Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why Wingnuts Love Sarah Palin

A lot of my progressive friends convey feelings of confusion to me when the subject of Sarah Palin arises. Why are so many infatuated with a woman whose speech is without substance? Who hints at running for POTUS but can't even finish one term as Governor, or chair of the Alaska oil and gas commission, for that matter? Why are people so willing to fawn over and fork over their money to a woman who clearly lacks leadership and communication abilities?

But I think these progressives are missing the mark in their analysis of both Sarah Palin and her followers. One has to put themselves in the shoes of a Palinite teabagger to really understand her appeal. It is crucial to understand why she appeals to the wingnuts, because the left went through the same questioning phase about why a president who seemed so "stupid" thought he could win another election. What followed was this president's re-election, subsequent wrecking of the economy at the benefit of the top 1%, and a democratic identity crisis that lasted until Obama convinced Hillary supporters to cast their vote for him.

So, understanding Palin is critical. Not because I perceive her as a threat in 2012 (I'll get to that at the end), but so we can understand in the future when people like this present themselves, and frame the debate to the progressive advantage. What people must first understand is that Palin's contrived image is fraudulent at its core.

The Palin Fraud
Palin's book is called "Going Rogue" which implies she is a maverick dedicated to doing things her own way instead of swallowing the party line. And perhaps if you pay attention solely to her talking points and don't look past the veneer, this might work. However, Sarah Palin was actually a huge proponent of Socialism in Alaska before she emerged as a national A-list political celebrity and was forced to swallow McCain's party line.

Alaska is fiercely dependent on federal money, arguably even moreso than Mississippi. She had been lobbying for the "Bridge to Nowhere" project until the media decried it as a national symbol of wasteful pork spending. Representative Don Young and Senator Ted Stevens were notorious for supporting pork projects that brought federal money specifically to Alaska.

But even more than that, Sarah Palin was a huge backer of taxing windfall profits on oil companies operating in her state. By hefting huge tax increases against Big Oil, Palin generated billions in revenue. It was a wonderful symbol of what real bipartisan reform can achieve, and a perfect example of progressive taxation; if you have more than most people, then you better be prepared to pay more than most people. She used the money made from that decision to give to the people of Alaska. According to the story linked above, that amounted to a $3200 check for every person in Alaska, just from surplus dollars. That's the essence of productive government regulation on big business.

However, this didn't mesh well with what McCain was all about, so he and his aides went about telling her to tell the rest of us that she was an anti-Socialism, anti-pork barrel spending crusader.

The Palin Appeal- Framing 101
Palin's followers, mainly neoconservatives, love Palin because she represents one of them. Like Palin, they rally against the "elites."

Neoconservatives believe our country is ran by a cabal of powerful and wealthy liberal "elitists" who use their influence to give opportunity and free stuff to lazy, good-for-nothing moochers. Mainly poor people and foreigners. These neoconservatives believe themselves to be "hard-working" and "normal," but are not reaping what they sowed because the government elite gave those rewards to people who didn't deserve them.

This is why they love Sarah Palin so much. This is why when she stumbles over her words or makes a rhetorical error in a debate with Joe Biden, she is applauded. They see this not as "stupid," but as "normal." Like them.

So when Sarah Palin is mocked in the "liberal media," her cause is actually strengthened; her followers see themselves reflected in a working-class hockey mom who is being harassed by the "liberal elite." When Palin complains about such treatment by the media, what progressives see as complaining is interpreted by her followers as what they believe their experiences to be; a normal blue-collar conservative being sold short on her accomplishments by powerful liberals.

A Walk in the Shoes of a Palinite
Those who support Sarah Palin do not admire or respect politicians with prestigious education or those who have a way with words. Most of these folks see education and glib speech as tools used to victimize and deceive people. Thus, the educated and well-spoken are resented among the far right.

The extreme right is not against intelligence, but simply against education. In their mind, they don't see that attitude as maintaining stupidity, but as rejecting an institution that forces information on children that they know to be wrong. This is why you see the most righteous neocons and libertarians being proponents of home school, so they can shelter their children from the evil "facts" of the liberal "elite," and also so they can inject education with their authoritarian worldview and religious beliefs which are "under attack" by Science. Because critical thinking is demonized by the right, they see those who rely on "facts" as simply catering to an elite power. Environmentalists worship Al Gore, Evolutionists worship Darwin, etc.

When a Palinite sees Barack Obama giving an address, they don't see a well-traveled statesman with decades of diverse education, but rather a foreigner with an unfamiliar name, using his gift of gab with clear intent to manipulate and deceive. He, along with all other well-spoken people, is seen as a trickster, and hearing him speak makes the far right feel judged, rather than informed. It angers them instead of calming them.

When Sarah Palin speaks, these folks feel right at home. Her down-home folksiness gives them a sense of acceptance and assurance that those who speak with authority on issues are frauds. Those who idolize Sarah Palin do not understand nor care for domestic or foreign policy issues, and do not follow nor perceive their complexity. What is important to the Palinite is that the politician doesn't act like they know more or are more worthy than the average Joe. To a Palinite, someone who sounds complicated when explaining complicated issues isn't revealing truths, but hiding them.

Palin's Power Over People
Sarah Palin gives her supporters the impression that she would make decisions for the country the way a mother or father makes decisions for the family--like they do. For wingnuts, Sarah Palin symbolizes the person who overcame the intellectualized, complicated political infrastructure of the "liberal elite." She is often characterized as "truthful," much like those same people refer to Glenn Beck as "truthful."

The truth to this radical fringe group is that the liberal elite is against them, the normal, hard-working Joes and Janes--and are for helping the undeserving do-nothings--foreigners, lazy people, and poor people. Palin often uses the term "common sense" in describing her politics. For Palin's followers, "common sense" is that the hardworking are constantly under attack by the elite establishment.

As I mentioned in the first part of this blog, Bush used this same narrative (perfected by Reagan) to win over the people of Texas, and then to win over the USA. While most every crisis our nation faces today can be traced back to the Bush or Reagan years, those two are still celebrated universally by the right. These people may be full of talking points and no solutions, but they still hold influence over lots of people.

Palin's Political Potential
However, progressives in America can rest assured that Sarah Palin will not be a viable contender for the GOP nomination in 2012. Her record shows overwhelmingly that she is not fit to handle an executive position, whether it's over the oil and gas commission or one of the union's smallest populations. Even Republican mouthpiece Haley Barbour refused to acknowledge her as a political contender in the next presidential race. I personally believe she is currently peaking, and too much media coverage this early will hurt her chances three years down the road.

Besides, just take a look at how quickly fans who waited in the rain all day to meet her turned on her when they learned she wouldn't be signing all of their books. One guy even called her out by saying "She's quittin' on the job right there!"

America is a fickle nation. Sarah Palin will be ultimately forgotten.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Concerning the Stupak Amendment- When Private Insurers Don't Cover Abortions

A friend of mine connected a harrowing personal experience of hers to the attack on and undermining of women's health and free choice in this country through the Stupak/Pitts amendment that just recently passed the House. This is a short and moving piece; anyone interested should read this.

When Private Insurance Companies don’t Cover Abortions
by Anonymous

The good news is universal health care is more of a reality, but now, if passed in the senate this legislation will be a major setback for women.

On Nov. 7 the house approved a bill that would severely restrict access to insurance companies for abortions. The house measure would block insurance companies from selling abortion coverage to anyone receiving a federal subsidy and anyone who receives health insurance through a government-run plan. Ironically this restriction would make little impact on the current system.

According to the Guttmacher Institute out of 1.2 million abortions performed each year, only about 13 percent (156,000) are directly billed to their insurers. Many women are unaware that their insurance plans cover abortions or just don’t want their insurance companies to know.

Last year I found myself in the same position and wanted to have the procedure anywhere but the Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Mississippi (The state’s only abortion clinic). Upon calling my insurance company I was met with by the voice of an unsympathetic woman, who told me my plan did not cover abortions. But she did enthusiastically list off all the prenatal services and benefits covered through my employer for having a child.

My only option at that point was to make way through the throngs of protesters and receive care at a clinic with little concern for my prior medical history, a disorganized staff ( my file was lost three times), and lack of thorough explanation for the procedure and the instructions afterwards.

It took two months and eight visits (that’s 16 times I had to walk through protesters yelling “Mommy don’t do this” in baby voices) for the clinic to determine my pregnancy had been terminated. I can’t say if my procedure was unique but the lack of quality care for a sensitive procedure should not be taken lightly, or with a “that’s what she deserves” attitude.

Can you imagine any other medical procedure conducted in this manner?

If my insurance company did cover the procedure would I have been treated more like an actual patient?

I don’t want to blame my experience all on the clinic. It’s the only clinic in the entire state dealing with legislation and opponents trying to shut them down every chance possible. The volume and influx of patients is exceedingly high for the clinic’s capacity and staff.

Women are still going to have abortions whether their insurance companies provide them or not. The real question is how can we make sure these women are safe and receiving the best care possible?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Using Holocaust Victims for Political Gain

I think most sensible people would agree that nothing today should even be remotely compared to the horrific time in human history that was the Holocaust. That was an event that has gone down in history as the most horrible act ever committed by a member of the human race. The cold, calculated genocide of millions of Jews through organized, brutal means should never be invoked in vain, especially for the sake of politics. No matter your party affiliation or ideology, I believe most Americans are united in the belief that the Holocaust was a horrible memory for the world, and that while victims must be remembered and honored, that period in time is best left alone out of respect for the families of those massacred.

However, the teabaggers who stormed Washington yesterday, as well as house Republican leaders, apparently feel different than the rest of us with a sense of decency for our fellow human beings. For those of you unfamiliar with what happened, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) yesterday hosted a Tea Party protest of the House health care bill. As per usual, corporate Astroturf (fake grassroots) groups organized the event and bussed in protesters from all over the East Coast. Americans for Prosperity, an outpost of Dick Armey's FreedomWorks (former Republican leader in the house) was key in organizing the event through their website, Yes, that is a real website. Yes, it is sponsored proudly by current and former Republican leaders.

This is the same group that organized the town hall mobs in August, paid to transport protesters and even wrote a memo instructing attendees how to best disrupt dialogue and meaningful conversation. Right-wing money interests feel very threatened by actually having to compete should health care reform pass, so they've been working hard all year to spread lies and sow the seeds of fear and hate amongst the weak-minded.

Also, people should know that those who attended this protest, who came to speak out against the ineffectiveness of government programs, used public transportation to arrive at the nation's capitol. This protest was also deemed a "press conference," although no such conference took place. It was an event organized by government officials, held on government property, with permission of government entities. There were even five people at the rally who received government-sponsored emergency health care.

People should also know that while crowds chanted "kill the bill," and proudly wasted plenty of paper, not once did anyone offer any valid alternatives to health care reform, despite reluctantly acknowledging that our health care system leaves much to be desired. Once again, this proves without a doubt that today's conservative movement is full of hot air, little organization and poor leadership.

But all hypocrisy, corporate whoring and contrived populism aside, there was one thing yesterday that crossed the line entirely.

Protesters proudly carried posters depicting emaciated bodies of Dachau concentration camp victims during the Holocaust. The words on the poster say "National Socialist Health Care- Dachau, Germany 1945."

The congressmen and congresswomen who organized and spoke at the event, and who did not publicly denounce the heinous, vile use of death camp corpses owe us all an apology for not immediately condemning this behavior. America is waiting for an apology from House Minority Leader John Boehner and Representative Michelle Bachmann for not speaking out against the use of such atrocities for such petty, vain reasons. Speech should remain free, but invoking the Holocaust and trivializing the murder of millions for mere political gain should never be allowed. Congressman Steve Israel has publicly demanded an apology on the behalf of all Americans offended by this display.

So where do teabaggers draw the line at common decency? When will our national political discourse be returned to a sensible, logical dialogue? When will Republican, teabagger, and Astroturf figures apologize for their insensitivity and brutishness?