Please put on every milk carton: America’s political class is MIA

Rome’s political class was liquidated during a generation of civil war.  America’s has disappeared in a decade, quietly and suddenly.  As if kidnapped by aliens.  This would have been perfect for 1999, the ultimate Y2K mystery.

The Democrats have been captured by full-time campaigner, who served a few hours in the Illinois State and US Senates.  The Republicans have been captured by someone with even less political experience, the Alaskan Mayor and part-time Governor Sarah Palin.

It’s not that these are the best America has.  It’s just the best American’s deranged national electorate will vote for.  Campaigns by folks like these should be drowned in laughter, no matter how powerful the special interests backing them.  That they’re treated seriously shows that our ruling elites have accurately assessed us — as fools.

But we need not be.  As Nietzsche said, strength and power are an acts of will.

On that hopeful note, back to another woeful report from the vaudeville act pretending to be early 21st century America.  The latest TomDispatch about “How Palin Became a Rogue“, 15 September 2009.  Followed by links to posts on this site about Gov Palin and American politics.

Introduction by Tom Englehardt

It can’t get better than this, can it? A first printing of 1.5 million copies sent out into an otherwise dead book market. Possibly as much as $7 million dollars going to the author, who already has interviews lined up with Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters. A bus tour of the “real America” that manages to avoid such Sodom and Gomorrah-like Democratic hotspots as Los Angeles and New York. Even a collection of critical essays about the author appearing at the same moment — with her photo on a similarly designed cover, and just two letters in the title reversed, clearly meant to confuse her fans. Then, there’s even the parody coloring book. It’s a “perfect storm for publishers,” says the book editor for the Christian Science Monitor — and if that’s the last time the phrase “perfect storm” is used for this media extravaganza, TomDispatch will eat its baseball cap.

Yes, of course, what else could I be talking about but Going Rogue, Sarah Palin’s as-told-to “memoir” — and its critical doppelganger, Going Rouge (put together by two Nation magazine editors). I wonder, by the way, if, in the uproar to follow, anyone will comment on the strangeness of Palin’s book title. True, late last October, with the presidential election fast approaching, an unnamed aide to candidate McCain accused his vice-presidential partner of “going rogue.” At the time, an “associate” of hers responded to the charge by claiming she was “simply trying to ‘bust free’ of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged [campaign] roll-out.” A year later, however, she’s evidently ready to make that angry intra-campaign charge proudly her own.

Still, here’s the thing that’s so odd: since the fall of the Soviet Union, the word “rogue,” as in “rogue state,” has been associated with only one thing in the U.S.: enemy nations supposedly eager to enter the nuclear proliferation sweepstakes — in particular, the crew that our previous president lumped together as the “axis of evil.” We’re talking about Iran, North Korea, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — and now, evidently, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Maybe Max Blumenthal, author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, the blistering, bestselling exposé of just how the Republican Party ate itself for lunch, is right. Maybe Palin is intent on going nuclear in American politics. Unfortunately, when the fun’s all over, we have no idea who is going to clean up the mess. (To catch a TomDispatch audio interview with Blumenthal on Palin, “the queen of fly-over country,” and her book, click here.)

The Palin Effect

“How Sarah Palin Made Herself Indispensable While Destroying the Republican Party”, Max Blumenthal

Sarah Palin’s heavily publicized book tour begins in earnest this Monday, but weeks before, her ghostwritten memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, had already vaulted into the number one position at Amazon. Warming up for a tour that will take her across Middle America in a bus, Palin tested her lines in a November 7th speech before a crowd of 5,000 anti-abortion activists in Wisconsin. She promptly cited an urban legend as a “disturbing trend,” claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase “In God We Trust” from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006 story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)

In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, Palin did not hesitate to take up this “controversy,” however false, since it conveniently pits a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government against humble God-fearing folk. In doing so, of course, she presented herself as this nation’s leading defender of the faith.

In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin’s influence is now unparalleled. Through her Twitter account, she was the one who pushed the rumor of “death panels” into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. In a special congressional election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, Palin’s endorsement of Doug Hoffman, an unknown far-right third-party candidate, helped force a popular moderate Republican politician, Dede Scozzafava, from the race. In the end, Palin’s ideological purge in upstate New York led to an improbable Democratic victory, the first in that GOP-heavy district in more than 100 years.

Though the ideological purge may have backfired, Palin’s participation in it magnified her influence in the party. In a telling sign of this, Congressman Mark Kirk, a pro-choice Republican from the posh suburban North Shore of Chicago, running for the Senate in Illinois, issued an anxious call for Palin’s support while she campaigned for Hoffman. According to a Kirk campaign memo, the candidate was terrified that Palin would be asked about his candidacy during her scheduled appearance on the Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey Show later this month — the kick-off for her book tour — and would not react enthusiastically. With $2.3 million in campaign cash and no viable primary challengers, Kirk was still desperate to avoid Palin-backed attacks from his right flank, however hypothetical they might be.

“She’s gangbusters!” a leading conservative radio host exclaimed to me. “There is nobody in the Republican Party who can raise money like her or top her name recognition.”

During the 2008 presidential race, some Republican Party elders warned of Palin’s destructive influence. They insisted she was a polarizing figure whose extremism would accelerate the Party’s slide toward the political and cultural margins. New York Times columnist David Brooks, a card-carrying neocon who had written glowingly of Senator McCain, claimed Palin represented “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party.” Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Reagan and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, blasted Palin as “a dope and unqualified from the start.” Last June, Steve Schmidt, the former McCain campaign chief of staff, warned that Palin’s nomination as the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee would be “catastrophic.”

New polling data appears to support such doomsday prophecies. According to an October 19th Gallup poll, the former governor of Alaska has become one of the most polarizing and unpopular politicians in the country. Since she quit the governorship to pursue her lucrative book deal, a move that upset many in Alaska’s Republican leadership and cost the state’s taxpayers almost $200,000, her unfavorability rating has spiked to 50% while her favorability has sunk to 40%, again according to Gallup’s figures. (The only nationally-known politician who is less popular right now, according to the poll, is John Edwards, the former two-term senator who fathered a child out of wedlock and paid his mistress hush money while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination on a social justice platform.)

Queen Esther

If Palin is indeed a cancer on the GOP, why can’t the Republican establishment retire her to a quiet life of moose hunting in the political wilderness? Why has her appeal only increased in the wake of her catastrophic political expeditions? Why won’t she listen to, or abide by, conventional political wisdom?

The answer lies beyond the realm of polls and punditry in the political psychology of the movement that animates and, to a great degree, controls, the Republican grassroots — a uniquely evangelical subculture defined by the personal crises of its believers and their perceived persecution at the hands of cosmopolitan elites.

By emphasizing her own crises and her victimization by the “liberal media,” Palin has established an invisible, indissoluble bond with adherents of that subculture — so visceral it transcends any rational political analysis. As a result, her career has become a vehicle through which the right-wing evangelical movement feels it can express its deepest identity in opposition both to secular society and to its representatives in the Obama White House. Palin is perceived by its leaders — and followers — not as another cynical politician or even as a self-promoting celebrity, but as a kind of magical helper, the God-fearing glamour girl who parachuted into their backwater towns to lift them from the drudgery of everyday life, assuring them that they represented the “Real America.”

If McCain had taken his preferred choice for a running mate in 2008, he would have chosen Joseph Lieberman, the turncoat Democrat and his best friend in the Senate. But with the base of the Republican Party subsumed by a Christian right that detested the senator, his advisors urged him to choose the untested, virtually unknown Alaskan governor to bring the faithful back to him. Their gamble paid off — at least in the short-term. When Palin was revealed as the vice presidential nominee at an off-the-record gathering of the Council for National Policy, a secretive cabal of the conservative movement’s top financiers and activists, Tom Minnery of the Christian right outfit Focus on the Family recalled, “People were on their seats applauding cheering, yelling… that room was electrified.”

Before her nomination, the provincial Palin had traveled outside the country only once and demonstrated little, if any, intellectual curiosity. During the campaign, she was flummoxed when CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric simply asked what magazines she read. Yet the fact that she had such a limited understanding of the world actually recommended her to the Republican base.

The gun-toting, snowmobile-cruising former beauty queen became an instant cultural icon. Little understood by those outside this culture was her religious worldview, cultivated during the 20 years she spent worshipping at the Wasilla Assembly of God, a right-wing Pentecostal church in her hometown north of Anchorage. When I visited the church in October 2008, a pastor from Kenya, Bishop Thomas Muthee, was at the podium comparing Palin to Queen Esther, the biblical queen who used her wiles to intercede for her people. The reference was clear enough: Palin, the former beauty pageant contestant who had chosen Esther as her biblical role model when she first entered politics, would topple America’s secular tyrants, leading her people, the true Christians, into the kingdom. As he concluded his sermon, Muthee gesticulated wildly and spoke in tongues, urging parishioners to “come against the spirit of witchcraft as the body of Christ.”

Three years earlier, in 2005, Muthee had anointed Palin during a public ceremony at the Wasilla Assembly of God, laying his hand on her forehead while praying to protect her “against all forms of witchcraft.” The bishop claimed that he had personally battled a witch in his hometown of Kiambu, Kenya, driving the evildoer from the town and thereby ending an epidemic of crime and licentiousness. The episode was later revealed as a farce by a reporter from Women’s eNews who traveled to Kiambu and found the supposed witch, a local healer named Mama Jane, still living happily in her compound. In palling around with Muthee, whom she credited with helping propel her into the governor’s mansion by anointing her, Palin revealed herself as an authentic religious zealot. Whatever her flaws might have been, this was what mattered to the movement in 2008 — and what matters now.

Once Palin was nominated, her sixteen-year-old daughter Bristol (named for Bristol Bay, Alaska) became the subject of ferocious media scrutiny. She had, it turned out, been impregnated by Levi Johnston, a local eighteen-year-old jock who identified himself on his MySpace page as “a f**kin’ redneck.” To media outsiders, Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy was particularly startling, given Palin’s advocacy of abstinence-only education. In the eyes of many liberals, Palin had been revealed as but another family-values hypocrite, but to members of the Christian right, she was something quite different — a glamorized version of themselves. As the Palin family became a staple of late-night comedy monologues, Palin fought back against the secular enemy, slamming David Letterman for “sexually perverted jokes” about her daughter. With that, the movement’s adulation for her overflowed.

The Culture of Personal Crisis

Palin’s daughter’s drama caught vividly a culture of personal crisis that defines so many evangelical communities across the country. That culture is described in a landmark congressionally funded study of adolescent behavior, Add Health, revealing that white evangelical women like Bristol Palin lose their virginity, on average, at age 16 — earlier, that is, than any group except black Protestants.

Another recent study by sociologists Peter Bearman and Hannah Bruckner notes that over half of evangelical girls who have pledged to maintain their virginity until marriage wind up having sex before marriage, and with a man other than their future husband. Bearman and Bruckner also disclose that communities with the highest population of girls who attend so-called purity balls, where they vow chastity until marriage before their fathers in a prom-like religious ceremony, also have some of the country’s highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. In Lubbock, Texas, where abstinence education has been mandated since 1995, the rate of gonorrhea is now double the national average, while teen pregnancy has spiked to the highest levels in the state.

“So many families deal with the same issues Sarah Palin is dealing with, so we really can relate to what she is going through,” Grace Van Diest, a middle-aged Alaskan delegate from Wasilla, told me on the floor of the 2008 Republican National Convention. Van Diest then described how each of her daughters went on “a date with their dad” to discuss their pledge to “keep themselves pure until marriage.”

Palin consolidated her bond with the movement in another very personal way. She cradled her new son Trig, born with Downs Syndrome, before the klieg lights. Her husband Todd had chosen the name believing it was Norse for “strength.” (“Trygg” actually means “safe” or “reliable” in Norwegian.) Palin’s decision to carry the baby to term excited many evangelicals and anti-abortion activists, including James Dobson, who wrote a letter congratulating her for having what he called “that little Downs Syndrome baby.” “What a way to emphasize your pro-life leanings there!” he exclaimed during a radio broadcast in which he endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket, even though he had denounced McCain as a “liberal” only weeks before.

After the market collapsed in the fall of 2008 and the McCain campaign ran off the rails, Palin untethered herself — as her book title has it, she went “rogue” — ignoring McCain’s rules on attacking Obama. Instead, she lashed out at candidate Obama in her own distinctive way. “This is a man who launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist,” she insisted. “This is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” With these two lines, apparently uttered without the permission of McCain or his top aides, Palin opened up a deep schism within the campaign, while unleashing a flood of emotions from the depths of the Party faithful.

  • “Kill him!” a man shouted at a campaign rally in Clearwater, Florida, when Palin linked Obama to terrorism, according to Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank.
  • The next time she mentioned Obama, another man cried out, “Terrorist!” “Treason!”
  • “Go back to Kenya!” a woman typically screamed during a Palin rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

While Obama entertained visions of a blissful post-partisan, post-racial America, Palin almost single-handedly gave birth to the birthers who would, after his inauguration, dedicate themselves to proving he was not, by birth, an American. By “going rogue,” Palin instinctively and craftily propelled her ambitions beyond Election Day, and so anointed herself as the movement’s magical helper in the Obama era.

Elevated by yesterday’s man, Palin now represents her Party’s future — and the greatest danger it faces. Her intimate bond with the Republican grassroots has made her the indispensable woman, even if she provokes a visceral sense of revulsion from many independents and moderates. Other Republican frontrunners like former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have a debilitating problem to face in any race for the presidency: they are viewed as inauthentic candidates by the movement — cardboard men in suits who are only pantomiming appeals to cultural resentment.

Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister who understands the nuances of evangelical culture, nonetheless bears the burden of being a 2008 primary loser. At that time, the former governor of Arkansas had a clear field when it came to the religious right, but was unable to expand beyond his Southern bastions of support.

Palin was, after all, chosen. She never lost a primary — and it was McCain who lost the race. If Huckabee sought to run again for the nomination, he might have to compete against her for the allegiance of the evangelical constituency.

Nor can she be easily criticized. Palin is so well positioned as the darling of the movement that any criticism of her would be experienced by believers as a personal attack on them. In this way, their identification with her through the politics of personal crisis is complete. Any Republican primary challenger assailing Palin will be seen as victimizing her, as channeling the attacks of the liberal elites, and possibly as having a secret liberal agenda. On the other hand, to embrace her is to risk losing the great American center.

For the 2010 mid-term elections, Palin’s endorsement is already a coveted commodity — as Mark Kirk’s desperate bid to secure it demonstrates. The more she is attacked, the more the Republican base adores her. As she sets out on her book tour, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune only propel her forward. Her influence on a party largely devoid of leadership is expanding. If she doesn’t prove to be the Party’s future queen, she may have positioned herself to be its future king-maker — and potentially its destroyer. You betcha.

Copyright 2009 Max Blumenthal

About the author

Max Blumenthal is the author of the bestselling book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party. He is a writing fellow at the Nation Institute and a senior writer for the Daily Beast. See his footage from inside Palin’s church by clicking here or visit his website, MaxBlumenthal.com. To listen to an accompanying TomDispatch audio interview with Blumenthal on Palin, “the queen of fly-over country,” and her new book, click here.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Posts about Gov Palin:

  1. McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct?, 30 August 2008 — What does choosing Palin say about McCain?  Esp note the intense discussion in the comments.
  2. Alaska is near Russia, and Gov Palin’s other foreign policy experience, 1 September 2008
  3. It’s is not just McCain who believes we’re dumb – it’s a crowd, 3 September 2008
  4. Governor Palin as an archetype for our time, 9 September 2008
  5. Before we reignite the cold war, what happened in Georgia?, 12 September 2008 — Notes from Palin’s first interview.
  6. Stratfor says that our war in Pakistan grows hotter; Palin seems OK with that, 12 September 2008 — More from the ABC interview.
  7. Campaign Update – news from the front, 25 September 2008 — Includes part 1 of Couric’s interview of Palin.
  8. Gov Palin speaks about foreign policy, 26 September 2008 — Part 2 of Couric’s interview.
  9. A comment about “turkey-gate”, 23 November 2008

Some posts about American politics:

  1. The USA *after* this financial crisis – part I, about politics, 13 October 2008
  2. What happens to the Republican Party after the election?, 2 November 2008
  3. Migration from the south into America: new people, new foods, new political systems, 4 November 2008
  4. America’s elites reluctantly impose a client-patron system, 5 November 2008
  5. Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people, 6 November 2008
  6. R.I.P., G.O.P. – a well-deserved end, 7 November 2008
  7. America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?), 14 November 2008
  8. Conservative reflections about America – starting to use their time in the wilderness to think, 15 November 2008
  9. Lilliput or America – who has a better way to choose its leaders?, 19 November 2008
  10. Conservatives should look back before attempting to move forward, 5 December 2008
  11. The Democrats believe we are stupid. Are they correct?, 19 December 2008
  12. President Bush gets in a few last blows on America before he leaves, 13 January 2009
  13. Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
  14. About campaigns for high office in America – we always expect a better result from the same process, 17 June 2009
  15. Please read this. For the sake of yourself, your children, and their children, 25 June 2009
  16. More about the tottering structure of the American political regime, 17 August 2009

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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27 thoughts on “Please put on every milk carton: America’s political class is MIA

  1. This is about as far as it seems it can go in the ridiculous convergence of professions that seems to have happened in the last 40-50 years, or the age of electronic media. Since they are all incessantly presented in the same form and context, entertainers, actors, sports stars, pitchmen, journalists, and politicians are now utterly interchangeable, and anyone can credibly go from any of these jobs to any other.

    Despite being one of the least insightful human beings ever to exist, intellectually, Sarah Palin has intuitively understood this from a very early age and farmed each part of this fertile plot ruthlessly and masterfully… her entire career arc from basketball player to beauty queen to sportscaster to politician to whatever she is now is a textbook study in how to be famous, to be known, without producing anything at all of any value to anyone or doing any heavy lifting whatsoever. While she may make a run at President, thar’s gold in them thar talk shows, and doing commercials, and being a dance or weight loss contestant on a ‘reality’ program, if there isn’t enough money in the book she ‘wrote.’ Future historians and sociologists, if humanity survives this era, will both laugh and cry.
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    FM reply: It’s a defect of the English language that we can speak of actions without actors. What you refer to is our stupidity in voting for candidates with no relevant training or experience. Like Palin for VP (with high odds of becoming President). Or Arnold the Terminator for Governor of a State facing terrible problems (no, calling the senior legislators “girly-men” did not help).

  2. Sarah Palin is demonstrably not stupid. She is breathtakingly ignorant in some areas, but probably above average I’d say for our political class, and most of the rest of us. She panders to her base, evangelicals, and “right to lifers”. Shocking!

    My question concerning SP, my only question frankly,is: If we empower her can we trust her? Will she act in our collective interest, or will she, once more, be co-opted by our ruling elites?
    It’s hard to say, but judging from the current full on frontal assault by the elites on both the urban left and the urban right, I’m encouraged. Our puppet masters apparently loath her and fear her. Such as she is, she may be the last best hope we’ve got, given the major shit storm I’m afraid we’re sailing into.
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    FM reply: Quite amazing, given her history. IMO, quite delusional. You’d be better off picking someone from the first 100 names in your local telephone directory.

  3. FM “You’d be better off picking someone from the first 100 names in your local telephone directory.

    No argument from me. Of course, none of those people have a chance in hell of attaining power. Most of those who do have a chance scare the crap out of me. The set of people chosen by our elites as suitable candidates intersected with the set of people I trust is the empty set. Sarah Palin is outside the set chosen by our elites, that’s for sure. Trustworthy? Who knows.
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    FM reply: Sounds to me like your fantasizing.

    The only way SP might get elected is like Obama did, striking deals with our ruling elites. They’d run pictures of her walking across the Potomac, healing the sick, feeding the hungrey with bread and fish. And then she’d prove totally incapable of doing the job in reasonable fashion. In any case, she quit as gov because that was too difficult — probably boring — to make more money in the private sector exploiting people’s fantasies of effortless populism.

  4. FDR was on the “A” list of the elites of his day. He turned on them when he figured out he had to choose between them and the survival of the Republic. Different pols will reach this point at different stress levels. We were lucky to have FDR IMO. How will it go for Sarah Palin if she gains power? I don’t know, but she’s still on my list of people to watch. Let’s face it, it’s not much of a list.
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    FM reply: First, I don’t see any evidence that FDR “turned against” the elites of his day.

    (2) “it’s not much of a list.”

    Not at all. This nation has many excellent leaders, probably thousands with suitable experience. But as we saw in the 2008 election, Americans have little interest in skilled, experienced people with stable temperments. We want exciting stars. Since this is a democratic republic, our ruling elites manufacture suitable candidates (from paint and cardboard) to suit our desires. The problem is us.

  5. Re: #6 — From Wikipedia entry for “Business Plot“:

    The BBC online précis for their documentary program The Whitehouse Coup, says “The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans”.[40] In that documentary, author and conspiracy theorist[49] John Buchanan said, “The investigations mysteriously turned to vapor when it comes time to call them to testify. FDR’s main interest was getting the New Deal passed, and so he struck a deal in which it was agreed that the plotters would walk free if Wall Street would back off of their opposition to the New Deal and let FDR do what he wanted”.[40] The program connected major companies to the American Liberty League, formed by Al Smith (who, the program asserted, was to be the fascist ruler).

    I know you don’t think much of this theory FM, but certainly some Wall Street elites were not thrilled with “The New Deal”. Some no doubt felt FDR had turned on them. Meanwhile, I can definitely imagine Sarah Palin delivering a modern version of “The Forgotten Man“:
    By 2012, Obama will likely be Herbert Hoover redux. Someone like SP i.e. a Washington newbie, exurban/rural populist will likely come to power.
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    FM reply: It’s not that I think this is nonsense. Almost every relevant historian believes so, as indicated by the “historians” section of the very Wikipedia entry you cite.

    (2) “Obama will likely be Herbert Hoover redux. Someone like SP i.e. a Washington newbie, exurban/rural populist will likely come to power.”

    Many Presidents were “Washington newbies”. But not FDR, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy 1930-1920 (including during WWI). Nor was FDR even remotely a “rural populist.” I dont’ see your logic here.

    (3) “but certainly some Wall Street elites were not thrilled with The New Deal”

    Can you name a US president of whom everybody approved? I don’t see your point.

  6. The next step is an alliance between the populists and the “malefactors of great wealth.” Don’t throw out your used teabags :P

  7. FM Re:9 “Nor was FDR even remotely a “rural populist.

    If you read “The Forgotten Man”, he sure comes off sounding like one. This was FDR’s political acumen showing. It explains why he won. I suppose today an urban old-boy politician can reinvent himself as a rural/exurban populist too, but YouTube makes it harder. I shudder to imagine Obama trying it.

    I should have used the “malefactors of great wealth” reference noted by mikyo to make my point about FDR pissing off/turning on the elites.

    My main point is, a common theme on this site (with which I agree) is that our ostensible public servants actually work for invisible elites, aka, rich bastards. You’re hoping we’ll wise up. I’m hoping we’ll luck out. Either way, we sure are going to need better leadership coming up; you know, continued economic meltdown leading to second Great Depression and all.
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    FM reply: Faux-populism when campaigning is an old American tradition. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we respond each time. It was an esp cruel jest by FDR, for a core element of the New Deal was cartelization of the US economy — crushing the small business class (a program continuing today with renewed force), empowering “malefactors of great wealth.”

    “I’m hoping we’ll luck out.”

    To rely on luck means we’ve already lost. The rich own Lady Luck. Courage and work are our weapons, irrestistable if we use them.

    “we sure are going to need better leadership coming up”

    I disagree with this formulation. If we want better leadership, we’ll find it.

  8. FM reply: “In any case, she quit as gov because that was too difficult — probably boring — to make more money in the private sector exploiting people’s fantasies of effortless populism.

    Whatever her tenure as governer may have been like, I certainly doubt it was boring. Actually she quit because her family was being ruined financially by frivolous ethics complaints. Whatever you may think of Sarah Palin, the treatment meted out to her and her family isn’t likely to attract good people to go into politics.
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    FM reply: You have your guess, I have mine. She gave a great many reasons in her confused resignation speech, most of which made little sense.

  9. Back to 11:
    If anyone out there is scratching their heads over this whole “ruling elites” concept, perhaps this will help: “Obama’s 2006 Earmarks & the Crown Family“, No Quarter, 13 March 2008. At Steve Keene’s blog there’s a new post with {a video} Michael Hudson speaking. Hudson relates a story in the Q&A segment about Obama and the Crown family. The gist is that notwithstanding his ascendancy to the Law Review Editorship at Harvard, a usual stepping stone to a law career culminating in Supreme Court appointments, Obama eschewed this path and went the community organizer route. Hudson notes that these guys typically facilitate land development schemes involving public housing, land development deals, rezoning and the like for the enrichment of their patrons in the ruling class. Anyway, Hudson claims Obama did exactly this in converting Chicago public housing projects into new real estate developments which enriched the Crown family while tossing many poor onto the streets.

    Long term, I’m with FM. We need to wake up and force real change in the selection process for our public servants.

    Short term, I hope and pray that just maybe our elites screwed up when they let SP onto the national stage. I further hope she turns into their worst nightmare: a politician too smart to fool and too honest to buy. All I can do is watch for now.
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    FM reply: I very much hope you’re wrong. Electing someone like Palin is IMO stupid. There is zero evidence that “she’s too smart to fool”, and massive evidence she has little understanding of public policy. That you (and so many others) consider this a nifty idea re-enforces my fears that we’re doomed.

  10. Comment #1: “Since they are all incessantly presented in the same form and context, entertainers, actors, sports stars, pitchmen, journalists, and politicians are now utterly interchangeable, and anyone can credibly go from any of these jobs to any other.”

    This is unfair to sports stars, who must prove themselves. Actors also must often demonstrate singing, dancing, and similar abilities. Otherwise, you do have a point.
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    FM reply: True, but there is a strong trend from celebrity to politican. Actors (Reagan, Sonny Bono, Fred Thompson, Arnold The Terminator) become politicians (President, Mayor, Congressman, Senator, Governor). A wrestler becomes Governor (Jesse Ventura).

  11. As the former German Bundeskanzler Helmut Schmidt put it : Today, appearance of a candidate on TV, i.e. his/her ability to deliver a good show, is more much important than 40 years ago.

    Therefore, facade becomes the most important filter, substance is not essential, the real culprits are we, the voters. The problems of this developement is that (professinal) actors have a clear advantage and use it, the disadvantages come to light not until they are in power.
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    FM reply: Only to an electorate of fools, which is what I fear we’ve become.

    For more on the theme, see the posts about the writings of Lewis Lapham.

  12. RE: 17

    Sports stars need to prove themselves? Have you watched the Cleveland Browns play? ;) Seriously though, when it comes to being successful at sports, if you’re not a good athlete, you can either be a gimmick or take drugs to improve your performance. As for actors, how many have been elevated to stars simply for being beautiful while they otherwise lag behind their peers in musical or dramatic talent?

    I suppose the problem with a 300 million person democracy is that it makes it difficult to know a candidate, so you simply go with someone you identify with because you trust yourself and people like you. The problem is as voters we are way too trusting of our beer drinking and fun loving selves to run a country.
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    FM reply: I know you’re kidding, but this is an important point. If national tryouts were held, I doubt if more than a very few people could qualify for a spot on the bench of the Cleveland Browns. Using drugs would change that only for a tiny tiny fraction. I agree with your point about actors and actresses, for whom success goes to a few almost randomly selected from a large pool of eligable professionals.

  13. >Sarah Palin is demonstrably not stupid

    This is like the “secretly smart” theory of G W Bush. You know he’s just playing dumb to attract the popularist votes. Well turns out he never revealed his well hidden talents and played it dumb all the way to the end.

    As told to Bob Woodward – Bush liked to just guess the way to go with major policy issues. Palin already knows the wrong answer.

  14. Re 20: Oblat
    I’m not crazy for SP, I’m worried about the possible alternatives. Let’s make a list:
    Germany…He who must not be named
    Italy…Mussolini
    Spain…Franco
    Russia…Stalin
    Argentina…What’s his name, dictator guy
    Japan…Tojo; went medieval on the neighbors
    All follow on consequences of the last Great Depression.
    New list:
    U.S.A….Sarah Palin(maybe)
    Now do you see my point?

  15. Yes, I had that same thought. But the protests seem to have eased off a bit, for now. We only need to get the trains to run on time. And get past this Millenium-itis. :)

  16. >Now do you see my point?

    America is not there yet. Moving in that direction but things need to get worse first. Even then all of the above are smarter than Palin, who is an easy target. The real danger is not Palin for president it is Petraeus.

    One of the dangers in Afghanistan is that buy fabricating a victory get out Obama will boost Petraeus even higher.

  17. This is your army on privatization. Any questions? He he he he!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_TE09kIm9w&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

  18. Comment #23: “Even then all of the above are smarter than Palin, who is an easy target.”

    For an easy target she sure keeps getting back up. Also, unlike W, a true idiot son, who’s durable political and financial support was from murky Arab’s and oil interests, and who’s dad ran the frigging CIA, who is her Patron? What wealthy and powerful oligarch/kingmaker is backstopping SP? If she’s an idiot with no powerful friends, how does she survive, indeed prosper?
    My answer is she has no powerful friends. Her support comes from people remarkably similar to those I observed first hand growing up in rural Pa. and who founded the country BTW. She is not stupid, just incomprehensibly alien to our urban intellectual elites. I believe Petraeus has zero political ambition. I could be wrong. We’ll see.
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    FM reply: I don’t understand any of this, because I doubt it’s true.

    “unlike W, a true idiot son”

    There is zero evidence of this. His military IQ tests and academic background are evidence this is not so, as is his successful career. It’s just a baseless smear, perhaps to help reconcile his opponents with aspects of reality they find distasteful.

    “If she’s an idiot”

    Calling people an idiot is a staple of recent American poltical discourse, which has degerated to children’s taunts. It’s living proof of the political science theory that partisan conflict grows increasingly personal and nasty as political differences narrrow, as each party struggles to differentiate itself from its similar opponent.

    “For an easy target she sure keeps getting back up.”

    What do you mean? Lost her VP bid, providing the margin of defeat for McCain. Resigned mid-term as governor. She will make a forture, as do many clowns and performers in the circus that is 21st century America.

    “Her support comes from people remarkably similar”

    Absurd. Palin, like most major figures on the American political scene, has a financial foundation among the various factions of America’s ruling elites. In SP’s case, that includes groups like FreedomWorks. No organization run by Dick Armey is a grass-roots phenomenon.

  19. All salient points. Food for thought. Thank you. This is the other shoe I keep waiting to drop with Sarah Palin. Absent a strong man like Putin immediately emerging,(unlikely IMO) we are going to have a nasty Tango dance among our various elites and oligarchs. It’s very hard for me to see how SP fits into this yet. I do think the seismic economic forces now taking hold of events will soon sweep us along, not the other way around. Even if the Republic was functioning smoothly, which of course it is not, I think we would just see more clearly how limited and lousy our options are.
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    FM reply: Worry not, America, for our elites. They will arrive at a comfortable re-division of the spoils, again. I suggest we worry that they’re incompetents, steering us through the rapids and over the falls.

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