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Palin: The Alienator

February 12, 2010

Over at The American Catholic, Eric Brown, Tim Shipe, and Joe Hargrave have sparked heated disagreement from readers and fellow contributors by their strong criticisms of Sarah Palin. I have to side with Eric, Tim, and Joe in this debate. I know why social conservatives and others celebrate her as a political leader and a media celebrity. Her supporters see her as the real deal, a politician who has gone rogue by being a rarity in politics: a trustworthy leader on the issues she talks about. They view her as one who’s lived her conservative values, whose principles have guided her real-life moral choices. Palin isn’t seen as just another establishment politician who talks today about effectively winning wars or outlawing abortion only to forget about those matters tomorrow. She is the rogue they can believe in. So they say.

Palin’s well-documented history of making blatantly false statements leaves me doubtful about how trustworthy she is on the issues she represents, but, even assuming that she is truly a believer and will do everything in her power to promote those issues, she isn’t the leader her supporters have been waiting for. Indeed, she’s the opposite of the kind of figure her supporters need to further their goals in the public sphere. Palin excites her base, but she very deliberately alienates just about everyone else by the way she depicts her political opponents, the way she divides America into real and less real, the way she fashions herself as an adversary of the elites and the media and others. The political narrative she has crafted marks her as the rogue, the antagonist, the alienator.

She exemplifies what E.D. Kain calls the politics of pettiness. However right she is on the issues that matter to her supporters, she won’t persuade those of differing or undecided views that her views are the right ones because she doesn’t try to persuade them. Her way of engaging others isn’t even intended to open their hearts and minds; it rather pushes them away and breaks down the consensus that is needed among the general public to maintain political achievements. Those who support her for the values, principles, or issues she represents would be better served by a leader who seeks to advance those values, principles, or issues in the public sphere by convincing others that they warrant wide acceptance and advancement.

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89 Comments
  1. Colin Gormley permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:21 am

    And Obama is different how? Besides spouting platitues of “working together” his actions have done far more dividing than Palin could dream of.

    Not that I don’t have some problems with her, but this fixation on her when the exact same criticisms could be turned on Obama, it just gets old after a while.

    Obama simply masks his rehtoric better than her. Otherwise they are the same when it comes to “divisiveness.”

  2. February 12, 2010 10:50 am

    I highly doubt that Kyle would try to defend Obama as non-divisive—look at his stance on foreign policy and war, that’s pretty divisive.

    But that is really beside the point here. The knee-jerk back-and-forth that assumes that if Palin is not to be trusted, then, Obama is is deeply misguided, as I see it.

  3. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:53 am

    You won’t get an argument from me against the judgment that Obama has proved in some ways divisive and that he has failed to live up to his platitudes about working together. However, Obama at least at times makes an effort to engage his political opponents in honest debate. We saw this recently when he talked with Republicans at their retreat. He seeks at times to persuade. Palin really doesn’t. Empty rhetoric or not, Obama casts himself as the protagonist and has made much more effort to bring people to his side than Palin has. None of this is to say that Obama’s politics are better or worse than Palins. My analysis of Palin in the post regards her suitableness to be a leader of the causes she represents. I don’t think she’s the right person for the job. Obama initially looked to be an effective champion of his political views, but time will tell whether he will move the country closer to him or further away from him.

  4. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:00 am

    Obama is not divisive.

    Republicans hate him reflexively, and have filibustered or threatened to filibuster every piece of legislation he has supported, and the Tea Partiers routinely call him a socialist and a baby-killer. . . but that’s not the same as Obama himself being divisive.

    Did Bush ever sit down with the democratic minority to sort out their differences? Is Obama pushing through a “liberal agenda” without regard to republican objections?

    Obama is not divisive. Republicans are intractable.

    And Palin, who looks like the leader contender for the GOP nomination in 2012, will be a disaster as president.

  5. Cathy permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:21 am

    The pettiness comes from her advesaries that watch and report her every move. It does not come from her.

  6. Colin Gormley permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:30 am

    “The knee-jerk back-and-forth that assumes that if Palin is not to be trusted, then, Obama is is deeply misguided, as I see it.”

    While I’ll admit that there is some knee-jerk-ness to my response, I’ve never understood the fixation from either right or left about her. I just find it frustrating that we fixate on what is a celebrity when

    1. The same accusations can be leveled at Obama
    2. He’s actually in charge.

    “However, Obama at least at times makes an effort to engage his political opponents in honest debate.”

    Speaking as someone who he’s “engage in open debate” he routinely calls for open debate and then slams his opponents for not caving in to his position.

    The bankers are evil.
    The health insurance companies are evil.
    The Republicans are evil.
    Wall St. is evil.

    The fact that Obama has a more appealing gloss doesn’t invalidate the criticisms. The only difference between him and Palin is that the targets are different.

    When I see a post on VN that points this out THEN I might take some of the Palin criticism seriously on this site. But as long as “Obama casts himself as the protagonist and has made much more effort to bring people to his side than Palin has” is the attitude then I’m not really inclined to give credibility to the perception.

  7. February 12, 2010 11:35 am

    Indeed, she’s the opposite of the kind of figure her supporters need to further their goals in the public sphere.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to judge the motives of Palin’s “supporters.” Right now, she is clearly an outsider, a champion of those who rail against the intellectual “Washington elite” who’ve had their way with “us,” the salt-of-the-earth hard-working “real” folks. That doesn’t mean all her supporters are intellectual laggards, nor that all her supporters even agree with her stated attitudes. So long as she is only a threat to power, some will support her for no other reason than “Palin is not Obama” and she stirs the stop-Obama kettle. Until she becomes a serious candidate, it is still very possible to use Palin without worry about what she might do with the most destructive military arsenal ever assembled.

    With regard to Colin’s comment that Obama’s “actions have done far more dividing than Palin could dream of”: To the extent it’s true, isn’t it the natural consequence of Obama being the President of the United States, compiler of the largest annual budget the world has ever seen, Commander-in-Chief of the most destructive military arsenal ever assembled and our era’s greatest teleprompter-reading orator, while Palin is a professional talk-show guest who writes talking points on the palm of her left hand?

  8. February 12, 2010 11:44 am

    Obama isn’t the issue. I think we should be able to discuss Sarah Palin — who for some reason is considered by many Americans to be worthy of the presidency — without having to discuss her relative to Obama.

    Everytime I make a comment about Sarah Palin to a conservative, the reply is “Well Obama…” and I’ll finish their sentence “can’t make it through the drive-thru without a teleprompter.” I’m a Democrat less than excited about what our president has done in pushing for the common good; it could been a lot better. But…what does this has to do with Sarah Palin? Nothing.

    Palin really is intellectually lazy. And I’m just amazed that people virtually worship her in the cultish way people were said to have worshipped Obama (I think it’s true on both sides). Either way, I think she is, as Tim asserted, an opportuntist who is riding on the political strength of the tea party movement — a movement I think she historically probably knows nothing about.

  9. February 12, 2010 11:46 am

    It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact inevitable, that one’s policy positions should “divide” one from one’s political opposition. That’s what makes for a horse race, as they say.
    The difference between Obama and Palin is that Obama is not on tv ridiculing his opposition, calling them names, and slandering their backgrounds, and lying about their agendas. Palin has done, and continues to do, all of those things.
    But she’s only in it for the money, folks, as will become increasingly evident with time. Her idea of “service” is to walk out on her constituents and hit the lecture and book tour circuits to rake in the big bucks. She has no credibility as a committed politian. The governor of Alaska has fewer constituents than the mayor of Columbus, Ohio. Palin is in way over her head as a national figure.

  10. February 12, 2010 11:52 am

    I wonder if Mr. Gormley can cite for us even one instance in which Obama has been documented using the word “evil” to characterize any of the entities on the list he produces for our edification.
    Methinks ye listen to El Rushbo too much.
    Obama is, in fact, currently in trouble with his own base for stating publicly that certain Wall Street figures deserve their huge salaries and are good guys.
    Which is it?

  11. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:53 am

    The bankers are evil.
    The health insurance companies are evil.
    The Republicans are evil.
    Wall St. is evil.

    Obama has said this? Used the word “evil?” Because his opponents have. They literally think he is a baby-killing socialist.

    As for Plain not being “in power”. . . no republican is. They re the minority party, and the only activity on the republican front is in the form of the Tea Party Movement, of which Palin is the most prominent spokesperson.

    Unofficial, yes, but all republican power is unofficial these days.

  12. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:56 am

    Republicans have declared Obama’s presidency to be a disaster, and started doing so weeks into his term.

    THIS is divisive, and not anything Obama is himself responsible for.

    How can he respond to people who have been calling for his impeachemnt since the day he was nominated?

  13. David Nickol permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:57 am

    Palin is in decline, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll:

    There is a growing sense that the former Alaska governor is not qualified to serve as president, with more than seven in 10 Americans now saying she is unqualified, up from 60 percent in a November survey. Even among Republicans, a majority now say Palin lacks the qualifications necessary for the White House.

    Palin has lost ground among conservative Republicans, who would be crucial to her hopes if she seeks the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. Forty-five percent of conservatives now consider her as qualified for the presidency, down sharply from 66 percent who said so last fall.

    Among all Republicans polled, 37 percent now hold a “strongly favorable” opinion of Palin, about half the level recorded when she burst onto the national stage in 2008 as Sen. John McCain’s running mate.

    Among Democrats and independents, assessments of Palin also have eroded. Six percent of Democrats now consider her qualified for the presidency, a drop from 22 percent in November; the percentage of independents who think she is qualified fell to 29 percent from 37 percent.

    Also, everybody hates the government.

  14. David Nickol permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:58 am

    The Republicans are evil.

    I have never heard Obama say Republicans are evil. It might help to make political debate less rancorous if people refrained from making stuff up.

  15. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:04 pm

    Having not blogged much about Palin, I can’t be said to be fixated on her. I’d also wager that I’ve critically written more about Obama than I have about her. In any case, it is true that people on both the left and the right do fixate on her. She’s wields a decent amount of political power and may well be positioning herself for a presidential run. I write about her because she’s upheld as a conservative hero whereas I’ve little doubt she’ll play the villain to her cause, however well-intentioned she may be. I welcome and cherish a political conservatism grounded in the politics of prudence, and I hate to see a politics of prudence usurped by politics of pettiness and alienation.

  16. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:06 pm

    Frank M.,

    I’m assuming that her supporters are comprised of a variety of people of differing motives who support her for a number of different reasons.

  17. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:07 pm

    I think we should be able to discuss Sarah Palin — who for some reason is considered by many Americans to be worthy of the presidency — without having to discuss her relative to Obama.

    Thank you, Eric.

  18. R.C. permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:13 pm

    Obama and Palin are equally divisive. Largely it is the style which does it.

    Obama speaks in a professorial manner which strikes some as pompous and arrogant; they associate it with the kind of thin-telligent folk who emerge from grad schools with loads of untested theories about how the world works but no practical experience, and proceed to muck up most of the real-world projects to which they contribute before ducking back into academia where they can haughtily opine about the world while keeping their notions safe from the challenge of reality.

    Palin speaks in a regional and rural accent and rhythm and with a demeanor which urbane and elite folk associate with gossipy small-town hairdressers. Admittedly most gossipy small-town hairdressers aren’t as accomplished or as pretty, but the impression comes through with all its associations: Here is a person whose deepest thoughts on the issues of the day are to dismiss the notion of thinking deeply as a waste of time by silly people who think too much. Here also is a person who, like a stereotypical small-town hairdresser, probably tells stories which are selected and exaggerated for storytelling effect rather than for relevance and accuracy. Also, she is apparently happy with a life of lowbrow diversions; her ambition takes the form of opportunism but has nothing of the seriousness or persistence of a quest. Had the opportunity for VP not arisen, Palin would have been equally contented with another moose-hunting trophy and a night out with the First Dude at the nearest Ryan’s family steak house.

    Now for high office, one wants the right kind of person with the right kinds of ideas and the right tools for the job.

    The anti-Obama half of the country reacts to Obama with horror because an insecure pencil-necked geek who lacks the maturity to know what he doesn’t know and is haughty about knowing a bunch of things that aren’t even true is a horrifying person to have in the Oval Office. Sure, he has some of the right tools for the job: a non-regionally-specific speaking voice, his political and cultural connections, and his skin color are all great tools in his toolset, and helped him clinch the nomination over Hillary. But he’s the wrong kind of person with the wrong type of ideas, so his toolset doesn’t overcome the horror some people feel at his unfitness for the office he holds.

    By the way, these folk who react with horror to Poindexter in the White House often regard Palin as the right sort of person to hold office: Not insecure, not academically isolated from reality, not holding Average Joe’s American life as beneath her. Her existence would not be rendered meaningless if she lost an election. (She would not, for example, gain fifty pounds, grow a beard, show up in a hot tub on SNL, and spend the next decade trying to justify her existence hysterically tilting at windmills to save the world from imaginary dragons.)

    But that isn’t how the kind of people who like Obama see things.

    The type of person who’s okay with Obama in the White House reacts to Palin with horror because they think she lacks all three items that make a good candidate: To them, she’s the wrong kind of person, with no ideas at all, and with a totally wrong toolset.

    These folk see a person who practices her religion apparently sincerely, without either of the traditional expressions of sophistication (dissent or lukewarmness) which cultural elites use to signal their intellectual independence from religion. That absent signal tells the kind of folk that like Obama that this woman is not one of them. (No dissent? No lukewarmness? A person like that can’t possibly have a brain!) So she’s the wrong sort of person.

    They also see her as having the wrong sort of ideas…no, wait, that’s not quite right. Truer to say that she may claim to have “ideas,” but what she calls “ideas” don’t count in their book: Only a moron could hold those sort of free-market, America-is-basically-good, my-family-makes-me-happy, drill-now-drill-here notions. Anyone whose synapses fire regularly would be more angsty, less content.

    And the toolset might be perfect for a soccer mom in flyover country, but utterly wrong for impressing diplomats and heads of state. Pretty doesn’t work if it’s the wrong sort of pretty. She looks neither ethnic nor European. She’s small-town hot, but not striking in a sophisticated way.

    I think in the end neither figure, no matter how much or little they express their contempt for the other half of the country, can help being divisive. Their styles cut along the existing cultural divisions between in the American people.

    Palin and Obama could verbalize no “red meat” at all, and it wouldn’t matter. We’d all be at one another’s throats over how appropriate or inappropriate they each were for public office, according to the type of people we are.

    In essence, the American public is a lot like two cars driving down the highway with almost-identical window stickers: The one has the cartoon character Calvin urinating on a Chevrolet logo; the other has Calvin urinating on a Ford logo.

    The CEO’s of Ford and Chevrolet could be best buddies, but it wouldn’t matter: The owners of these two cars have expressed their brand loyalty, and now they’re reflexively expressing their brand-oriented identity by pissing at each other.

  19. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:18 pm

    Palin is going to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. I can’t believe that no one else seems to see this.

    Conservatives claim to be perplexed that liberals are watching her so closely. . . but the strongest thing in her favor, as far as conservatives are concerned, is that she “riles up libs!”

    I would have thought that after the disaster of the Bush presidency, conservatives would put more thought into their political representatives, but apparently that is not the case.

  20. Colin Gormley permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:28 pm

    LOL. Looks like I’m not the only knee-jerk reaction here.

    “The difference between Obama and Palin is that Obama is not on tv ridiculing his opposition”

    Oh yeah. Like the Supreme Court dig totally didn’t happen in the SOTU speech. Or blaming his predecessor for the past year for everything evil in the world. Or blaming the Republicans for stalling his agenda AFTER calling for bipartisanship (it’s only the opposition’s fault that there is a problem. If everyone only agreed with me everything would be cool).

    My point is this gentlemen. Obama’s calls for bipartisanship are simply duplicitous. His idea of bipartisanship is for the opposition to shut up. Palin makes it clear that her targets are to be defeated. Obama plays the bipartisanship card but simply uses the same heated rethoric.

    The inability of the posters here to see that only makes me take criticism of Palin with much salt. The inability to see that Obama is just as divisive with a better gloss make me rather skeptical about the qualifications of the author of the article to judge such.

  21. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:46 pm

    My point is this gentlemen. Obama’s calls for bipartisanship are simply duplicitous.

    This is simply incorrect. Look at how the current GOP is using the filibuster in the Senate, compared to any previous term. They have made it impossible for Obama to do anything without a supermajority.

    This is not a good faith attempt to get a minority viewpoint heard, it is obstructionism, pure and simple.

    Obviously, you think I am lying about this, but there is an easy test: find me a previous Senate minority, of any party, that used the filibuster as much as this present one.

    Do that, and I will concede that the lack of bipartisanship is Obama’s fault.

  22. Colin Gormley permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:51 pm

    Thank you R.C. My point stated with more articulation.

  23. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    February 12, 2010 1:05 pm

    Colin,

    My position on Palin stands or falls on its own merits. You can therefore determine whether or not I’m qualified to judge her suitableness as a leader based on my argument pertaining to her. If I’m wrong about Palin, then you should be able to show how I’m in error about her by pointing to what I have said about her. That I don’t exactly share assessment of Obama (though I admit he alienates as well) may incline you towards skepticism, but your skepticism can be answered one way or another by what I’ve said irrespective of the current president.

  24. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 1:14 pm

    R.C.

    Most of what you said was nonsense. But I will object only to this:

    I’m “lukewarm”?

    Because I don’t read Reveleations literally, don’t insist that America be caled a “Christian Nation”, and recognize that Christianity has a long philosophical and disputative tradition?

    Is the only mark of “sincerity” the singleminded and hysterical application of faith to politics?

    Isn’t it possible that those who dislike Palin for her overt religiosity do so because it strikes them as shallow “Elmer Gantryism”? Is Plain’s “sincerity” simply beyond question? While liberal faith is always under suspicion?

    Palin represents. . . as did Bush before her. . . a kind of Christianity that sets my teeth on edge. Smug, respectable, emotional, anti-intellectual. The fact that the Catholci Church seems to mix so readily with this kind of christianity, and even seems to aspire to be more like it, strikes me as a real danger.

  25. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 1:16 pm

    R.C.

    Sure, he has some of the right tools for the job: a non-regionally-specific speaking voice, his political and cultural connections, and his skin color are all great tools in his toolset, and helped him clinch the nomination over Hillary. But he’s the wrong kind of person with the wrong type of ideas, so his toolset doesn’t overcome the horror some people feel at his unfitness for the office he holds.

    Just to be clear: is this an opinoon you yourself hold, or are you mere;y articulating the view of the “average anti-Obama person?”

  26. February 12, 2010 1:33 pm

    Gormley is closest to the mark in these comments/posts. Strassel has a great article running realclearpolitics today connecting the Alinsky-ite dots from Obama’s comments about Rep. Ryan at the Republican retreat to the ongoing personalize/smear that is not emanating from the President’s party hit”men.”

    I have found little honest in what Obama claims and proposes…other than his specific actions. Obama’s actions include: immediately ending the Mexico City Policy and then using our tax dollars to fund abortion (which is the killing of children) in foreign lands. Talk about an act of _ _ _.

    Does Obama engage in honest debate to convince America…no. Obama engages in subterfuge and manipulation.

    At the Republican Retreat Obama commented that the Rep’s had made his (Obama’s) health care bill look like a “Bolshevik Plot.” When Obama is on record from before his Pres. bid advocating a step by step process to reach a single-payer system. Every country in the world with national health care is said to have “socialized medicine.”

    Is Obama a “baby killer?” He does want the nation’s tax dollars and borrowed funds as well to make sure Bolshevized health care plans do cover abortions…He is so flippant as to say that knowing the start of life is above his pay grade. Obama certainly makes accessible and inexpensive (monetarily) the destruction of unborn children…meanwhile he goes on to say that “nobody really ever wants to get an abortion.” Subterfuge!

    As regards Palin…I tried to watch her interview with Chris Wallace last week. Where Obama’s trickery angers me, Palin’s wording and pauses are painful to hear. I tried to listen to Palin, but it was too painful. (I am not addressing the appropriateness of her pursuits.)

  27. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 1:40 pm

    Obama certainly makes accessible and inexpensive (monetarily) the destruction of unborn children…meanwhile he goes on to say that “nobody really ever wants to get an abortion.” Subterfuge!

    How is this “subterfuge?” Is there no such thing as a necessary evil? Do you honestly think that some women have abortions for fun?

    But inanyevent. . . you do think Obama is a baby-killing socialist, right? Does he hate America, too?

  28. Colin Gormley permalink
    February 12, 2010 2:00 pm

    Kyle,

    Last post on this. Just wanted to say that I actually agree with the post as far as some criticisms. I only wanted to raise two points.

    1. If these claims about Palin make her unfit for the office then Obama is as well for the same reasons.
    2. I think you are undermining your own position when you argue against Palin in this fashion. Disagree with her political stances, fine. But when you post an argument line like this I don’t think you get anywhere. Most politicians (including the ones in charge) suffer from these problems. By this same criteria most (if not all) of our elected officials shouldn’t be there. Palin isn’t special in that regard.

  29. Kurt permalink
    February 12, 2010 2:18 pm

    It is people like Scott that have convinced me that the President was right in reversing the Mexico City Policy.

  30. David Nickol permalink
    February 12, 2010 2:22 pm

    Oh yeah. Like the Supreme Court dig totally didn’t happen in the SOTU speech.

    Colin,

    Obama didn’t ridicule the Supreme Court for their decision. He strongly disagreed with it. And it was a 5-4 decision, by the way, with very strong dissents. Were the dissenters ridiculing the Court they serve on?

    Or blaming his predecessor for the past year for everything evil in the world.

    I believe you are referring to this line in the State of the Union Address:

    One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt.

    One can hardly call that blaming George Bush for “everything evil in the world.” It is a simple statement of fact. You may be upset that it’s true, but that doesn’t make it any the less true.

  31. digbydolben permalink
    February 12, 2010 2:57 pm

    I’m going to let this be my only comment on this thread:

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/they-aint-main-street

    It’s for [those] who say that Obama “blames the banks” for everything.

  32. February 12, 2010 3:04 pm

    Still no Obama quotes using the word “evil,” Mr. Gormley? No Obama quotes substantiating anything you’ve said about him, actually are there?
    Obama has, in fact, done everything in his power NOT to be divisive. This does not mean that he is going to become a tight-fisted, conservative, nativist, tea-bagger. He’s a left-of-center liberal. He believes in a major role for government in solving domestic problems. He is not, however, a rabble-rouser.
    But, hey–whatever floats your boat, Mr. Gormley.

  33. Frank permalink
    February 12, 2010 3:14 pm

    And Palin, who looks like the leader contender for the GOP nomination in 2012 . . .

    Palin as “leading contender” is a media creation. She quit halfway through her first term as governor to strike while the iron was hot—rake in as much cash as possible before trotting off to the political graveyard. Her possible candidacy is nothing more than catnip to sell her book and line up $100K a pop speeches.

  34. Steve permalink
    February 12, 2010 3:55 pm

    If these claims about Palin make her unfit for the office then Obama is as well for the same reasons.

    Which may be the reason why she won’t get far in a presidential run. Palin and Obama have roughly the same amount of experience, and Obama’s inexperience is glowing brightly for all to see right now. There are enough parallels between the two, and the bad taste that many are now trying to dilute with tea might still be too strong for a good number of center/right leaning voters when 2012 comes into focus – when Palin is front and center yelling “change.” Is it deja-vu all over again? Ironically, Obama’s failure may be Palin’s undoing.

  35. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 4:08 pm

    Obama’s failure. . .

    What “failure”?

    You’re not one of the 39% of republicans who think he should be impeached, are you?

    Is his presidency rally in tatters? Is his failure. . . after a bit more than a year. . . so plain that any unbiased observer can see it?

  36. February 12, 2010 4:09 pm

    Palin is going to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. I can’t believe that no one else seems to see this.

    As I said in another thread, if people’s lives weren’t on the line, I would welcome a Palin presidency if only for the humor and because it would mean the exponential acceleration of the end of the united states of america.

  37. February 12, 2010 4:12 pm

    Palin and Obama have roughly the same amount of experience, and Obama’s inexperience is glowing brightly for all to see right now.

    I wonder if at the end of Obama’s presidency we’ll still be hearing about how little experience he has from the right?

  38. February 12, 2010 4:31 pm

    Please, GOP, nomimate Palin. It would (i) create great entertainment; (ii) guarantee an Obama landslide!

  39. Steve permalink
    February 12, 2010 5:46 pm

    If you need to ask “what failure?” then what can I say? So far he’s been a dismal failure and is daily proving himself more and more incompetent. Palin would likely be about the same in my estimation, which is my point.

    If you really think that Obama will win in a landslide against ANYONE at this point, then you’re obviously a democrat shill and are delusional.

  40. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 6:15 pm

    If you need to ask “what failure?” then what can I say?

    You need to say one thing that he has failed at. He has not yet gotten the most massive and ambitious piece of social legislation in fifty years passed.

    Other than that, what has he “failed” at.

    Seriously. Republicans repeat this over and over, but I t is simply too early to call his presidency a failure.

  41. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 6:19 pm

    And the claim that Palin would be as bad is ridiculous: she would be MUCH worse. She has ALREADY come out in favor of attacking Iran:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MTI5NzBmYThkM2M5MDI4NThiMDQwNGU1NmRkMzMxMDE=

    A Palin presidency would be an unmitigated disaster.

  42. February 12, 2010 7:33 pm

    If you need to ask “what failure?” then what can I say? So far he’s been a dismal failure and is daily proving himself more and more incompetent.

    It is difficult to know what republicans even mean when they say he is a “failure.” It seems they just like to throw the word around, hoping that it’s true. I mean, in what sense exactly were/are they hoping he’d/’ll “succeed”? Health care? Can’t be that. Ending torture? Can’t be that either. Getting the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Hmmm….

  43. February 12, 2010 7:34 pm

    No, MM – we need to act like we’re just dreading a Palin nomination — “Gosh, if the Republicans nominate Palin, why then our Democratic Party ship will be sunk for sure! No, ANYTHING BUT PALIN, PLEEAASE…”

    …like that. Didn’t you get the memo??

  44. Cathy permalink
    February 12, 2010 7:46 pm

    Mr. Iafrate:

    If you would like to see the end of the USA, please leave and live in another country.

  45. Rodak permalink
    February 12, 2010 8:00 pm

    What’s the beef, Cathy? He’s no different there than the ex-First Dude of Alaska, or the current governor of Texas.

  46. R.C. permalink
    February 12, 2010 8:07 pm

    Replying (at length! don’t say I’m shortchanging you!) to Phosphorious:

    1. Phosphorious, I know absolutely nothing about you; even your online moniker isn’t particularly revealing. I don’t know whether your approach to whichever religious faith you practice is lukewarm or dissenting.

    All that I have yet gathered about you personally is that you must have voted for Obama and still support him politically. I draw that conclusion solely on the observation that you otherwise would not have taken my generalizations about Obama supporters as directed at you personally.

    They were, however, generalizations. I anticipate that they are statistically valid as a characterization of what tends to distinguish Palin-lovers from Obama-lovers. But you could easily be a statistical outlier within your group, without invalidating the generalization.

    2. In retrospect “lukewarm” and “dissenting” were imperfect word-choices.

    To more fully convey what I had in mind, let me flesh out my generalization about Obama supporters as follows:

    (a.) Some of them will belong to religious groups in which the demands of orthodox belief are strongly supernaturalist and the demands of orthodox morality are strongly traditionalist and countercultural, especially with regard to sexual mores. I put the Catholic church squarely in this category, along with a lot of the more fundamentalist-leaning evangelical groups.

    (b.) Some of them will belong to religious groups in which orthodoxy is less supernaturalist and traditional. Unitarian Universalists are perhaps the exemplars of this category.

    (c.) Some will eschew religious belief and practice altogether.

    I expect that relative to Palin supporters, Obama supporters tend to belong more to categories (b.) and (c.).

    I also expect that relative to Palin supporters, Obama supporters in category (a.) will tend more often to dissent from, or be dismissive of the importance of, that group’s orthodoxy.

    Returning to my original observations, an Obama-supporting Catholic who learns that Palin’s church is dispensationalist, preaches against abortion, believes that demonic oppression and possession is not always mere mental illness, and practices exorcism and speaking in tongues will then look at Palin to determine what her individual attitudes about these things are.

    If Palin were to say, “Well, I go to church with people who believe those things, but I myself have trouble believing some of that. Still, I feel very attached to my church and the friends and family who are also members, and for that reason I continue to attend,” …then an Obama supporter would likely think, “Ah. She’s smarter and more sophisticated than the other rubes in her town. Perhaps she’s not so bad.”

    If Palin simply said, “Yes, I believe what my church teaches; and those beliefs are very much part of how Jesus has done wonderful things in my life,” …then an Obama supporter would likely think, “Oh. My. God. She’s actually that backward. Put a gag on her before the rest of the world thinks we Americans are all that way.”

    3. You ask, “Is the only mark of ‘sincerity’ the singleminded and hysterical application of faith to politics?”

    No. In fact I find it difficult to see how you got that assumption out of what I wrote. There’s some subtext you’re bringing to the party; some colored lenses through which you’re viewing my intended meaning.

    You continue, “Isn’t it possible that those who dislike Palin for her overt religiosity do so because it strikes them as shallow Elmer Gantryism?” It’s possible for people to hold that view, if they’re culturally distant from middle America’s religiosity and thus unfamiliar with its expression. People with broader experience would see no reason to draw comparisons between Sinclair Lewis’s false prophet and Palin’s expressions of faith, which are perfectly congruent with her culture and pretty mild by its standards.

    4. Re: “Is Plain’s sincerity simply beyond question?” Not at all. But there isn’t currently any reason for suspicion: There’s nothing about Palin’s religious life, so far as we yet know, which runs counter-to-type.

    Raising questions without evidence of insincerity thus raises more questions about the questioner than about Palin: What makes him suspicious of the sincerity of people who are comfortable and contented in their church membership? Is it because he hasn’t had that kind of experience himself?

    Re: “While liberal faith is always under suspicion?” I’m not sure I know what you mean by “liberal faith”; do you mean the faith of political liberals, or the faith of persons whose theology is unorthodox, or…?

    I said nothing about suspicion in the sense of my policing orthodoxy. I said rather that Obama supporters, when they belong to churches where orthodoxy requires a high level of rigor, tend (more often than Palin supporters) to be amongst those who dissent from or are blasé about whether integrity requires them to join a different communion more congruent with their beliefs and practices. That’s a cultural observation.

    5. Re: “Palin represents. . . as did Bush before her. . . a kind of Christianity that sets my teeth on edge. Smug, respectable, emotional, anti-intellectual.”

    How odd a reaction! Nothing about it strikes me as smug, but perhaps I’m more familiar with how middle America talks about its faith…or how it talks, in general. Part of the point of my earlier post is that the style of each person (Palin and Obama) is of a type that lends itself to misunderstanding and mistrust in certain segments of the electorate.

    That Palin should be thought to sound smug because she finds nothing annoying or contemptible about her church is like calling a husband smug because he found nothing annoying or contemptible about his wife. But when she speaks in front of a friendly audience, she is obviously having fun…or that is how middle America reads her expression and body language. To someone more used to the blank expressions of urban mass-transit customers, her enjoyment might come across as smug. But that’s a misunderstanding of her kinesics.

    As for “respectable?” There you’ve lost me. Palin’s denomination is far less “respectable” in the eyes of U.S. cultural elites than, say, the more staid expressions of Episcopalianism. The more theologically-conservative evangelicals share with Catholicism an old-school insistence on miracles, the importance of theological truths, the objective sinfulness of certain acts, a belief that God requires sexual purity of everyone, and so on. When a person professes such doctrines without reservation or irony, it doesn’t make them “respectable” in the sense of giving them an “in” with the movers and shakers. It’s often quite the reverse.

    Now I sympathize with your view of Palin’s church as emotional and anti-intellectual. Keep in mind that it is the religious home of plenty of bright, even brilliant, people. But as a religious tradition, it can’t sink its scholarly roots too deeply without contradiction: The New Testament calls Christians to have not only a theology and a soteriology but an ecclesiology, and Protestants can’t really have one because none of their churches are old enough! (That’s a simplification, but it is a real enough effect.) And I myself lean more towards Apollonian than Dionysian expressions of worship.

    But be careful not to equate “emotional” with “anti-intellectual.” Emotions are good; God made them for a purpose; when properly directed they engage us wholeheartedly in good things.

    The will reasons out decisions in the mind, but emotions should be trained to put steel in our resolve to carry out those well-reasoned decisions. A man isn’t a whole man if he amputates his emotions just to make sure they never overwhelm his intellect; he should instead have trained them to obey it. Recall what C.S.Lewis says in Abolition of Man about “Men Without Chests” (or if you haven’t read it, try to; it’s short and quite worthwhile): A man is less a man if his sense of piety doesn’t surge when standing in the ruins at Iona. Emotions can be directed towards a proper object, and people who feign intellectualism by sneering at properly-directed emotion are actually no smarter than anyone else: “Their heads are no bigger than anyone else’s; it is only the atrophy of the chests beneath that makes them appear so.”

    In the case of the worship services at Palin’s church? Well, like I said, I’m more Apollonian than Dionysian. But I dare not sneer at people who lift their hands in worship and sing their hearts out and weep over God’s grace. That’s the attitude that Michael, daughter of Saul, had when David danced. The Bible narrative is pretty clear in its judgment that David, with his wild, undignified dancing about, was right, and she was wrong.

    6. Re: “The fact that the Catholic Church seems to mix so readily with this kind of Christianity, and even seems to aspire to be more like it, strikes me as a real danger.”

    Well, there are dangers of course. But like I said, don’t be Michael!

    And anyway, Catholicism believes in baptismal regeneration, in transubstantiation, in permanent celibacy for anyone not already married to an opposite-gender person, in sacramental marriage permanency, in the unordainability of women to the priesthood. More: The interconnectedness of the claim to Magisterial authority and the identify of the Catholic Church as THE Church means that the Catholic faith will never change in these areas. Fifty thousand years from now, if Christ has not already returned, the Catholic church will still require homosexuals to be celibate and have an all male priesthood and episcopacy.

    So Catholics are, in that sense, more fundamentalist than the fundamentalists; which Catholicism and Fundamentalism cause equal discomfort, and sometimes scorn, if discussed openly at D.C. dinner parties! So there is a sort of natural simpatico between the conservative wing of evangelicalism, and the Catholic church (if the evangelicals can just ditch the leftover dregs of anti-Catholicism!).

    7. Re: my statement that “Sure, he has some of the right tools for the job…,” you asked, “Just to be clear: is this an opinion you yourself hold, or are you merely articulating the view of the average anti-Obama person?”

    That was me articulating the view of the person who opposes Obama, although I have some thoughts in common with them. I do think some of his personality traits are “the right tools for the job”; and I do think his skin color when combined with his manner of speech was a huge net positive for him in the primary and the election. Jesse Jackson could not get elected because he was a (distinctly) black man who sounded like a black preacher; Obama was likely to win if he didn’t screw up the campaign because he was a (lightly) black man who sounded mid-way between a professor and a newscaster.

  47. phosphorious permalink
    February 12, 2010 8:58 pm

    R.C.

    A ;enghthy reply; I haven’t had time to read it yet.

    One point, though. I did not mean to suggest that I was personally offended by your remarks. I was simply pointing out that they are misguided. “Middle America” constantly complains that the “coastal elites” are dismissive of their ways and beliefs, and in fact don’t even deign to find out what those ways and beliefs are.

    Meanwhile, those same middle Americans feel free to generalize about the “coastal elites” and don’t see the irony of that.

  48. February 12, 2010 9:49 pm

    Mr. Iafrate:

    If you would like to see the end of the USA, please leave and live in another country.

    1) Lemme think about this. Um, no. Just got back from 3 years of living elsewhere and while I found Canada as a society to be much more humane on just about every possible point when compared to the u.$.a., I’m quite attached to the people and land of West Virginia. Both of those things can be valued apart from the existence of something called the united states of america. To quote one of my favorite bands, “I Hate America But I Think I’ll Stay.”

    2) Would you say the same thing to a native person who, rightly, takes issue with the very existence of the united states?

    3) Can’t you be more original? Or tolerant? Those are two qualities that many americans typically uphold.

    4) Sorry, Kyle, to contribute to the thread’s hijacking but this “just leave” nonsense is irritating and hypocritical. One could turn it right around on good, patriotic, right wing Catholics by saying “If you hate abortion so much why don’t you leave and find a pro-life country to live in?” I won’t reply to further replies to this comment unless they simply inquire about the name of the band I quoted.

  49. R.C. permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:56 pm

    Phosphorious:

    Fair enough. It’s certainly true that each group has caricaturish notions about the other group. And it’s certainly true that there are serious reasons that each such caricature has evolved within each group and taken up such a powerful hold in that group’s imagination.

    But that supports my original thesis pretty well, doesn’t it? That Palin and Obama come across as appalling to different groups in different ways. Obama-lovers can’t fathom what it is about Obama’s style and words that makes Palin-lovers recoil, because they’re culturally different and Obama’s mannerisms don’t hit them the same way. Meanwhile Palin-lovers can’t fathom what it is about Palin’s style and words that makes Obama-lovers recoil, because they’re culturally different and Palin’s mannerisms don’t hit them the same way.

    Now I’m prone the same kinds of cultural misunderstandings, myself; I think everyone is. While in Romania I found myself having kinesics misunderstandings with some goths because of the cultural divide, for example. And I was raised an evangelical Christian, coming to Catholicism rather late in the game, so I’ve had in the last five years to adjust to the cultural differences there. Lots of hidden communicative pitfalls!

    But in the U.S., it just so happens that my biography involves hangin’ out both with the kind of folk who love Obama and recoil from Palin, and also with the kind of folk who love Palin and recoil from Obama. At least I think that’s the reason; but whatever the reason, neither one makes me recoil. (Not for style reasons, anyway.)

    So when I listen to Palin I put on my red-state goggles and when I listen to Obama I put on my blue-state goggles. Seen through the appropriate lenses, they both come across as unobjectionable examples, even exemplars, of their respective species. But the different reactions of my red-state and blue-state friends to the two pols suggest to me that the two species tend to communicate in mutually incompatible ways.

    BTW, Phosphorious, in rereading my earlier (second) post, I see a couple of points where my words could be construed as criticizing you. That was not my intent.

    Will you please read that post with this caveat in mind, that I am not at all trying to audit your orthodoxy or to find fault with you? I am just analyzing how I think two subsets in the American electorate tend to get rubbed the wrong way by the body language and style of the other subset’s current pop star.

    So for example, when I exclaimed “How odd a reaction!” I wasn’t trying to put you down for having had it. I was just saying that that particular reaction was entirely absent in me, and probably in most or all of the folk who favor Palin.

  50. Steve permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:20 pm

    You need to say one thing that he has failed at. He has not yet gotten the most massive and ambitious piece of social legislation in fifty years passed.

    Other than that, what has he “failed” at.

    Well, considering that health care reform is the only major thing that he’s tried to do in the past year, and despite the fact that he has the largest majorities in the house and senate that anyone could ever reasonably expect, he still failed to get anything passed and in the process lost credibility with the public and even politicians in his own party; that coupled with the fact that the economy is in the pit, bleeding jobs all over the place and he’s failed to give it the serious consideration that it deserves… that his budget is going to give us, what, 1.6 or 1.8 (I forget) trillion dollar deficit this fiscal year alone – I guess you’ll have to tell me what he’s so greatly succeeded at in order for me not to consider him a failure to this point.

  51. February 12, 2010 11:42 pm

    I relish the comments about Middle America v. Coastal Elites; as I am a fifth generation product of California who has made his home in the heartland.

    To phosphorious

    There is evil and there is good…nothing is neutral. I wouldn’t go so far as to think that abysmal act is done for fun, but it is wanted by many. (some things are at a higher tier of evil than others…using evil to achieve an end is not justifiable…)

    Obama certainly supports such killing, how can that be questioned given his actions? He certainly supports many Socialist aims, how can that be questioned? I’m not identifying him as either, but I do see his actions support both…how am I to know what he thinks in his heart of hearts about America?

    To Kurt:

    What did I say to convince you of that? What do you mean by “people like Scott?” I don’t want my taxes to pay for a procedure that I consider to be evil. I’m sure you feel the same way…on what grounds do you make such a claim?

  52. Spirit of Vatican II permalink
    February 13, 2010 3:16 am

    We Europeans thought the US had returned to sanity in electing Obama — who is a rational and professional politician. But now we have another reason to chortle as Americans prostitute their minds on the mentally ill and totally manipulated ex-governor of Alaska. It is hilarious beyond belief, quite painfully so. We do hope the lady never gets her finger on the nuclear button. We know that she is itching to inflict on Iran the hell that Bush and co. inflicted on Iraq. Kudos to digbydolben for his sensible contribution to this zany thread.

  53. digbydolben permalink
    February 13, 2010 4:14 am

    Michael, what IS the name of the band you quoted? I seriously want to know…

  54. February 13, 2010 6:01 am

    Michael J.–
    What band did you quote?

  55. February 13, 2010 9:02 am

    I found an essay on George Orwell in this week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review to be reflective on Sarah Palin, in her larger context. If interested, my thoughts on it here: http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/2010/02/reflections-youre-laughing-now.html

  56. phosphorious permalink
    February 13, 2010 11:08 am

    Well, considering that health care reform is the only major thing that he’s tried to do in the past year, and despite the fact that he has the largest majorities in the house and senate that anyone could ever reasonably expect, he still failed to get anything passed and in the process lost credibility with the public and even politicians in his own party;

    This is exactly the kind of bizarre criticism coming from conservatives these days.

    1)Healthcare hasn’t gone through because Seante republicans have filibustered one hundred times, according to one count, in a single year. Find me another time when a minority was so dissmissive of the will of the electorate.

    2) Obama’s budget is as good as or better than anything the GOP has offered. Tax cuts do not make everything okay. Even the GOP believes that healthcare reform is needed, they have just decided tha Obama will not be allowed to do it. They’re children.

    2) Which is it: is Obama a rabid partisan who doesn’t listen to the minority, or is he moving to the center, thus alienating his own base? Republicans believe both of these things at once. They can’t both be true. As far as I’m concerned, Obama has been far too deferential to the obstructionist republicans. I don’t remember Bush ever making any concessions.

    3) It’s been just over a year. Something like 40% of republicans think he should be impeached. Does that sound like sane, reasonable criticism to you? Or is it a symptom of an embittered, desperate party who needs Obama to fail, one way or another?

    Conservatives are really, really, crazy. I think the massive defeat you suffered in 2008, as well as the unbroken string of failures that wa sthe Bush administration, has unhinged you all.

  57. phosphorious permalink
    February 13, 2010 11:12 am

    Obama certainly supports such killing, how can that be questioned given his actions? He certainly supports many Socialist aims, how can that be questioned? I’m not identifying him as either, but I do see his actions support both…how am I to know what he thinks in his heart of hearts about America?

    I think that parents should be allowed to raise their children as atheists. Does this mean I “support” atheism? Why do I have to explain to a conservative that just because something is wrong, that doesn;t mean that the State is the best means of addressing that wrong?

    As for his “socialism”. . . you think, I assume, that Medicare and Medicaid are “socialistic” as well?

    If so, then the argument is not whteher or not Obama is a socialist. . . he clearly is. . . but whther socialism is bad.

    It’s clearly not.

  58. R.C. permalink
    February 13, 2010 11:51 am

    Phosphorious:

    One caveat: You state: “It’s been just over a year. Something like 40% of republicans think he should be impeached.”

    That figure — and actually I don’t think that’s quite the right number anyhow — comes from a Daily Kos unscientific poll for which the methodology is highly suspect. In particular the methodology was open to a lot of Kos-aks claiming to be conservatives and intentionally answering with crazy responses.

    There is no reliable statistical information, so far as I am aware, about conservatives in general thinking Obama should be impeached.

    There is, however, a poll of conservative bloggers over at “RightWingNews.com” There are methodological issues with this poll: Bloggers tend to be a bit more libertarian than average conservatives, for example. And successful bloggers sometimes get that way for saying (and one assumes, thinking) outrageous red-meat kinds of things.

    On the other hand, bloggers have long established conservative identification, thus eliminating the problem of the Daily Kos poll.

    Anyhow I think the responses in the bloggers poll are considerably more reflective of the conservative norm than those in the Kos poll, which were so flaky as to be utterly implausible.

  59. phosphorious permalink
    February 13, 2010 11:56 am

    Well, considering that health care reform is the only major thing that he’s tried to do in the past year, and despite the fact that he has the largest majorities in the house and senate that anyone could ever reasonably expect, he still failed to get anything passed. . .

    Your definitions of “failure” and “success” need a closer look.

    Let’s compare Obama to Bush, for example. Bush didn’t take this kind of crap from his own party, did he? Nope. Bush said “Do it!” and it got done. When dems vaguely talked of filibuster, republicans threatened to take it away. And Bush got everything he wanted, no questions asked. War. Torture. Massive deficits (which at the time, conservatives didn’t seem to mind!). . . whatever it was, Bush got it.

    Would you call that a success? I wouldn’t. Look at the consequences of Bush’s “success.” Open ended war, an economy in ruins, our reputation abroad destroyed. I kind of wish Bush hadn’t been so “successful”, that his party had pushed back just a little against the demands of perhaps the worst president ever.

    But he got re-elected to a second term. . . SUCCESS!

    Healthcare reform is a massive undertaking, but most people agree that some kind of reform is necessary. It will involve a huge bureaucracy and a significant per cent of the economy. Shall we rush it through? Would that be preferable?

    The democrats are pushing back. The Stupak amendment? Stupak is a democrat, defending life, but working within the framework of reform. Meanwhile republicans filibuster. It is democrats doing th ehard work of hammering out workable compromise, while republicans obstruct.

    Should Obama flex his muscles, push things throgh, “het things done?” Would that make you respec t him?

    Probably, but your respect means very little. Your measures of “failure” and “success” are badly skewed.

  60. Steve permalink
    February 13, 2010 12:56 pm

    I find it quite funny how “my” definition of success is defined by my “republican” background that you all have outlined for everyone, and for me. You guys are truly a hoot.

    Next time I need an oracle I know right where to go.

  61. phosphorious permalink
    February 13, 2010 1:35 pm

    I find it quite funny how “my” definition of success is defined by my “republican” background that you all have outlined for everyone, and for me. You guys are truly a hoot.

    Ahhh. . . of course. . . you mst be one of those “mavericks” who didn’t support Bush either. Seems like catholic blogs are choked with that type these days.

  62. Steve permalink
    February 13, 2010 3:28 pm

    you mst be one of those “mavericks”

    I guess I must be. If you say so. But, maybe it’s just easier to put people that don’t share your opinions in a box.

  63. February 13, 2010 8:31 pm

    It’s the title of a song by the Kent, OH band Harriet the Spy.

  64. phosphorious permalink
    February 13, 2010 8:39 pm

    I guess I must be. If you say so. But, maybe it’s just easier to put people that don’t share your opinions in a box.

    Perhaps.

    Or perhaps you have simply avoided my main criticism: your belief, shared by many republicans, that Obama has “failed” is insanely precipitous, and strong evidence that republicans are either unwilling or unable to think clearly on this topic.

  65. phosphorious permalink
    February 13, 2010 9:57 pm

    That figure — and actually I don’t think that’s quite the right number anyhow — comes from a Daily Kos unscientific poll for which the methodology is highly suspect. In particular the methodology was open to a lot of Kos-aks claiming to be conservatives and intentionally answering with crazy responses.

    The number was 39%. I rounded up.

    The poll was commissioned by Dailykos, but executed by Research 2000, a non-partisan polling firm. It was not an online poll.

    RightWingNews.com polled a small subset of the conservative population, as you have noted, limiting itself to bloggers. If you claim that this poll gives a better sense of what conservatives believe, I’ll agree. . . bit it hardly makes your case, does it?

    What conservative politicians do conservatives hate most? Olympis Snow and John McCain. . . both know for their willingness to work with libs.

    Who do they respect the most? Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. . . one known for hoping Obama fails, the other recently declaring him to have failed.

    And the subtitle of RightWingNews.com is “Kneecapping Obama at every opportunity.”

    I get the joke. . . they are not REALLY kneecapping Obama. I get it.

    But it’s obvious that the right is motivated primarly by personal animosity towards Obama.

    You HATE him, and for very little reason.

  66. digbydolben permalink
    February 14, 2010 2:21 am

    Oh, no, phosphorious, they DO have a reason. The reason is that, within the American/British political traditions, he’s actually more “conservative” (giving the word its Burkean flavour–having most to do with temperament) than they are. He’s a true “conservative” in the traditional mode of English-speaking politics, and they are neo-fascists–that is, radical right-wing reactionary authoritarians, who romanticize the rich, the powerful, the “successful.”

  67. February 14, 2010 8:11 am

    Michael I. —

    Ah. Gotta love those Ohio bands.

    Phosphorious —

    “…your belief, shared by many republicans…”

    We must keep in mind that this concept did not have its genesis as a “belief,” but as false propaganda–a spurious “talking point.” It is a belief only to those intellectually challenged bleating merinos who suck it up as though it had some basis in reality. Which basis–being only a year into his administration–it just quite simply can’t have.

  68. February 14, 2010 1:45 pm

    neo-fascists

    Ding ding!

  69. R.C. permalink
    February 14, 2010 4:24 pm

    Phosphorious:

    “You HATE him, and for very little reason.”

    Hate the guy? Me? Not at all.

    I think his ideas of the kind of legislation, foreign policy, and judiciary that are morally correct (first priority), would benefit the U.S. (second priority), and would benefit the world (third priority) are mostly wrong, and more egregiously so than has tended to be the case with most, though not all, Republican candidates.

    So, sure, I pray for his legislative agenda to fail and for his nominations to the judiciary to be minimal, and for his foreign policy to do less damage than it otherwise would. At the same time I pray fervently for his personal safety, the health and happiness of his wife and children, and that he increase in wisdom, so that his legislative agenda, judicial picks, and foreign policy will change for the better.

    Label that attitude as you like. But I don’t think “hateful” is particularly apt.

    For that matter, neither is “neo-fascist”; that’s so far off it reminds me of the equally plausible anti-Catholic accusation that “Catholics are pagans who worship statues of Mary and the Pope is the antichrist.”

    You can find folk who believe either or both, of course, and sometimes they seem to be surprisingly level-headed people in every other way. But in each case I think it stems from inadequate friendly and respectful exposure to people who believe other than they, or whose life experience is other than theirs. In our society it’s remarkably easy to ghettoize ourselves into cabals (or online communities) of like-minded people who echo our caricatures of others back at us until we take them for gospel. We wind up like the blue-state journalist who was shocked after Reagan won the presidential election: “I don’t see how that could happen. I don’t know anybody who voted for him.”

    Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not slamming Michael and Digby, and I don’t pretend this is only a problem of the left. Ann Coulter is similarly incapable of relating to the thought-life of those who think differently than she, and consequently assumes they have no capability to think at all. And in the Catholic online world I notice some folk seem to take an inordinate glee badmouthing nearly everybody, left, right, up, down, forward or backward.

    Perhaps it’s a problem of faceless online communication? People who’re deterred from insulting behavior in face-to-face meetings by the risk of a punch in the mouth often get inordinately brave behind a computer keyboard.

    Anyhow I mainly meant to say that I don’t hate the guy even though I didn’t vote for him, and really I don’t know any conservatives/libertarians/classical liberals who do. I don’t deny there are some. There must be; all these stories of cranks surely aren’t made up out of whole cloth. But I suppose I’ve been fortunate not to have known any.

  70. phosphorious permalink
    February 14, 2010 7:33 pm

    Hate the guy? Me? Not at all.

    I was using the pliral “you”. . . conservatives in general.

    As evidenced by the “kneecapping Obama at every oppurtinity” mottoe of the conservative website above. And Jim DeMint’s explicit claim tnat healthcare reform will be Obama’s “Waterloo”. . . and attack on the man, not the policy.

    And the general consensus, less than a year into Obama’s presidency, that he is a “failure.”

    Hatred is not always a “hot” emotion. It may seem perfectly normal and sane. . . but when you have an irrational aversion to a person, that can be described as hatred.

  71. phosphorious permalink
    February 14, 2010 7:43 pm

    . . .and for his foreign policy to do less damage than it otherwise would.

    Meaning what, exactly? Which particular element of his foreign policy are you expecting to do such damage, and why?

    You object to my claim that you “hate” Obama. Fimne. hatred is an ugly emotion. But it is a moral category. My fear for most republicans is that they are literally irrational. Again, that 39% of republicans who think Obama should be impeached seem to have lost touch with reality.

    Bush waged unjust and open ended war, ruined the economy and stood by as New Orleans drowned. . . and he nudged the country in a slightly more anti-abortion direction. And conservatives loved him.

    Obama is doing his best to fix the many problems left by Bush. . . but has nudged the nation in a slightly more pro-choice direction.

    And conservatives lost their minds.

    Bizarre.

  72. digbydolben permalink
    February 15, 2010 5:12 am

    I assure you, RC, I have absolutely no difficulty labeling Sarah Palin as what she is–a “neo-fascist”–to folks with whom I’m face-to-face. If that term has any meaning at all–that is, someone who gravitates toward mindless authoritarianism and ultra-nationalism as a governing style, she’s it. Obama is, if anything, far too conscientious regarding the niceties of democratic-republican protocol; he needs to govern like FDR and carry fire to the Congressional elections of 2010, like Roosevelt did to those of 1934.

  73. February 15, 2010 9:16 am

    I take object to the definition you have attempted for ‘neo-fascist.’ Fascism, created my Mussolini and characterized by expanionism, militarization of the police force/common life of the people, near complete centralization of the nation’s economic planning, and inorganic manipulation of the national culture. Hitler adapted Fascism to make it Nazism, or national-socialism, which adds a racial/mythological history to the nation; coupled with an excessive belief and adherence to what was considered, at the time, to be scientific progress. And Franco, the last of the “great” 20th century proponents of fascism simply used the centralization aspect of fascism to unify a very divided Spain, dropping Mussolini’s expansionism and never engaging in Hitler’s racial/scientific endeavors.

    So, based on historic accounts of fascism, how does Palin’s populism actually qualify as “neo-fascist?”

  74. R.C. permalink
    February 15, 2010 4:58 pm

    Digby,

    If Sarah Palin were at all a proponent of authoritarianism, mindless or otherwise, or were her variety of national pride particularly extreme in its expression, I would of course be willing to buy that she had fascist tendencies in those two ways. Were she also a strong proponent of government control and/or ownership of business like the National Socialists or the Italian fascists, that would make the label even more apropos. And if she were a racist or anti-Jewish, why, that would clinch it.

    But since, as a matter of fact, she’s more accurately described as populist and “get government out of the way of our productivity” -ist than as an authoritarian, and since her affection for the United States seems to be within normal levels and modes of expression, and since she’s if anything far less economically fascist than Mr. Obama or Mr. Bush before him, the label is utterly misplaced. She is also neither racist nor anti-Jewish, but since you raised neither item, I assume you agree about that.

    Words have to mean something, and “fascist” is a label associated with a particular era of history in which particular governments championed particular goals through particular methods. The hallmarks of fascism included nationalism of an extreme, hateful, xenophobic, and militant sort associated with the blood and culture and racial superiority of particular peoples (Germans, Italians) and the oppression they had suffered (real or imagined) at the hands of people of different blood (Jews, the World War I allies). They also included authoritarian control of all aspects of national life in production, employment, religion, education, entertainment, and the like. And they carried to extreme levels the Progressive’s instinct for tossing aside social norms and the quaint customs of subsidiary social groups in pursuit of a high destiny centrally determined by a parcel of prigs and professors which the little people are presumed not to understand.

    And it’s just plain fact that if (as I hope will not happen) Sarah Palin were President of the United States and every member of Congress were a Palin clone, there’s no reason to believe the resulting government would act anything like that. There’s no reason to suspect a established Church would be created with its sermons censored by the state. There’s no reason to suspect that all the businesses would be taken over with all industrial production converted to producing war matériel. There’s no reason to believe all the Democrats, or all the black people, would be rounded up and put in camps. There’s no reason to believe that the expressions of national pride from the presidential podium would be anything worse than sickeningly sweet and effusive by the standards of internationalists, which is to say, about normal by the standards of most Average Joes in the flyover states. There’s no reason to believe all education materials would be federally controlled and the kids compelled to attend state-controlled schools. (If anything, rather the reverse.) If anything, Palin’s instincts seem to lean towards greater domestic subsidiarity in every way.

    You simply have no evidence to suggest that Palin has fascist tendencies in any of those areas.

    There is, I grant, reason to think that the country’s foreign-policy stance towards Iran might be as stern as France’s is now, or more so. But given Iran’s rhetoric toward the U.S., that’s a lot like imposing a 2% tariff on a country’s goods when that country has a 20% tariff on ours. And while I agree that actually attacking Iran — which I do not at all believe that Palin wishes to do; I think rather that Republican tough-talk is ultimately intended to deter — is likely to produce horrific outcomes, I also believe Iran achieving nuclear weapons will produce horrific outcomes. Inasmuch as I think it extremely likely that one or the other will occur within the next decade, you can say that I’m a pessimist about the whole situation.

    But I don’t think that talking tough at a regime that’s talking tough at you is intrinsically fascist.

    Look, I hope very much Palin isn’t the presidential candidate for the Republicans in 2010. I don’t want her as President. She doesn’t have what it takes; or rather, she has less of it than I’m comfortable with.

    But you undermine your own side and credibility by applying the fascist label. It isn’t quite on the level of “Bushitler,” but it’s along that same continuum. It’s an unserious contribution to the marketplace of ideas, and poisons the wells of political discourse. You should try to be better than that.

  75. digbydolben permalink
    February 15, 2010 5:17 pm

    And here, my “conservative” friends, is true, non-fascist “conservatism”–which has very little in common with your nasty, populist, nationalist brand:

  76. February 15, 2010 7:37 pm

    I wish you’d leave comments open on your Journeys In Alternity version of the post in a situation like this, for those prefer the more restained atmosphere over there or don’t want to slog through 70+ mostly bile-ish comments.

    FWIW, I think there are basically two things going on here. First of all, Palin support (and for the record, if the GOP primary were tomorrow I’d definitely be hunting hard for any decent candidate other than Palin to support — I just don’t think she’s presidential material) is somewhat totemic in nature. Conservatives who consider themselves to be “ordinary folks” in flyover country have long been under assault not only by progressives (who think they’re racist, violent, and so self deluded that they don’t realize that they’d actually love a social democratic state if they’d only give it a try) but also by elite conservative writers (think David Brooks, David Frum, etc.) who are to some extent economic and foreign policy conservatives, but disdain the social conservative and populist tendencies of many rank and file conservatives. For these folks, Palin became a symbol simply because everyone attacked her savagely (and, frankly, in a totally over-the-top and repulsive fashion) the second she appeared on the national stage. Given that Palin was essentially attacked for being one of them, many rank and file conservatives in “flyover country” latched on to her for exactly that reason and have been standing up for her ever since.

    Secondly, I think it’s reasonable to question to what extent Palin is all that much more divisive than other politicians. Sure, there’s a certain symbolism to Obama sitting down to take questions from GOP legislators, or Hillary doing her “listening tour”, but politicians do not tend to sit down for serious persuasion. Rather, they market themselves by trying to convince an audience, “You already agree with me, and of course you don’t agree with those folks over there who endorse all sorts of bad things.”

    Classic examples of this would be not only Palin rallies, but John Edwards’ “two Americas” shtick, or various signature Obama quips such as, “They call it an ‘ownership society’, because when you need help, you’re on your own.”

    This kind of rhetoric may be seen as persuasive by an independant audience, and is almost always seen as persuasive by those who agree with the speaker, but it’s inevitably seen as divisive by those who start out disagreeing with the speaker. So division vs. persuasion is often in the eye of the beholder.

    It would theoretically be interesting if we had a political situation in which politicians seriously attempted rational persuasion, but in reality that’s something we’ve simply never seen in this country.

  77. David Nickol permalink
    February 15, 2010 8:31 pm

    If the American people really want a president who says, “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?” then I am leaving the country. (And I mean it.)

  78. February 15, 2010 8:38 pm

    If the American people really want a president who says, “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?” then I am leaving the country. (And I mean it.)

    I’m not sure that’s worse than “Bring ‘em on,” but I hear ya.

  79. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    February 15, 2010 8:51 pm

    Darwin,

    I had a hunch this post would inspire a fair share of comments, so I thought I’d try keeping everything under one roof, so to speak. The thread here has certainly gone off track, for which I’m partially to blame for approving tangent comments. I will probably keep both comment threads open in the future.

    I agree that most politicians, even those who rhetorically (or, perhaps, genuinely) seek honest debate, tend to alienate by the things they say, if not the positions they hold. Palin, however, strikes me as a political figure who deliberately seeks to alienate others, and for that reason, and others, I don’t think she’s the right leader social conservatives and others who support her. I’m of the opinion that a lot of political accomplishments require popular support to maintain permanency. I do not, for example, envision abortion outlawed in this country when a good segment of the voting public thinks abortion should be legal. So while I could see Palin striving to overturn Roe v. Wade, I don’t see her persuading the public that such an action ought to be done or ought to be maintained.

  80. February 16, 2010 12:36 am

    Agreed that policies only tend to hold (or even get enacted: see health care, reform of) if they are popular to some basic extent.

    Though keep in mind, one can talk about “striving to overturn Roe” to some basic extent, but really all a president can do is:

    1) Advocate in a general way on the abortion issue and
    2) Nominate people to the supreme court (if there are vacancies) who seem like they might vote to overturn Roe is an appropriate case came up.

    Further, overturning Roe itself is hardly an end unto itself — it’s just a means to the beginning of being able to actually debate abortion policy. (Which we’ve only been able to dance around the periphery of to date.)

    None of which is to say it’s not important, but I think it’s important to be clear that no president can “lead us in a national conversation” on the issue in a way that would actually change policy in a substantive sense. Presidents can make changes at the margins by supporting abortion regulating legislation and efforts to reduce funding to organizations like planned parenthood, but other than that it’s up to the court, and if the court loosens things up, primarily to the states.

  81. digbydolben permalink
    February 16, 2010 11:52 am

    But since, as a matter of fact, she’s more accurately described as populist and “get government out of the way of our productivity” -ist than as an authoritarian

    In practice, her economics ARE corporatist, monopolist and, in many ways, a vague form of “state socialism.” The way she governed Alaska demonstrates this. There is absolutely nothing “small business” or “competitive” about her support for wasteful, tax-sucking corporations.

    nationalism of an extreme, hateful, xenophobic, and militant sort associated with the blood and culture and racial superiority of particular peoples (Germans, Italians) and the oppression they had suffered (real or imagined) at the hands of people of different blood

    She is, indeed, xenophobic and nationalistic, as is demonstrated by all her palaver about “real Americans,” and what is her agenda for the endless expansion of the Zionists into Arab lands but a militant lebensraum policy for a people who’ve definitely suffered REAL “oppression” (but not, historically, at the hands of the people whose lands they are expropriating?

    There’s no reason to believe all the Democrats, or all the black people, would be rounded up and put in camps.

    No, not the “Democrats” or the “black people,”–just all the Muslims, the “terrorists,” whom the President could water-board first.

    I also believe Iran achieving nuclear weapons will produce horrific outcomes.

    Exactly why? Because they’re not white Europeans? Have THEY ever used nuclear weapons? No–wait–wasn’t it a nation of mostly white Europeans who used nuclear weapons, once, for genocidal purpose? Does it hurt the world that India has nuclear weapons?

    And I didn’t say “fascist”; I said “neo-fascist,” and I’m NOT backing down from it.

  82. Steve permalink
    February 16, 2010 12:58 pm

    your belief, shared by many republicans, that Obama has “failed” is insanely precipitous

    That’s like saying that I’m wrong because I’m ugly. I might be ugly, but it still doesn’t tell me why I’m wrong.

    I’ve got an idea. Why not try telling me what he’s succeeded at?

  83. Steve permalink
    February 16, 2010 1:00 pm

    If the American people really want a president who says, “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?” then I am leaving the country. (And I mean it.)

    If I ate a french fry every time I heard that, I would weigh 600 lbs.

  84. phosphorious permalink
    February 16, 2010 5:19 pm

    your belief, shared by many republicans, that Obama has “failed” is insanely precipitous

    That’s like saying that I’m wrong because I’m ugly. I might be ugly, but it still doesn’t tell me why I’m wrong.

    I’ve got an idea. Why not try telling me what he’s succeeded at?

    Not at all.

    Look, my point is that the proof that republicans and conservatives are irrational is that they started calliong Obama a “failure” within weeks of his taking office. And those were the saner conservatives. The REALLY crazy ones set up a website Impeachobama.org on the day Obama was nominated. He hadn’t even been elected yet, and conservatives were demanding he be “impeached.”

    But even the saner conservatives were calling him a failure all too soon. They were not soberly weighing the evidence, they were not analyzing the facts. . . they were waiting to pounce, and jumped too soon.

    Is Obama a “failure”? I would prefer that he be more forceful in undoing the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, and I wish he would do more to push health care reform through.

    But his stimulus seemed to work, in that it prevented a larger economic crisis.

    And helath care reform is not yet dead (no thanks to the filibustering minority), and may well be passed in some form.

    Otherwise, he’s a bit more than a year into a four year term.

    Ask me at the two year mark, and I’ll be in a better position to judge.

    Unlike the conservatives in this country who have made up their minds already.

  85. Rodak permalink
    February 16, 2010 7:01 pm

    “Neo-fascist” is precisely the correct descriptive term for Sarah and the Tea-baggers, and I whole-heartedly second its use above. Check it out: Spanish is the “new Yiddish.”

  86. February 16, 2010 7:50 pm

    Fascist and/or neo-fascist is an appropriate word to use. Countless Catholic blogs are in fact Christo-fascist blogs.

    • February 16, 2010 8:08 pm

      I would certainly say I don’t lean left; I don’t lean in either left or right, and I still say, as many others, the American distinctions are all incorrect and the labels keep people from real engagement, and that is why many in the US use them (on all sides).

  87. February 16, 2010 8:55 pm

    I think “right” and “left” are fine labels for general use, just so long as we don’t limit them to “republican” and “democrat” or “liberal” and “conservative.” I would certainly say that I am “left,” but obviously I am not a democrat. Democrats are not “left” in any sense whatsoever.

    • February 17, 2010 3:58 am

      I still think right/left are not good labels for several reasons, among which, they are usually used to silence discussion but also because they are too vague to be any use. And what I mean by partisan is the insistence of the artificial divide in American terms, because that is what splits good from good and leads to all sides with errors.

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