I keep promising not to write about Sarah Palin because I regard her as some sort of sick joke, a cartoon character so absurd that she couldn’t really exist.
But I find myself drawn to her over and over again, much in the same way I became somewhat obsessed with George Bush while he was in power. I developed a serious hatred for the man, so deep I found it hard to contain myself when discussing him. I would watch in horror as Bush and his gang of idiots bulldozed their way into one irreversible mess after the other, then call the co founder of this site (Ari Rutenberg) to discuss the sheer lunacy of it all. The conversations would start out something like this:
“Dude, did you just see what these guys did?! Are they f@#$ing insane?!?!”
And would end something like this:
“The world has gone nuts. This cannot actually be happening….I’m thinking of leaving America for Costa Rica”
And now Sarah Palin has arrived, our conversations seem tame in comparison.There are now usually periods of long silence when discussing her latest facebook update or foray into foreign policy matters because they are so ridiculous it is hard to find words to articulate how incomprehensibly mad they are.
The thing about George Bush was that you always sort of felt that he didn’t really believe he was smart – that he knew those around him were brighter and used them to advance his agenda. He was of course a disaster, but in his second term he at least had the sense to get rid of the psychotically stupid Donald Rumsfeld and sideline the Lord of Darkness Dick Cheney.
But with Palin, you really get the feeling that she has absolutely no awareness of her serious intellectual deficits, that to her, politics is a blown up beauty pageant where she gets to win every single day of the week. Palin has her audience, and within that cocoon everything she says is taken as gospel truth. It is a monumentally dangerous echo chamber that is fuelling a narcissistic belief in herself that has no relation to reality. Palin rarely steps out of her carefully managed celebrity tour, so is never seriously questioned or challenged. And when she is, Palin simply ignores the questions, uses vague homilies about being a ‘Hockey Mom’ and a ‘simple gal’ and uses her famous wink to diffuse further attacks.
And it works over and over again.
Her fans lap it up every time she delivers a put down to the ‘elitist liberals’ who control the media, and she gets stronger and stronger the harsher the attacks on her are.
Matt Taibbi said it best when describing why Palin is so successful:
Palin — and there’s just no way to deny this — is a supremely gifted politician. She has staked out, as her own personal political turf, the entire landscape of incoherent white American resentment.
The rage felt by lower middle class white people in America is very real and very dangerous. Undereducated due to chronic failures of the public education system and a heavy diet of mind numbing television shows, the hordes of Tea Party potentials are sitting ducks for GOP operatives.
The Karl Roves and William Kristols literally fell over themselves to promote Sarah Palin back in 2008, and are licking their chops at the prospect of a Palin presidency in 2012. They are thinking ‘here’s a woman we can channel all of that white rage in to, and she’s too stupid to realize what we are doing’. Palin probably believes the garbage she spouts about ‘small government’ and Waldimir Putin rearing his head over Alaska, but it doesn’t really matter. She will continue to be embraced by the GOP not because her politics are where the party wants to head (most serious Republicans know she hasn’t got a clue), but because she can put bums in seats and command votes.
And that is why she remains so fascinating.
Palin is a mirror to the grotesque rotting of America’s middle class, a horrific landscape of ignorance, fear and hate. She is a pig with lipstick on, and America is about to take her home from the prom.
And I will keep watching till the very end.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.