) to score (in her words) so many points. My sister and I message each other back and forth giving each other support in our efforts not to engage our relatives in debate over Glenn Beck, or politics generally, when the desire to respond to some inane comment becomes almost too much to resist. Sort of like an AA sponsor. We do this for the sake of family harmony. I am still clenching my fists, fighting my desire to post a comment saying something along the lines of ‘just received my copy of Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, so excited to see all my favorite Sarah Palin articles and blog posts in one collection!!!” Spouse tells me that most people will simply read my comment it as saying Rogue, not Rouge, reminding me that most of us see what we expect to see. Knowing he is right, I desist.

Over the years, one of my favorite comments regarding elections has been that people get what they deserve, and the rest of us pay for it. Following in that vein, my belief about the base of the Republican Party has been that it’s middle-America, family-values voters are exactly those most harmed by the policies of the party. Most of this base is composed of hard-working people who depend on a “traditional” economy for their livelihood. Farming, manufacturing, and the services that support them. The small businesses that fill every town; the printer, the accountant, the mechanics, the office supply store, the plumbers, lumber yard, the laborers and professionals that depend on others to purchase the products they sell and the services they provide in order to generate their own paychecks. This base is made up of workers who have perhaps gone to college, but often have depended on work in factories or on farms, or jobs in cities manning the millions of cubicles processing the paperwork that keeps those factories running, those supplies shipping, and every other facet of the economy functioning. This base is conservative in values, believes in church, and community, and supporting our troops. They are raised to believe in authority and the institutions of our society. The police are there to protect us, the courts are there to lock up criminals, and Democrats want to steal their money. They believe that the best government is one that is small, infinitesimal, and consists only of the military.

The paradox is that while believing unquestioningly in authority, government is bad. The Constitution has become an almost sacred document, but its contents—the formulation and structure of government—are subjects of attack. The Republican mantra of a free-market economy that insists on deregulation has resulted on the widest margin between the rich and the poor in history. After teetering on the edge of an almost epic disaster requiring government intervention (or so they insisted), Wall Street’s finest are raking in record-breaking bonuses while credit card interest rates for those with excellent credit scores are reaching 30% and foreclosures are at all-time highs as are unemployment rates. TARP funds, intended to ease credit to allow businesses to purchase the goods and services needed to re-hire laid-off workers instead were spent on acquiring banks and businesses not so fortunate as to receive government assistance. A small sidebar over the weekend noted that luxury spending on Wall Street was almost back to normal, but more discreetly as bankers are more aware of perception this time around. The Republicans complain about the size of the health care reform bill, but the TARP bill, under George W. Bush (as so many are quick to forget) was all of 3 pages.

The ripple effect is one that appears to be beyond the comprehension of the average American voter as I watch polling numbers. I talk informally to people who cannot fathom my fascination for politics, especially outside of presidential election years, and wonder why I would maintain my interest in Sarah Palin when she is so clearly “old news” (if talking to a Democrat). The election of President Obama was the first time since Bobby Kennedy when we have seen true excitement for a candidate as a movement, as a beacon for hope (and because of that, and only because of that, he should fear for his re-election chances if he continues with his course of strictly political calculations – you cannot be elected on the basis of an emotional wave and hope to keep those voters if you then govern from pure political calculations). In Sarah Palin, her supporters see “Everywoman.” She touts herself as a hockey mom, middle-class (we should all have a million dollar lakeside middle-class home like hers), hunting, fishing, church-going, just like you and me, mom. She trades on her looks yet is not so beautiful that women cannot see themselves in her, she has the Christmas card family, but with enough flaws – unmarried teenage daughter with an out of wedlock child, a special needs child of her own, the challenges of raising five children as a working mother – that every mother in the country can relate, she talks in magnets which aligns with the sound-bite culture which our TV society has become accustomed to, and is just “mavericky” enough to rebel against “headquarters” while campaigning that all those who never liked McCain’s less than true-blue style of conservatism would accept her dropping him when she was ready.

Americans for the most part are bored with politics and have no more understanding of why Pakistan is important (they have nuclear weapons which Al Qaeda would very much like to have, plus they are in a state of constant conflict with India), why the Republicans are so against health care reform (so Obama will have on successes come re-election time amongst other reasons), or why they should listen to something other than Fox News. The concept of critical thinking is foreign to Christian conservatives – in fact, a Christian friend once told me, several years ago when I was complaining that the schools did not teach our children how to question or to think critically, that she did not want them to, that as a Christian, the church and the parents were responsible for teaching children what to think and they did not want them to question ideas or think critically. I seriously thought she was joking, but she was not.

In Sarah Palin, the middle-American, Christian conservative sees someone to whom they can relate. The fact-checking is simply an attack, the lack of any clear policy goals is unimportant, and her ignorance of history or world affairs is irrelevant as long as she knows her Bible (it is, after all, the only book that matters). The base is content to disengage, as usual, content to bask in the star-power of this woman who believes in beauty pageants and sees elections as winning a title rather than earning a political office (one you preen, the other you work). The Republicans can continue to serve their corporate masters, convince their base that government is bad; taxes are bad, all the while funneling all the money into their own pockets until there is nothing left for the corporations to glean from the American pocketbook because they will have it all. Come election time, the electorate will, perhaps, listen to the Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palins and vote the sound bites and their ignorance, ignoring the responsibility that comes with adulthood and democracy, before crawling back onto the couch to watch Dancing With the Stars and Fox News to complain about those Democrats wanting to steal their taxes while bitching about all the potholes in the streets and the number of homeless and their inability to get a job, pay their medical bills, or feed their kids. They will get what they deserve, and the rest of us will pay for it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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