Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Messianic Cult of Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin was in my neck of the woods recently. I am always struck by how many of the very same star-struck adorers of Palin are also the ones who most likely recoiled at the "celebrity" power of Barack Obama in the last election. But the adoration has reached messianic proportions among some of the folks who basked in the divine glow of St. Sarah at the temple of Barnes and Noble:

Metairie resident Betty Purcell also had been waiting all day to meet Palin, who she praised for being a Christian and a leader. "It's really neat to be able to touch someone who's doing what she's doing," Purcell said.
Now what, exactly, is Sarah Palin doing beyond a book tour and a reality show? Maybe that one "touch" has cured all of Betty Purcell's ailments connected to Obama Derangement Syndrome. Who knows? And if there ever was any doubt that the ideological wars are being played out in Reality TV shows, I give you this from a St. Sarah devotee:
"You may have shaken hands with the future president," Brenda Fernandez told the boys after they stepped from the table. "This is something they'll never forget."

Brenda Fernandez told Palin that she voted for her daughter, Bristol, 10 times during the younger Palin's recent stint on "Dancing With the Stars."

"Thank you for keeping her in there," a smiling Palin told Fernandez. "She had a blast."
See the conflation of politics with pop culture? The same woman who is ga-ga over having possibly met a future President, sees fit to affirm her loyalty to such a future Commander-In-Chief and leader of the free world not by stating that she admired and voted for her in the 2008 election, but by declaring the multiple times she voted for Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars"! Yes, Eric, we've already lost the battle. Do you see that now?


eric said...

I definitely am not fond of the cult of personality that increasingly surrounds Palin. I am not a Palin hater by any means, and I very much appreciate the amount of water she carried for conservatives in the elections this year, but I have to admit that any sort of criticism seems to be discouraged by her more devout fans, and many of them seem blind to her (what seems to be to be obvious) shortcomings.

I really did not think she would run for POTUS, but it is looking more and more like that is the plan, and I wish it were not the case. While I would support her over Romney or Huckabee, Palin seems to me to be almost rediculously unelectable on the national stage, and I fear her fans would torpedo strong conservative candidates who might be less bombastic (such as Tim Pawlenty, my current favorite).

I don't think Palin is stupid, and in fact I think she could be a much better President than Obama or Bush, but we will never find out because, barring a huge game-changing event, she will never be able to garner much support outside of the South and a few other traditionallly conservative states. As swing states go, she could probably deliver Florida, and maybe have a chance in Ohio, but would lose every other state that voted for Obama in 2008, and possibly send Missouri back into the blue. Whatever else she is, she's not a good Presidential candidate.

Huck said...

The difference between the Palin Cult of Personality and that of Obama preceding the 2008 election season is that Palin shields herself within her bubble of adoring fans, whereas Obama certainly put himself out there much more for public scrutiny and criticism. Palin's got to get over this victim identity politics and to be able to weather criticism and face difficult questions to ever be considered a serious candidate.

eric said...

Yes, if/when she runs for President she'll certainly have to do that. I think she is employing a strategy of "cutting her teeth" on media outlets that are largely agreeable with her, so she'll be a little more seasoned during the election when she strays back into enemy territory. It's probably a smart strategy, since you can't run an election from Fox, Facebook, and conservablogs... but it doesn't do anything to change the fact that people who didn't like her in '08 are simply not coming around to her over time, in fact her popularity with independants seems to be going the OTHER direction. Palin proved this year that she is an exceptional behind-the-scenes operative for conservative issues. But trying to make her a POTUS contender is like trying to make Ringo Starr the front man for the Beatles... it just doesn't work.

Huck said...

Eric - First, I'd say Palin's impact as a behind-the-scenes power-broker is mixed. It would be a mistake to think of her as exceptional. Especially when one realizes that some of her behind-the-scenes work was in support of folks not altogether embraced by the conservative movement as true conservatives. Second, I'm not so sure her bunker strategy is smart. The reason why she's losing independents is precisely because of her strategy, and it's not something I think she can recover from because shielding herself in this way is a comment on her mettle, which will be hard to erase once an opinion on the subject is fixed in a person's mind. It's not like flip-flopping on issues. Her strategy, in other words, makes her more and more bound to the "Ringo Starr" persona, and less and less able to pass herself off as a "John Lennon."

eric said...

"It would be a mistake to think of her as exceptional."

I think she was exceptional in helping to transform the Tea Party from a few disjointed local races into a national movement. She really did do a lot to help the movement gain traction on the national stage (which isn't to say it couldn't have been just as succesful as a purely local phenomenon, but as such it would not enjoy the persuasive power it currenlty has within the GOP). Were all the candidates ideal conservatives? Hardly. But -win or lose- all of them where better than what they were trying to replace.

"The reason why she's losing independents is precisely because of her strategy..."

Right, but her performance in '08 was enough for her to know that she just wasn't ready for 'Prime Time' yet. Had she started going on Rachael Maddow and Meet The Press as soon as the election was over, she would perhaps be even LESS popular with indepenants right now, having had a steady barrage of Katie Couric moments. Instead, she wrote some books, made a lot of speeches, advocated for candidates and issues, developed her public persona in an arena where she was comfortable, and NOW is preparing to take it all out of the box and try to sell it. I don't know if it will work, but that is how I percieve her strategy. The problem is she still hasn't been challenged much, and may not be any better at thinking on her feet than she was in '08. We'll see. But even if she is an objectively better conservative candidate than she was then, I still don't think she will be culturally appealing to enough of the country to pull it off. People may be getting sick of Obama's cold detached persona, but that doesn't mean they want a smart-ass professional heckler leading the nation.