Home / Culture and Society / GOProletarian Revolution: The Rise of Sarah Palin, Populism, and a Cult of Personality

GOProletarian Revolution: The Rise of Sarah Palin, Populism, and a Cult of Personality

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Little over a week ago, sitting beside her husband, George, former First Lady Barbara Bush answered a question delivered by veteran television news journalist Larry King regarding her opinion of — you guessed it — Sarah Palin.

She graciously complimented the former governor’s appearance, but quickly cut to the chase by stating that it would be best if the Mama Grizzly were to stay put in Alaska during the upcoming election for the presidency in order to, presumably, ensure Barack Obama’s defeat. As one can easily deduce, Palin was not in the least pleased by Mrs. Bush’s decision to live within the confines of reality, and almost immediately took to the airwaves via so-crazy-she-cannot-be-serious Laura Ingraham’s moderately popular talk radio program. During her conversation with Ingraham, Palin disparaged the “elites” whom she perceived as attempting to destroy her political career, referring to Mrs. Bush and her appallingly rational ilk as “blue bloods”. She went on about how people were getting tired of this sort of thing and why competition was essential to the race for the White House, amongst other things.

Needless to say, if Palin were in fact to launch a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination over the course of the next several months, it would most definitely result in failure on a spectacular level. This is due to the harsh reality that she cannot even score a double digit preferability rating amongst Republicans with a college education, who traditionally have made up the vast majority of the Party’s primary electorate. In there, perhaps, lies just exactly what might inspire her to make the ultimately disastrous choice of throwing her hat into the ring — the fact that the “elites” have, at least from her perspective, prematurely lined up against her. With a rabid base which quite literally worships the ground on which she walks, it would be very easy to see how Palin could get swept up in the heat of the moment and make a truly horrid mistake. Her base presents a new challenge to the Republican hierarchy, as it is motivated unlike ever before and unwavering in its support of the Hockey Mom From Wasilla, willfully oblivious to the plethora of her obvious shortcomings.

Just who is it exactly that makes up the bulk of Palin’s machine, you ask? Not, as many on the Left tend to assume, hardcore libertarians or even a majority of TEA Partiers. No, the Palin devotees are wildcats of an entirely different breed, ones which have been around for quite a while but are now crawling out of the woodwork as they, unfortunately, often do during times of political turbulence. In short, they are the extremist Christian fundamentalist sect of the Religious Right, as evidenced by a stunning expose recently published in Newsweek.

The piece details just why it is that so many see Palin as a pseudo-Biblical figure sent from Above to carry on the Big Guy’s will. Because a great many view her as a deistic being to be worshipped, rather than a political one to be admired, attempts at reasoning with a staggering number of Palin’s groupies should be considered a fruitless effort on the onset. Besides, many Fundies are so so mortified at the thought of a Mitt Romney run due to their anti-Mormon bigotry that Palin is viewed as a last line of defense from the man who could very well defeat Obama and get some serious work done on restoring the economy.

What the Mama Grizzly has managed to build is a radical cult of personality around herself, with virtually all of its adherents throwing the important issues of our day into the wind and focusing only on their idol’s charisma and how she relates to them on a deeply personal level. The truth of the matter is that Palin is adored by millions of ultrareligious low-income and low-education voters because, when all is said and done, they see themselves in her. In her fight to take down the so-called elitists, they stand by her side with an almost unbelievable vigor because, in essence, they are dealing a passive-aggressive blow to those within both the Republican and Democratic parties who have frequently criticized their lifestyles over the years.

It should be blatantly apparent at this point that Palin’s core constituency is not in the least conservative — though without a doubt socially authoritarian — as its members do not, generally speaking, care at all about supply-side economics or developing a sustainable and cost effective national security program. They are populists who, by and large, flocked to the GOP during the Social Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s in search of a political organ to call home after being expunged by the left wing of the Democratic Party due to their social philosophies. While they most certainly made the right call by abandoning the Democrats, they never did fully leave behind their notions of using the state to impose their views upon others or the abhorrent idea of class warfare. That is why so many in what I refer to as the GOProletariat see themselves as locked in a lifelong battle with the more secular, cultured, and knowledgeable “elites” which currently control the national Republican leadership.

If the powers that be in the GOP were wise, then they would end their attempts to appease these people and return the Party to its roots as an organization devoted to, principally, limited government involvement in the economic process and moderately hawkish national security policies. If this were to be done, then a viable nationwide coalition could be built which would leave the leftists at an almost guaranteed electoral loss for decades. For the Rockefeller Republican such as myself, this is the dream to end all dreams, which, in time, may indeed become a reality. One of its major benefits would be that Palin and her cultists would be maligned to the extent that they would be stripped of nearly all the political power which they currently enjoy.

As all logical Americans can agree, that would be an extraordinarily positive development.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • STM

    And Joe, sorry, I should have added: I agree with you, mostly. Not because I’d like to see the GOP in government in America for the next generation, but because, looking from the perspective of an American ally, possibly America’s closest ally (no, it’s not Israel), Palin and her friends really don’t look like the safest people to have in charge of the most powerful nation in the free world, the nation that for all its faults, is still the one with the only genuine credentials to claim the position of the world’s policeman.

    And you know what happens to a place without police: mayhem rules.

  • STM

    “fair dust”.

    Make that “fairy dust”.

  • STM

    Joe: “limited government involvement in the economic process”.

    Yeah, mate, ’cause that really works. No prudential regulation led to, wait, what was it?

    Oh yes, the GFC.

    Let’s not forget where the epicentre of the tsunami was: Wall St, and their cronies over in the City of London, where it’s all about market forces.

    Market forces are fine, provided you have some regulation of what can actually BE on the market.

    Those smartest guys in the room, the ones who railed against regulation, thought little packaged up parcels of dodgy debt sold as investments and sprinkled with triple-A rated golden fair dust was a product worth touting.

    Why? It lined their pockets.

    Too bad about the rest of us, including the legion of blue-collar Republicans who lost their jobs, their homes and their businesses as a result.

    And now they’re the force behind the tea party movement and they’re seriously thinking of putting Sarah Palin up for the big job, a woman who didn’t even know that Africa was a continenent not a country, and that South Africa was a country in it, and not a geographical reference?

    I agree with Mrs Bush. Alaska is a good place for Ms Palin to stay, not despite but because she resonates so heavily with the Tea Partiers.

    Splitting the Republican vote is suicide for the party (not that I care that much). In the mid-terms, it also handed some closely contested seats to the Democrats … including one in the Senate that has been well-documented.

    It’s a bit like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.

    And the old adage applies: careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

  • zingzing

    cannonshop: “it’s interesting to hear someone making that accusation on behalf of the party that said “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it…””

    learn to read between the lines a little. it’s not literal. if you think it is, you should shit your pants.

  • #6:
    Warmed-over, second-hand, never-true-in-the-first-place arguments that don’t prove a damn thing. Have you ever had an original thought or used actual facts? Give it a try sometime.

  • Cannonshop

    5- Handy, it’s interesting to hear someone making that accusation on behalf of the party that said “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it”, filed a federal lawsuit over a law that they didn’t read (arizona), a party whose leaders violate the tax laws they themselves wrote, hire a tax-cheat to be the SecTreas, etc. etc. etc.

    Perhaps it’s a matter of what constitutes “Ignorance”, I guess- pushing a 2000 page bill (in smaller-than-ten-point type) that you don’t bother to read strikes me as the very soul of ignorance-claiming that it need not be read before passage making the scenario even MORE ignorant, but refusing to read twelve pages of a state law before pronouncing it a violation of civil rights? Yeah, guess what…no room to talk, there, sorry, but the Democrats in congress make Palin look like Plato.

  • Palin champions ignorance. She appeals most strongly to people who automatically distrust anyone with a fancy college degree. When she refers to the ‘elites,’ she means not the rich but the educated, especially the Ivy-League-educated.

    Since independent voters seem already to have made up their mind about her [negatively], she’s highly unlikely to win. I still think she won’t even bother to run. She’s having more fun being the well paid celebrity Queen of the Anti-Elite.

  • Baronius

    I just read the Newsweek article. Why do you call it “stunning”? It was poorly researched, mostly just the author’s rambling opinion of Palin with occasional quotes from supporters and opponents.

    Palin’s supporters do not worship her. They like her and think she’s right. Frankly, I’ve seen more worshipful statements about President Obama than anything in that Newsweek piece. Your article, too, fears the allegience of Palin’s supporters but doesn’t give a reason for that fear.

  • Baronius

    Joseph, this may seem like nitpicking, but since when do Rockefeller Republicans support supply-side economics? They opposed limited government when Goldwater talked about it. Ditto Reagan; ditto Gingrich. What Palin and the Tea Partiers are saying falls right in line with a strong tradition in the GOP.

  • John Lake

    nice article, well articulated.

  • ivars

    Its elites in any society who has to be controlled as any political scientist will tell You. As they always protect own interests over the interests of people. But who gives them this right in democracy-the people. So once people get dissatisfied, they find a leader, and elites with all their servants have to go. Hopefully in a peaceful way.