They chanted. It was the first Tea Party convention, and the room was electrified. Sarah Palin was the key attraction. She did the usual, in order – insult Obama, Democrats, senior Republicans, then praise the American spirit. Nevermind that she is paid $100,000 for one-off speeches such as this in Nashville, Tennessee. Nevermind the grade-school tactics: on the palm of this woman’s hand, were “key words” she had to include during a Q&A session – energy, tax cuts, and the American spirit. (It is irony, distilled in its purest form, that she should take Obama out on using a “teleprompter” for one of his town hall sessions. Perhaps it’s more “folksy” to use a palm instead.)
Sarah Palin has emerged as a unique political entity on the American landscape – no longer candidate, no longer governor, and – thank god – not president. Therefore the key concern now also no longer lies in whether Sarah Palin is a thick-headed ignoramus or witless imbecile – we should have established erstwhile that she is both. Her decidedly dumb and viciously vague memoir Going Rogue highlights her complete ignorance over fundamental issues of national concern – as if we needed more.
But therein lies her unorthodoxy: her failures translate into a force indulging in deliberated disobedience and dissent, a carefully recalcitrant mould she tailor-makes to fit herself. And this lawless, even heretical, discord is populism at its best and worst – even it means insulting a gentle McCain, unantagonistic senior GOP senators, or the Democrats. (Her book focused predominantly on lashing at the former two.) Sarah Palin is not a person, she is an idea: she is America expressing traditional distrust in big government.
But she has channelled populist sentiment in a dangerously misguided manner. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan, famous for coining “the medium is the message”, expresses this trend succinctly: “The politician would only be too happy to abdicate in favour of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.” While we may insult her for steeply lacking in content, she has already realised that she needs none of that.
The rules have changed. We may jeer at her self-fulfilling prophesies: if she instigates senators (and the people they supposedly represent) to stall reform, any tangible change will obviously be stalled. She subsequently rides on this lack of change to denounce the establishment – “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for ya’?” and perpetuates this vicious circle. The loss of the super-majority in Senate has rendered an already undemocratic Senate useless, feeding Palin more cannon fodder. Self-defeat awaits any opponent willing to renounce her first-rate unsophisticated and unfamiliarity with American concerns – her trump card is, in fact, a blatant disregard for anything to do with reality. Instead, she creates her own reality around her hand of spades. The role this frivolous dolt plays in the U.S. political mindfield deserves some serious rethinking. Suspicion that the GOP is grooming a new 2012 presidential candidate runs high, but we can never be too sure about anything Palin. The only two things we really know? She’s a “maverick”, and she’s one that America does not need – now now, not ever.