In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Sarah Palin’s influence is unparalleled.
By emphasizing her own crises and her victimization by the “liberal media,” Palin has established an invisible, indissoluble bond with adherents of her particular subculture — so visceral it transcends any rational political analysis. Palin is perceived by the extremist GOP?flock 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.”
The gun-toting, snowmobile-cruising former beauty queen became an instant cultural icon. When I visited her church — the Wasilla Assembly of God — in October 2008, 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.
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 campaign rules. She lashed out at candidate Obama in her own distinctive way, accusing Obama of ties to terrorism and drawing a clear line between herself (“Real America”) and Obama. 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.
For the 2010 midterm elections, Palin’s endorsement is already a coveted commodity. The more she is attacked, the more the Republican base adores her. 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.
— Max Blumenthal is a best-selling author
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