Who are they, these Palinistas?
Some, of course claim to know them.
Palinbots, wingnuts, cultists….the list could go on and on – and that is just from some of the comments critical of Palin and her supporters at Hot Air, a leading conservative internet hang out.
From the left, of course, a more nuanced critique of the Palinistas from Chris Matthews
“I don’t think she is a thoughtful politician. I think she’s talking to people who don’t read newspapers, don’t pay attention to serious television broadcasts, whether the Lehrer Hour or anything like it or even this program, don’t pay attention to anything that’s even in the middle, who don’t have any effort at all to learn anything.”
Now as a lifelong student of American history and political junkie I have to confess an interest here. In the early hours of a September morning in 2008, with my wife away on a family visit, I watched Sarah Palin’s speech to the GOP convention livestreamed through my laptop.
I was fascinated.
In seventy years of politicking (well, to be truthful, sixty years as my first burst of activism saw me chanting a party slogan in the school playground during the British general election of 1950) I have never seen the like.
I liked her straight-from-the-hip, head-for-the fight style. I liked her authenticity – I find it embarrassing when so many so wealthy/private school/Ivy League US politicos come down from the big house into the fields and act faux folksy. But I am sure we had met Palin when we drove around America. She had been working a check out at Albertsons – or had she taken my breakfast order at Dennys? Maybe she was the high school teacher in Allentown? At my age memory dims but, dammit, we recognised her.
Dan Riehl (who has not been uncritical of her at times) felt the same
Like many, I had no idea if she would deliver, or crash and burn in just one more bit of political miscalculation by the McCain campaign. Yet, instead, she soared! Sarah Palin delivered what many a sincere conservative wanted and needed to become excited about the 2008 race. And she went right on doing it throughout the Fall – and continues to do it, even now, in many ways.
Unlike the vast majority of British media hacks who never look beyond the New York Times or Washington Post after her speech I googled as much as I could about her career in Alaska and liked her story. Come up the ranks not because she was some suit’s wife or born into a silver spoon family or had contacts from an elite university but under her own steam while raising a nestful of lively kids. What’s more she hadn’t made her name by sitting in a legislature making pretty speeches stroking constituency egos or posturing over her own bravery in voting for this or that motion. She had run a town, helped supervise an energy agency and governed a state – and fought against a corrupt network of backscratching power brokers from her own party…
…..and she had never been to one of Tina Brown’s parties.
Which is why the vicious US media firestorm that followed her nomination initially left me puzzled, especially when in the UK it was repeated across the pages of conservative papers like the Telegraph and Mail….”McCain chooses a former beauty queen”
Did they know something that I, as a mere retired teacher with no journalistic “training” had missed? Were there dark secrets and therefore skilled PR operatives spinning obfuscating webs to cover them up?
I began to feel unsure.
But then I came across another narrative, not, of course from the American media and certainly not from the pathetic fumblings and bumblings of the McCain campaign team. I found it, initially in the wild and reckless alleyways of Free Republic and the slightly more genteel corridors of Lucianne. I began to recognise some regulars drawing swords to defend Palin in the threads at Hot Air.
John Nolte, unlike many commentators, has grasped the political implications of this phenomenon
Besides a trial by media fire and a growing savvy when it comes to getting her message out, besides a charisma and personal touch no other candidate comes close to, something else Palin uniquely offers is a mammoth base of fervent supporters ready to fight to the death for her –a base as passionate and motivated as President Obama’s in 2008. No other GOP contender has anything close to this army of supporters and volunteers who are not only standing by but pretty well organized through various “Such-and-such State for Palin” communities.
So who are they, these “fervent supporters” and, more significantly, why are they so fervent.
Oddly enough, though many in the media love to wax eloquently about their shortcomings, pace Chris Matthews, very few have made any serious attempt to check them out. Is it because most of the big cheeses of the media elite prefer to operate within the confines of New York or Washington? Do they now not have enough time or money or experience to expend on Stacy McCain style shoe-leather? Surely it cannot relate to political bias within their ranks – can it?
Which is why late last year I flew from London (on my own dime, as Americans might say) to join a hundred of these “fervent supporters” for a weekend in Chicago.
Now I’m a fairly cynical soul about politicians and their supporters and couldn’t help wondering if, when I reached the get together it would be a little like wandering into the world of Badlands
How wrong I was. Every one of those people was very well grounded. They weren’t wingnuts (I can spot one at fifty miles) and most of them were not particularly wealthy – but they had been willing to spend several hundred dollars to attend the event. They were young, old, long, short and from all points of the US compass. About two thirds were women (although we are told by David Frum that women don’t like Palin) and many were religious but not in the snake handling holy roller “you’ll all burn in hell” way that the media elite love to stereotype on screen. We drank beer and ate well and they were very kind and welcoming and extremely tolerant of my quirky British sense of humour.
If these people were mad wild eyed cultists who put Palin on a pedestal and knelt in adoration then they fooled me 100%. They were ordinary straightforward everyday folk like the people who shop at my local supermarket. But what was interesting was that a substantial number of the attendees at this political event had never been particularly active in politics before September 2008.
It was Palin who had set them on fire. A woman totally unknown to most of them from a backwater of the USA that hardly ever registers on the richter scale of American culture – until September 3rd 2008.
And they have stayed loyal to her ever since.
“Why?” I asked Heather Hunt, a quietly spoken New Englander who I originally met at the Chicago gathering. She works in business publishing and is as far removed from the Chris Matthews airhead characterisation of the Palin supporter as his own convoluted splutterings are from the eloquence and lyrical enunciation of Alistair Cooke.
She gave it to me straight.
No-nonsense, common sense, constitutional commitment to public service. Clear-headed pragmatism. Ability to find commonalities and unite people to work on mutual interests; even if the parties involved don’t agree on other issues, they can work together on the one issue they do agree on. Track record of prioritizing and focusing on getting a few key items accomplished.
Wait a minute – that is all so practical, so down to earth. Where is the Light Bringer, where is that messianic shining that electrifies all cults?
I asked Heather for three words that encapsulated the essence of Palin. I was looking for those words of worship that sparkled around the halo of Barack Obama in 2008 – words like messiah/brilliant/erudite.
But she wouldn’t play ball
Competitive, loyal, principled
Fine attributes – but not easy to reconcile with her determination to dedicate herself to working flat out for Palin if she declares for 2012. A Tea Party Patriots district organiser in Connecticut (where she was born and bred and where she still lives) Heather is organising for the raising of the banner.
We stand for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. We have a lot of work to do here in CT to that end; we’re one of the few states who missed the Red Wave election of 2010. But we’re still in the fight. If/when Palin announces her run, I will most likely step down from tea party responsibilities in order to organize both in CT and in New Hampshire, an early primary state a few hours north of CT.
A born again Christian and regular churchgoer her faith is at the very front of her life.
I believe eternal issues are more important than temporal ones. That’s one reason I haven’t been involved politically beyond informed voting. And will never put all my hopes in a temporary political system or politicians.
Apart from standing on a street corner holding a sign for Ross Perot in 1992 Heather, until September 2008 had been a quiet and dutiful citizen, voting in every election, but not involved in any campaign.
The Perot exception provides a clue to the reason why she, and millions of others like her, are drawn to Palin. Codevilla’s book on The Ruling Class articulated her long held suspicion that the political posturing of the two major parties were in many ways a well choreographed piece of play acting to mask the fact that all the levers of American power are controlled by a self perpetuating elite that only recruits outsiders willing to sustain the masquerade in return for a share of the spoils.
But she believes the USA has now reached a tipping point and, like her fellow Tea Partiers, she pins her faith on the Constitution
We need to restore the checks and balances established at our founding, both within the federal government between the three branches, but more importantly, between the people, the Sovereign States, and the federal government. And the structure is that the most power lies with the people, who then give some power to the States, who then give some power to the Feds. Not the other way around, as it is now, when the Feds put unfunded, unsustainable, and most importantly, unconstitutional, mandates on the States. Remember, the People sent representatives from their States to create the federal government. That is still how the power structure must flow.
And this is the key to her support of Sarah Palin, this is where one gets a glimpse of the fire that drives the astonishing levels of commitment and support for this woman who three years ago appeared, to most of them, from nowhere. She knew nothing of her until McCain’s announcement. But over the next few days two things made a deep impression on Heather Hunt. Palin’s record as Governor of Alaska – and the vitriolic reaction, not just of the liberal media but many of the so-called pillars of the Republican establishment.
That vitriol, however, has served only to strengthen her conviction that Palin would be a transformative President by shaking up DC
Starting in the White House with cutting of staff and personal expenses, thus setting an example of smaller, smarter government from the top. I think that will extend to her cabinet, i.e., no czars, and to federal government agencies that have no constitutional authority, such as Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Food and Drug Administration, etc.
However, I expect she’ll prioritize and focus on a few key issues, such as cutting spending, incentivizing energy development, and meeting regularly with members of Congress. IOW, the exact opposite of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.
Oh. And Priority Number One? Signing the repeal of Obamacare.
Others I spoke with in Chicago echoed all of Heather’s sentiments. They weren’t looking for Joan of Arc but someone who they felt they could trust even when she had to give bad news or things went pear shaped.
Sure they admired Palin for her positions and record. But there was also a feeling that she was a different type of politician in the sense that she appeared to be natural, not artificial or forced, an impression strengthened by the evidence gathered from the recent e mail frenzy which seems to suggest that what you get from Palin is exactly what it says on the tin.
And maybe that is the connection.
As Dan Riehl said in his moving and heartfelt review of “The Undefeated”
Indeed, while Sarah Palin is by far the central character in “The Undefeated”, the film includes insightful, thought provoking commentary from Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce, Andrew Breitbart and a host of others, all undefeated voices of the Right on their own terms. In a sense, they are as much Palin, as she is them, and all of us together comprise, a common sense, genuine, Reagan conservatism.
That reminded me of one of the most compelling moments in the history of film. It’s at the end of “Spartacus” when the Romans have captured the remnants of the rebellious slave army and offer clemency to anyone who betrays Spartacus, the leader of the revolt.
Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) prepares to stand and give himself up when his closest friends rise up at the same moment, each one saying, proudly “I am Spartacus”. Soon hundreds, then thousands of the prisoners do exactly the same – for Spartacus is not just one individual but the eternal idea of man’s fight for freedom.
So it is with Heather Hunt and all the other Palinistas, not just the ones I met in Chicago. They see in Palin a person from a modest background like themselves who has been mocked and demeaned because of that very fact. But, although their attacks drew blood the woman stood her ground and fought back – and every attack, every insult has become an endorsement, a badge of honour.
As someone on a recent Hot Air thread put it
I see this and all I can say is, if those jokers really wanted to get rid of her, they should have just let her go home to Alaska after ’08, finish out her first term, score a second term and stay up there in the wilderness, where she could still be a voice, but little more. But that’s not what they did.
They held her in the flames and stoked them, thinking she would melt and burn, but instead, she became steel. Worse for them, they gave a woman who was already a quick study a full on crash doctorate in the game of national electoral politics.
For their desired purposes they would have been better off if they’d just left her alone. For our sake, I’m glad they didn’t.
I would wager that it is the support of the thousands, maybe millions of Heather Hunts who have stood by Palin through this fire that has given her the heart and spirit to fight on as they rise alongside her and say
“I am Sarah Palin”
cross posted at The Aged P