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February 10, 2010

Sarah Palin’s Politics Of Resentment

Bumped by ace. Fresh posts below.

First thing, the title is not my theory, that’s the thrust of a piece by The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder.

Second, let me say while I’m not a tremendous fan of Palin, I’m not a hater either. In fact, the more ridiculous attacks I see on her (and yeah I’m look at you Bobby “The Palm” Gibbs), the more interested I become.

With that out of the way, here’s what I see as the gist of Ambinder’s post.

(Palin is the) only presidential candidate who is able to put the boots to Obama and get away with it. What's she running for? Not the question. What's she running against? Not just Rockefeller Republicanism and the media, or pointy-headed law lecturer presidents, or Katie Couric: she wants to relitigate a bunch of issues that once were settled but now seem to be unraveling. The unrestricted embrace of immigration and the dilution of an American culture. Overweening Greenism. A complicated socially engineered tax code. A much larger role for government (embraced by the president who said that the era of Big Government Was Over and his successor, who was a Republican). The rule of experts. Even the concept of bipartisanship itself.

I guess that’s what it looks like if she’s running against you but it seems to escape Ambinder’s grasp that maybe Palin and he supporters aren’t against all he and his friends hold dear but rather are for something else entirely. (In fairness, Ambinder is really a stand in here for a lot of people like David Frum, Democrats and just about anyone who has worked on the editorial staff of the NY Times)

Perspective is a very important thing in life. When you are for one thing and another person is for some completely different, it looks to you like they are against you. Now that might be the functional outcome of their prevailing but it doesn’t mean that their motives were simply opposition to you. It’s quite possible they didn’t know or care about your thoughts or feelings, they simply wanted what they wanted because they preferred it and thought it good in and of itself. Your ‘losing’ was a by-product, not the goal.

The problem is the liberal establishment in this country doesn’t just think their personal preferences are just that, preferences, but rather they see them as natural and correct state of the world. They bemoan the loss of the bi-partisan good old days when for the most part Republicans were fine and decent men like Howard Baker, Gerald Ford and Robert Michel, men who knew their place…in the minority helping Democrats pass important social programs and tax hikes.

Note how Ambinder couches the ideas of immigration, taxes and big government… “settled”. You see, everything is set in stone the second liberals think they have won. Any desire to impact these changes gets you labeled an extremist, a racist or just a hick. It’s funny but I don’t remember ever agreeing to the idea that ‘the rule of experts’ (or any of the rest) was something we signed off on forever and always. In fact, I don’t recall signing off on it even on a temporary basis.


Apparently anyone who disagrees with this settlement is simply a rejectionist rabble rouser. It’s not possible that Americans actually yearn for more freedom or want to have greater control over their own lives and more of a direct say how and where government gets involved because these are good things by their nature. No, that sort of nonsense is simply rejection of what’s been decided.

Those who dismiss Palin and her supporters as only running on a negative agenda never seem to see that trait in groups like ACORN, SEIU or the politicians who support them. You never hear about people who see the fruits of other’s labor and only ‘want to spread it around’ being charged with resentment. They are the chosen ones who have accepted that redistribution of wealth is ‘settled’ and the natural state of things, therefore they are doing the right thing and for the right reasons.

Advocates of ‘settled’ issues simply see wanting something different as a temper tantrum by children, albeit potentially dangerous children, against those who know better (which not so coincidently is them).

The reaction to Palin by these people simply reflects their narcissism. They look in the mirror together and tell themselves and each other how beautiful, smart and kind they are. Then along comes this person, an attractive woman no less, who looks at them says, ‘meh, I’ve seen better’ and they lose it.

Confronted with this heresy, the advocates of ‘settled’ truths can either consider the ideas of the people she represents or they can call her, and by proxy her supports, crazy. This allows them to go back to marveling at themselves in the mirror. Not surprisingly, they, like most people, elect to do the latter. It’s easier to call names and dismiss people than confront their ideas. Heaping scorn and lowering someone else is the cheapest way to make a person feel better about themselves. Besides, when people are challenging something so patently obvious and true (namely your wisdom), you don’t need to take them seriously.
To me, that’s why Palin engenders such hostile reactions. He mere presence on the scene makes it ok for everyone else to notice the emperors aren’t wearing any clothes.

After all of that I should say a few other things…

I’m no populist. I don’t necessarily think crowds or “authenticity” equate to being right. At the same time, I don’t think those qualities automatically make something wrong either.

As for Palin herself, I’m still agnostic. She’s not my first choice for the nomination but neither is anyone else. It’s got less to do with her and more to do with the fact that I don’t get enthusiastic about any politician. I think they are all very odd in fundamental ways and are nothing more than a necessary evil. No one politician can or should ever be in a position that they can make that much of a difference in our lives. Personally my goal is to see government shrink in overall importance at every level and take politicians and public sector workers with it.

Where Palin is concerned there’s far too much focus on her style. This is true on both sides. A lot of people either seem to have a natural affinity for her or a strong dislike.

I do agree with some critics who say she speaks in generalities, but so what? She’s setting up a narrative right now for her campaign (I do think she’s running) and positioning herself with her base. Every politician has to and does do that. Why is she, a private citizen and not officially a candidate for anything, supposed to be giving detailed policy speeches at events that are purely political rallies? She doesn’t need to, nor should she, be the policy spokesperson for the Republicans. That’s not her role right now.
If she does run, will she engage the more wonkish types or run a mostly aspirational candidacy? I don’t know. We’ll find out when and if she does run. Until then, there’s no reason to bash her for not running the type of campaign pundits would prefer.

What bothers me the most is the attempted marginalization of Palin and the people she seems to represent. I may not agree with her or them all the time or ever, but I see no reason to write them out of the national discourse with a contemptuous wave of the hand.

And just out of curiosity, since things are so bad under “The rule of experts” why shouldn’t people be dismissive of experts? It seems having continued faith in a system and group of people who got you in a mess is the height of stupidity. Aren’t the people who want to try something else, you know, the smart ones?

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posted by DrewM. at 02:45 PM

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