No one in America, not even President Barack Obama, is as compelling a figure in our nation’s political life as Sarah Palin. She twitters, and they are talking about it on the news that night. She shows up and the adoring crowds throng to see her. The publishing industry is in free fall, with writers taking the greatest hit and working for smaller and smaller advances and salaries, but Palin’s advance was huge and her book tour is the most talked about book tour in history.

What is it about Palin that so mesmerizes the media and the public? Many commentators are talking about how her sexuality straddles the post-modern demands of female empowerment with more conservative, traditional views of motherhood. Yes, she was a governor and you almost never see her without one of her children in tow. Others note that her Alaskan roots allow her to straddle the divide between conservatives and libertarians that runs through the heart of the GOP. In her book, she writes, "I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals -- right next to the mashed potatoes." It takes a special talent to write that, and get away with it.

The core of her support, however, is in the evangelical base of the Republican Party. It is often forgotten that the "Religious Right" is, like most religious groups, largely populated by women. Nuns built the Catholic Church and women built the religious right. Women staff the church programs and the Sunday schools. Women undertake home schooling of children.

Indeed, the roots of the religious right were planted by women. Before Jerry Falwell launched the Moral Majority, Phyllis Schlafly led the opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. Before Michael Farris organized home schoolers into a movement, "Sweet Alice" Moore was fighting the school curriculum in Charleston, West Virginia. Falwell became the indispenable player in the formation and politicization of the religious right and Michael Farris remains a key player in the home schooling movement, a movement that was at the core of Mike Huckabee’s campaign in 2008. But, the path had been cleared by women. Those same women and their children look at Falwell and Ferris as heroes. They look at Palin as one of their own.

There is one other aspect of Palin that makes her so compelling, especially to those on the left. It is the sense of an impending train wreck. The left watches because they are waiting for the next Katie Couric interview, the next highly public faux pas that will reveal Palin’s beliefs to be mere window dressing for political ambition. But, her followers do not watch for that reason. They share her sense of grievance against the media and other elites. Palin combines the anger of the Perotistas with the fervor of the religious right. One thing about Palin’s future is clear: We will all get to watch it because, for our different reasons, we can’t take our eyes off her.

I am not a betting man but I would not bet against Sarah Palin’s ability to dominate the Republican nominating process in 2012.

 

 

 

Comments

hai na | 8/24/2010 - 3:23am
 winni2078 08 24
<a href="http://www.juicycouture4u.com/">juicy couture </a>
http://www.juicycouture4u.com/
Anonymous | 11/24/2009 - 6:31pm
Michele,
You say, "The less grasp of reality, the more love for Sarah Palin."

I don't believe that your post gives evidence to support this assertion.

She might demonize the media and this might mobilize her growing fanbase but you don't give evidence why the mainstream media does not deserve to be demonized. If it does deserve demonization then why shouldn't good people who object to this "laimstreet" media be mobilized?

You also don't give evidence concerning this "incoherent white American resentment". Do we get this label if we don't like the increasing size of the federal government? Do we get this label if we don't like the federal take-over of moral decision-making in our laws?

I am not sure if I have a "grasp of reality" but whatever is going on with government and the media, real or unreal, it is disturbing. I am the last to put any stock in degrees but I am a college educated professional who thinks very hightly of Sarah Palin.
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/23/2009 - 8:09pm
PS. my husband says that Sara Palin is extremely smart: she is simply cashing in on the rapt attention to her that holds the rest of us, whether we like her or not.
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/23/2009 - 8:04pm
I enjoyed Michelle's commentary about Mrs. X.  One of my jobs is teaching the elderly retired people in my community how to use their computers.  Among them is Mrs. S, who has more money than God and loves both Glenn Beck and Sara Palin.  I actually enjoy Mrs. S, and mostly smile with amusement as she gets worked up into a lather about the state of affairs of our country and how much she loves Sara Palin and Glenn Beck.  I definitely don't argue with her.  I've given up on trying to figure out what makes Mrs. S tick.  What all this means, or where we are headed, is beyond me.
Brian Gallagher | 11/23/2009 - 7:12pm
Sarah Palin is, in fact, so stupid.
stu·pid
-adjective
1.  lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull
2.  characterized by or proceeding from mental dullness; foolish; senseless: a stupid question
3.  tediously dull, esp. due to lack of meaning or sense; inane; pointless
Anonymous | 11/23/2009 - 5:17pm
"But, Sarah Palin is so stupid,"

I am not sure about the old lady but this little statement is an ad hominem attack. This is a tactic usually used by people when they are unable to address the issues directly either due to ignorance or just plain mean-spiritedness.
Anonymous | 11/23/2009 - 3:42pm
As I remarked on another blog recently, you can call her stupid, but unlike a lot of Jesuits these days, she does seem to know right from wrong.
Helena Loflin | 11/23/2009 - 12:14pm
With no viable leader of the Republican Party, the Right-Wing Authoritarian followers are hungry for manipulation by Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, etc.  RWAs have never met a demagogue they didn't love to follow over any convenient cliff.
Yesterday afternoon, I was at a Sears Auto Center in Texas waiting for one and a half hours while a new car battery was installed.  I brought along a book to read, but never had a chance to open it.  A fellow customer, an elderly woman, immediately started talking to me, and kept talking, never seeming to need to take a breath, until I was mercifully informed that my car was ready.  Out of respect for her age, I listened dutifully to all of the personal information the lady shared with me, and answered all of the personal questions she asked me.  (I'm 60 years old myself, so I know I'll be where she is in the blink of an eye.)  Mrs. X., a Republican Catholic, spent our last 30 minutes together praising Sarah Palin and FOX News non-stop while castigating feminists, CNN, President Obama, the separation of church and state, pro-choicers and, of course, anyone else who didn't agree with her love of Sarah Palin.  When I casually (and "you betcha" quickly) inserted, "But, Sarah Palin is so stupid," Mrs. W. sputtered ever so momentarily, advised me that I was entitled to my opinion, and then launched into a comparison between Sarah Palin and Joan of Arc.  Watching her reaction, I knew that she'd heard that criticism of Palin before, and had gotten herself ready for the next time.
Steel trap.  Classic RWA follower.  It's a psychological condition.  I don't engage with strangers here because of the high probability of encounters like yesetrday's.  Blessing that I won't need a replacement car battery again for a few years.      
 
Jack Marth | 11/23/2009 - 11:44am
Add to the list of women "pioneers" of the Religious Right - Anita Bryant. She really got the religiously based anti-gay rights movement going.  I think of Ms. Bryant every time I drink Florida orange juice.  The law prohibiting gay adoption, for which she has to be given the most credit, remains on the books in Florida-32 years later.  Thankfully, it may be on its last legs as a case to overturn the law is about to get to the Florida Supreme Court.  The movement she started is fighting to keep it on the books; sadly - the Florida Catholic Conference stands with Anita and her movement.
http://www.flacathconf.org/Publications/Positionpapers/AdoptionSameSex06.htm
Helena Loflin | 11/24/2009 - 1:45pm
Beth, the media is driving the Palin bus all over God's creation.  We can't take our eyes off of her because the media makes it impossible to avoid seeing her.  Here's a quote from conservative Kathleen Parker's (WaPo) recent/current column on Palin: "Palin, meanwhile, is no one's dummy when it comes to political strategy.  She knows exactly how to animate her base, and demonizing the media is the most powerful quill in her quiver.  That is, by picking fights with the media, she mobilizes her fans against a monolithic enemy - 'them' - while getting 'them' to give her more ink and air-time." A symbiotic relationship made in hell.
 
Here's another provocative quote from a different commentator: "Palin - and there's no way to deny this - is a supremely gifted politician.  She has staked out, as her own personal turf, the entire landscape of incoherent white American resentment.  In this area she leaves Rush Limbaugh in the dust."
 
The less grasp of reality, the more love for Sarah Palin. 
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/24/2009 - 2:19am
What I really wonder about, is WHY we can't take our eyes off of Mrs. Palin?  What is that all about?  What is the root of our fascination with her?  My hunch is that this has something to do with our spirituality, and most especially with our fears and the relationships between our grasp of reality and the media.  I bet Marshall McLuhan would have good insight into the Sara Palin phenomena.  I admire the sincere journalists (like Andrew Sullivan) who are asking and exploring these questions.  Interestingly, there is a strong energy wanting to silence him.  What's THAT all about?  What is it that resists being exposed?
Helena Loflin | 11/24/2009 - 1:17am
Thank you, Brian!  And, Beth, it's wonderful that you work with the elderly. 
 
As for my comment about Palin to Mrs. X, trust me, I had no delusions that anything I said would actually register with Mrs. X or even make a small dent in her uncritical assessment about the consummate manipulator's self-involved agenda.  Mrs. X. said things about Palin's perceived enemies that were so harsh that I'm sure I looked like a startled deer in Mrs. X.'s steamroller headlights.  Beth's husband is right.  I would add the Palin is "street" smart, which is not a compliment.  As soon as her bank account is full, she'll drop her RWA followers like hot potatoes.  Governing is work.  She's already demonstrated that she isn't up to the task by quitting a couple of jobs in Alaska.