June 13, 2010

OCIHACOSP Does Not Have A Category Called "Sarah-As-Savior" For Nothing

Funny lede from stupid HuffPo today:

How do you generate buzz if you're a magazine up for sale and fighting claims of irrelevance?

Combine two of your most reliable go-to topics: Sarah Palin and religion.

Interesting, coming from them, since they are well-known for shoving the words "Sarah Palin" into headlines just for clicks, themselves.

This will make what, 5 Palin-adorned Newsweek covers, and the second with totally-wrong and/or misleading-context?

Taking up two recurring issues at Oh Crap, I Have A Crush on Deborah/Esther/Moses2.0, Newsweek's feature story calls itself covering "what Palin's appeal to conservative Christian women says about feminism and THE FUTURE OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT". After reading Lisa Miller's article, I wish she would have come read OCIHACOSP first. The focus on abortion is a grounding enough for the article, but there's much more to Palin's appeal to rightwing women than just her Trig stories and anti-abortion stance (which, by some counts, isn't nearly anti-abortion enough).

Restating Oh Crap's position,

1. What Sarah Palin is doing with the word "feminism" may be new for this generation, but politically-mobilized rightwing/reactionary white women is not a new phenomenon

2. The left should not once again make the error of dismissing or writing off that phenomenon. It leaves us with things like Viguerie/Weyrich New Right inventions like the Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, Prop 8 and its popular cultural products: Ralph Reed, Glenn Beck, Bob McDonnell, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, who are in prime positions to influence opinion and thus the voting populace. This is by design, since educating students to go into public life and take it over for Jeezus is precisely what schools like McDonnell's and Bachmann's alma maters were founded to do. They make no secret of it.

More Miller:

Palin has been antagonizing women on the left of late by describing herself as a “feminist,” a word she uses to mean the righteous, Mama Bear anger that wells up when one of her children is attacked in the press or her values are brought into question. But while leftist critics continue to shred Palin as a cynical, shallow, ill-informed opportunist, and new polls show her unpopularity rating to be at an all-time high—53 percent—Palin is now playing to her strengths. Even if she never again seeks elected office, her pro-woman rallying cry, articulated in the evangelical vernacular, together with the potent pro-life example of her own family, puts Palin in a position to reshape and reinvigorate the religious right, one of the most powerful forces in American politics.

Miller nails the left's reaction, and in my estimation, that reaction is a mistake, one the left makes over and over regarding rightwing Christianity. Conservative strategists bank on it. They are usually right.

3. If the left is often confounded by whatever the h. Sarah Palin seems to be doing, they're not alone. To the extent that the left is frustrated with her apparent, for-now staying power, she's got the right in ever the same bit of a tizzy

4. With that in mind, her pretend-preacher, ersatz Esther act is only going to carry her so far with the Christian right crowd, who, hopefully by now has learned something from having repeatedly followed her fellow Pentecostal girl Aimee Semple MacPherson into scandal, her fellow bull-headed bumpkin in a suit William Jennings Bryan into multiple public humiliations; rightwing televangelists into 900-foot visions, dozens of ministry scandals, and their Moral Majorities and Christian Coalitions into crumbling institutional impotence.

Some day, the left is going to get it through our collective heads that "trying take down a chick" like Palin, who models herself on Teflon Ronnie, isn't really going to work. Palin-gates and Trig Trootherism: didn't work. Calling her every gender-based epithet in the book: didn't work. Newsweek's silly cover from her Runner's World shoot: didn't work. Focusing on (and getting distracted by) her sexy looks, her nice body and starting ridiculous whisper campaigns about how big she may or may not be "up there": you know the drill; don't think she doesn't either, or doesn't effectively use this kind of behavior to her advantage. She does, like no other. So, keep yearning for that "final undoing" predicted in the press since some time in late 2008, but don't hold your breath for it.

That's because heckling from the orchestra never works, when people are playing to the balcony.

From a personal standpoint, had someone like me -- growing up queer while steeped in New Right/Post-Civil-Rights Christianity -- had a role model like Sarah Palin, my exit from the rightwing would have been hastened far sooner. So feminists quit fretting about the definition of authentic "feminism" in order to exclude the Palins of the world, let Sarah Palin go make the word "feminism" popular again. All we have to do is 1- kick our own institutions and educational drives back into gear and 2- provide a place for young women interested in Palin feminism to land, with a better understanding of what "feminism" is.

That's boon city, peeps. Miller, again:

Behind the Christian-military rhetoric, though, is a theology that’s generic, Griffith and other scholars say. (Though the video clip that made the rounds during the campaign of Palin being prayed over by an African minister gave foes on the left the willies, most churchgoing conservative evangelicals were completely unfazed.) In her speeches, Palin never damns anyone to hell. She never talks about sin: discussing her daughter Bristol, accidentally pregnant at 17, she talks about responsibility.

When Palin writes about her born-again experience, she talks not about an encounter with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, as so many evangelicals do, but of a sudden awareness of the awesomeness of creation. “Looking around at the incredible creation that is Alaska—the majestic peaks and midnight sun, the wild waters and teeming wildlife—I could practically see and hear and feel God’s spirit reflected in everything in nature.” Palin refers often to Ronald Reagan in her speeches, and even critics concede there’s something Reaganesque about the way she approaches faith. It’s easy. It’s optimistic. It’s future-oriented.

As has been covered numerous times here, Sarah's ambiguity on her theological positions is going to get her in hot water with these voters. Note to Palin: these same voters dumped Reagan in a big way when he wasn't "born again" enough for them, when Roe v Wade wasn't overturned (Republicans have a stake in it never being overturned; what else would they have to campaign on if they did?), when Gog and Magog remained dormant, when Reagan never ushered in the antichrist, when Jesus did not return to earth, on a horse, with a sword in his mouth.

Taking people on big rides is just one of the things demagogues do. The lesson for the left, which the left never seems to learn is, never underestimate the political power of religious bigots. Laugh at them, but don't write them off. Sneer at them, but don't make the mistake in believing that will ever make them go away. They will never go away. There will always be another Sister Aimee, another fundamentalist politician like Bryan, and yes, the next Sarah Palin.

We'd do well to follow the lead of Nina Simone, and leave the backlashers with the blues.