As the New York Times reported about Sarah Palin's latest efforts to blow off the media, no one has gone as far as Palin to both dismiss the media and cash in on its attentions:
What was most striking about the bus odyssey was the apparent relish Ms. Palin seemed to take in driving reporters nuts. While there have been numerous media-loathing politicians over the years, no possible candidate of Ms. Palin's wattage has so blatantly blown off (or actively thwarted) the trailing press corps to the degree that she did.
This resulted in some comic spectacles that included Ms. Palin's using her bus as a decoy at the back entrance of a hotel in Pennsylvania so she could slip out a side entrance; or encountering a Sarah Palin impersonator in Boston and instructing her to "go talk to all these reporters" on her behalf.
What the Times article failed to do was examine the underlying Evangelical/religious connection to Palin's clownish behavior: a "theology" of perpetual victimhood.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century the Evangelical and conservative Roman Catholic (and Mormon) outsider victim "approach" to public policy has been perfected on a heretofore-undreamed of scale by Sarah Palin. She is the ultimate holier-than-thou Evangelical queen bee.
To understand Palin's style of "leadership" you have to understand the Evangelical's clinging to the victim status as their excuse for their ideas about society being rejected by most Americans. Rather than admit that they might be wrong -- on everything from creationism to the "fact" that stem cell research is "murder" -- Evangelicals have concocted a myth of victimhood. I should know, I helped establish this myth back in the 1970s and early 80s when I was an anti-abortion crusader along with my Evangelical leader father, Francis Schaeffer.
What my Evangelical-leader/author mother (Edith Schaeffer) had once represented (in her unreconstructed fundamentalist heyday in the 1970s and 80s) to a Evangelical retreat/mission full of young gullible men and women looking for Jesus, and later to tens of thousands of readers of her many books, Palin became for tens of millions of alienated angry white lower-middle class men and women convinced that an educated "elite" was out to get them.
Palin was first inflicted on the American public by Senator John McCain, who chose her as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election for only one reason: He needed to shore up flagging support from the Evangelical Republican antiabortion base.
McCain wanted to prove that he was fully in line with the "social issues" agenda that my late father Dr. C. Everett Koop (who would become Reagan's surgeon general), and I had helped foist on our country over thirty years before.
Palin lost the election for McCain but "won" her war for fame and fortune and self-appointed "prophetess" status. She presented herself as called by God and thus cast in the Old Testament mold of Queen Esther, one chosen by God to save her people.
Palin perfected the "art" of Evangelical self-banishment and then took victimhood to new levels of success by cashing in on white lower-middle-class resentment of America's elites. She might as well have run under the slogan "I'm as dumb as you are!"
Brad Greenberg documented a serious movement inside the Evangelical world to hail Palin as the "next Esther":
[Biblical Queen] Esther was selected queen in a beauty contest; Palin was runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant. So Queen Esther apparently provided the role model for the former beauty queen who went to our own king and asked for earmarks for her people.
The Palin/Queen Esther report has sparked a flood of commentary from fundamentalist Christian web sites. One reports that "Sarah Palin, like Esther, was an unlikely choice. Sarah Palin, like Esther, is bold and courageous in the face of fear. Sarah Palin, like Esther, proves you can be loyal and devoted to your family while having a high position. But perhaps, more than anything, . . . we are seeing someone right before our eyes who is capturing the hearts of the American people in a way that defies description -- just like the Bible says." And "Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her." Another says, "Every once in a while a woman comes along who is made for the times. Sarah Palin is such a woman. . . . Another woman, Esther, was brought on the scene by God at just the right time. God's timing was perfect for he used Esther to save the Jews."
Palin made a fortune by simultaneously proclaiming her Evangelical faith, denouncing liberals, and claiming that she would help the good God fearing folks out there "take back" their country.
This "Esther" lacked seriousness. But born-again insiders knew that the "wisdom of men" wasn't the point. Why should the new Queen Esther bother to actually finish her work governing Alaska? God had chosen her to confound the wise!
So she became a media star and quit as governor of Alaska. Then she battled "Them" -- the "lamestream media" (as she labeled any media outlets outside of the Far Right subculture) -- in the name of standing up for "Real Americans." Palin used the alternative communication network that had its roots deeply embedded in those pioneering 1970s and 1980s Evangelical TV shows and radio shows that I used to be on just about every other day.
She did this to avoid being questioned by people who didn't agree with her. By not actually governing or doing the job she'd been elected by Alaskans to do, and by using the alternative media networks as an "outsider" -- all the while reacting to and demanding attention from the actual (theoretically hated) media -- Palin also made buckets of money.
As Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post:
"Palin [is the] worst in American public life... she is a study in selfishness... self-aggrandizing... [and] put bull's-eyes on Democratic congressional districts and then howled about 'blood libel.' ... The tour included signature Palin touches: manipulating the media, finding financial gain (she requested "generous donations" to SarahPAC), and lobbing rhetorical grenades (America is "going belly-up," Obama is "coddling" enemies)."
And the greatest irony is that many women in the Evangelical "family values" movement are cheering for Palin as a defender of traditional family stay home, home school your kids -- and submit to your husband -- "values." Yet Palin is the least-"submissive" female imaginable, let alone traditional mom. She's misused her children as stage props and has reduced her husband to the role of "helpmeet"; indeed, he's become the perfect example of a "good biblical wife."
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
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