Thursday, July 09, 2009

If it isn't Sarah, it'll be somebody like Sarah

Every mom we know multitasks. And I am one to believe I can use an all-of-the-above approach, too. I can abandon Alaska and ambition myself for the presidency. I can get bored with my job and fight apathy. I can take the easy path out to work hard on a path for fruitfulness. I can move on selfishly and call it altruistically. I don’t need a title now when I can shake up the good ol’ boys and get a better title in the end. Maureen Dowd - Sarah’s Secret Diary - NYT
David Seaton's News Links
Sarah Palin's fine adventure is a sign of things to come.

We are looking at a scenario that could produce a serious mutation in the system, which, even if it doesn't make it all the way to the White House, could seriously warp America's political landscape.

Although there is much talk of "green shoots", most observers seem to concur that high unemployment is here to stay for quite a long time. That the number of white, working poor is growing exponentially and that this group, very large although unhyphenated, with all of its former left wing populist fervor long since extirpated, is bereft of any ideology except charismatic Christianity; with its critical faculties dulled to disappearance by a brutish corporate entertainment culture and drugged with sentimental, xenophobic patriotism and with nowhere to go except toward racism and paranoia.

These people have no defense against globalization and the new technologies except fear and resentment. And having an African-American in the White House has destroyed the last citadel of their precarious, tattered and battered self-esteem: the thought that, no matter how far down they were, there was someone they could look down on... black people.

Incoherent, celebrating violence, sentimental, paranoiac and resentful: it's all there cooking on the stove of high unemployment.

Along comes Sarah.

Many commentators, while admitting that Sarah Palin is attractive and charismatic, quickly discount her because little that she says will stand up to even the most cursory examination of its sense or nonsense.
They fail to realize that this mixture of charisma and incoherence is precisely her most powerful political tool.

They fail to realize that mindless energy combined with carisma, the "just do it", is exactly what distinguishes
and empowers "fascism", a word which most Americans throw around with enormous imprecision until it has become virtually meaningless.

I don't claim to have any preternatural knowledge of the subject, however,
the country where I reside, Spain, as you may recall, was officially a fascist country for nearly forty years and when I first came in contact with the country Franco still had a black mustache. Since I was a young man I have known quite a few official, card-carrying, fascists, upper level servants of the fascist regime, their children and grandchildren: in short, I know something about them.

In my experience they often have energetic, brilliant, charming, personalities and they have no guiding principal that I have ever been able to discover other than following their whims and humors wherever they might lead them and the devil take the hindmost. A la carte amorality is the best description of their take on life. The rules are more or less,
"I want, I take, I possess. If someone is weaker I crush them, if they are stronger, I worship them." It is amazing how far these simple rules can take some people.

Thoughtful progressives have trouble understanding that it is precisely this mindlessness vitalist energy, which Sarah Palin incarnates, that the ultra-right celebrates, and if you try to pin them down to rationality, they can suddenly stop being charming and turn very ugly, very fast.

I have seen Spanish fascists go from being anti-American to canine-ly pro-American, from being rabid antisemites to unswerving "friends of Israel", from favoring nationalized monopolies and the corporate state, straight to being Thatcherite privatizers: all without ever skipping a beat.

All this during years when people of the left were tying themselves in knots trying to find some way of adapting to all the changes in the world without violating the basic coherence of their fundamental principals, principals which of course, were things that the fascists never had had in the first place.

While the left tried to make some sense of the situation, the fascists just said the first thing that came into their heads and the people who vote for them, like them, couldn't care less. What they go for is the vivacity, the energy the voracious quality expressed in the Sam & Dave classic, "I take what I want, I'm a bad go-getter, yeah".

I would maintain, having observed both societies closely, that thoughtful people who care about things like coherence and ideology can differ greatly from place to place, but after removing a few superficial cultural markers, the impulsive, selfish, energy of the sociopath is much the same everywhere.

The United States is getting ripe for someone just like Sarah Palin, a perky, "down to earth", George Wallace with large breasts. If she burns out, there will soon be another one, if she doesn't make it, she'll be the next one's Joan the Baptist. DS


john said...

oh, no! that mustache, i declare, it's hitler again!

john said...

i must apologize for the snark.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Apology taken.

Anonymous said...

Thoroughly perceptive analysis. Indeed fascism is first and foremost the exercise of power for its own sake -- thus the twists and turns of opinion and policy you delineate among the Francoists. Fascism doesn't enter the American arena wearing the brown shirt and jackboots of the History Channel version. Ending the current economic crisis is an historic task and everything, including the survival of democracy, is at stake.

Kathy said...

"And having an African-American in the White House has destroyed the last citadel of their precarious, tattered and battered self-esteem: the thought that, no matter how far down they were, there was someone they could look down on... black people."

This perfectly describes the white working class town I grew up in (and this was BEFORE all the heavy industries and jobs moved south or shut down in the 1970s). I am glad to see someone else besides me boil it down to its essence, one that we ignore at our own peril.

I am currently unemployed myself with no immediate prospects, and angry and frustrated as hell, and I hate to think how millions of others are channeling their resentment.

Great, great post that nails it.