Thursday, October 7, 2010

Palin the Weak

I'm glad this year's primaries are over, if for no better reason than that the press will stop analyzing Sarah Palin's effect on particular races. In fact, her whole "Mama Grizzly" concept seems to have been a bust. Karen Handel couldn't even win a primary in Georgia without Palin's endorsement, Carly Fiorina is looking less and less competitive in California, and now two straight polls are showing the original Grizzly, Nikki Haley, not even above the margin of error in South Carolina. The sure winners she endorsed to up her batting average, like Fallin in Oklahoma and Branstad in Iowa, are doing better, but still. This is not good.

What Palin represents, ultimately, is the final stage in evolution for the conservative movement. The movement can no longer be considered a political movement, I believe, since it had little problem with Bush's frequent violations of their own self-stated principles during his reign, and the rank-and-file gave him huge support right up until the end. It's primarily a cultural movement at this point, and one which is holding an ever-diminishing amount of sway in modern America, despite their likely gains this year due to the recession and voter frustration. Palin offers an entirely cultural argument with some political points that don't add up to anything like a philosophy, and that don't contain anything resembling an argument. A lot of people characterize the whole Tea Party concept as racist, but I think the more accurate description is white nationalist. Many are full-on racists to be sure, but what motivates the Tea Party (and, by extension, many of the rest of conservatives) is fundamentally a cultural vision, partly historical but substantially invented, of an America replete with small-town values and a government that sticks out of your hair and all the rest. Needless to say that this is a predominantly white vision, but most conservatives I know aren't opposed to some diversity and don't actually hate minorities. They just generally see American history and cultural history as white-dominated and think this is simply part and parcel of American identity as well as their own identities, and they worried about being pushed out somehow. I see this notion as dubious, since minorities don't have near the level of wealth or success of white folks and that is not likely to change, but I understand it. It is only comprehensible through the lens of white nationalism, and if you start there, then most of the rest of it falls into place.

There is a small problem with all these chants about "taking our country back", which both is and isn't an innocuous phrase that partisans of either side can say: for the Tea Parties their country can't come back. It's gone forever. It's gone when over 80 percent of people in America are urban or suburban, when the fastest growing blocks of the public are young people with few of their hangups and Hispanics, who many of their candidates have gone out of their way to antagonize. This is not to mention the rapidly falling rate of people who practice a religion, as well as the rapidly rising percentage of people who support GLBT rights. America has already changed, and it's going to continue changing along roughly the same lines as it has been changing. The America of the '50s, or the '20s, or whatever other time period the right-wing pines for is simply gone forever, and the sooner they realize it and try to live in the now, with all its possibilities and perils, the better off they will be, and the better off we will all be. It's not like there aren't more productive things they could be doing that could really help us out, you know, by being a functional opposition party.

So, Palin is the ultimate distillation of the conservatives' mentality. She might well be able to elevate a candidate to win a nomination, but her poor record in this election shows the diminishing pull that she--and her movement--are having on our politics. I think the effect is pretty clear: when she gets involved in a contest, people tend to have second thoughts about it, even if the state in question is thoroughly conservative. When the dust settles, this will be clear. So who thinks she can win in 2012?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.