I can’t keep up with Sarah Palin anymore. Am I correct that she hasn’t officially endorsed anyone? She’s just speaking out against making a rush to judgment in favor of Romney, right? You know, tell me if I’m wrong.
I could write a Facebook letter to the Tea Party faithful, too, not that they’d care much for what I’d have to say. I’d even be willing to give them some honest advice, even if it ran counter to my interests. The first thing I’d warn them about is Sarah Palin. When she takes up the banner of anti-Establishmentarianism she’s what I call an “authentic fraud.” She’s authentic in the sense that she carries real grievances, many but not all of them justified, against the corporate media, her liberal critics, and her critics within the power structure of the Republican Party. She truly dislikes the Washington Establishment and the power elite in this country. She dislikes them because she fell short of their minimum standards. She dislikes them because she was on the receiving end of some genuine meanness. This part of her schtick is real.
But her appeal to commonsense constitutional conservatism is a fraud. It’s opportunistic bullcrap. It’s her way of appealing to the ideology of the moment, It might be hard to believe but Alaska is the most socialist state in the Union. Alaska citizens receive checks from the oil companies. The largest dividend ever paid ($3,269 per citizen) was in 2008, while Sarah Palin was governor. That was because Governor Palin supported a one-time $1,200 Alaska Resource Rebate. Imagine what Republicans in Washington would say if the Democrats tried to force the oil companies to give a $3,000 check to every citizen of the country. How is that for redistribution of wealth, for meddling with business, for pure socialism?
Sarah Palin had no problem running with John McCain on a platform calling for a carbon-pricing Cap and Trade program. She explicitly endorsed capping carbon emissions in her debate with Joe Biden.
During the debate, Palin emphasized the importance of energy independence, of “cleaning up the planet” and of “encouraging other nations to come along with us.” She went on to say, “We’ve got to reduce emissions.”
“We’ve got to become more energy independent for that reason also. … As we rely on other countries that don’t care as much about climate as we do, we’re allowing them to produce, and to emit, and to pollute more than America would ever stand for.”
When debate host Gwen Ifill asked Palin whether she supported capping carbon emissions, her answer was unequivocal:
“I do,” she said. “I do.”
Yet, when President Obama attempted to implement this policy, she turned around and opposed it vociferously. For Palin, issues and ideology can be taken up or put aside. What’s important is political placement. She has no qualms about criticizing Mitt Romney for once having entertained Cap and Trade, even though she ran on Cap and Trade herself only four years ago. She’s not going to get caught supporting a position to the left of the rightward edge of the party. She doesn’t have to face the voters anymore. She doesn’t have to forge any compromises. So, she’s free to stand on the far right and lob bombs at the middle. This is what makes her brand. This is what makes her relevant.
It’s also why her ostensible endorsement of Newt Gingrich means very little. It’s not about Newt or Mitt. It’s about being a purist. You’re not supposed to know about her record as governor or as a candidate for the vice-presidency. Never mind that her record of income redistribution, “spreading the wealth around” if you will, dwarfs that of Democratic governors like Jerry Brown or Andrew Cuomo.
Palin’s politics of grievance and resentment is real, but her positions are merely convenient. And even if you share Palin’s sense of grievance, who in history is admired for holding a grudge? No one.
So, my advice to the Tea Party faithful is to see Palin for what she really is. She’s a manipulator. And it’s you that she’s trying to manipulate. The attention you pay to her has made her very rich. It has given her influence. But she’s in it for herself.