Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Republican Racism Example #66: Tiny Fey's Imitation is Funny, But Sarah Palin's Racism, Anti-Semitism And Homophobia Are Not



She’s baaaaaack. Well, not quite.


Former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin strikes a familiar 'I don't know" pose.  In spite of her multiple past gaffes -- including being stumped during her 2008 campaign for vice president when CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked her what she reads -- Palin got a prime speaking spot this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.  (Photo from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/02/12/sarah-palins-when-politics-and-celebrity-meet/)


Whenever the hopes of sentient people are raised that Sarah Palin might forever slink back into the bleak obscurity she so richly deserves, the former Republican vice presidential nominee keeps extending her fifteen minutes of ill-gotten fame a few more seconds.  In spite of clear signs that Americans are bored with the failed politico widely ridiculed as “Caribou Barbie,” Palin won a major speaking spot at this week’s 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference along with major rising political stars such as far-right Texas Senator Ted Cruz (a man Palin endorsed in the 2012 Republican primaries.)   

Palin also has a contract with HarperCollins to ostensibly author a third book for the press, this one on the so-called “war on Christmas.”   The book, to be released this November, will be called A Happy Holiday is a Merry Christmas and will rehash the tired myth constantly trumpeted by Fox News that liberals are “taking the Christ out of Christmas,”  by secularizing the holiday and using theologically neutral phrases like “happy holidays” when they greet people of unknown sectarian loyalty. (See http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/152-uncategorized/285961-ted-cruz-and-sarah-palin-cpac-2013-will-determine-americas-future and http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/The-Vote/2013/0312/The-war-on-Sarah-Palin-s-Christmas-book-video).

Palin's continued presence on the national stage represents a mystery, seemingly a result of the conservative movement's, broadcasters' and book publishers' collective incompetence.  Her fame rests on the shaky ground of two terms as mayor of the tiny town of Wasila, Alaska, an incomplete term as a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a failed run for the vice presidency, and and 18 months of service as governor of Alaska.

Beginning in 2008, Palin alienated most of the country with a career that featured a nasty mix of racism, flirtations with birtherism, secessionism, and other forms  of extremism, generous dollops of homophobia, and a blend of anti-Semitism  and creepy apocalyptic philo-Semitism.    She followed up her spotty political career with several failures at TV stardom.  The last two years in particular have not been politically kind to Palin. Her mini-comeback this year, therefore, ranks as a surprise.  What do the people who keep shining the spotlight on Palin know that most of the American public doesn't? 


During her 2008 vice presidential debate with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin winked at the mysterious forces that keep her in the public eye in spite of her repeated failures.  (Photo from http://www.delawareonline.com/blogs/2008/10/libe-blog-bidenpalin-debate.html..) 

Palin likes to present herself as a political "maverick," a label she proudly adopted during her campaign as Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate.  More accurately, she entered politics from the fringe. For a time, she successfully repackaged herself to less than half of the electorate as an unconventional conservative.  There was nothing conservative, however, about Palin's politics, however,  The Alaskan was and is a radical of the most reactionary type.

As Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks noted in September 2008, from the beginning of her political career Palin and her husband Todd “actively courted the Alaska Independence Party, or AIP, an organization that supports Alaskan secession from the U.S.”  Secession is a nice word for treason.  The illegality of secession was firmly established by the loss of the Confederacy in the Civil War in 1865.  Nevertheless, members of the AIP renounce their loyalty to the United States government and seek to establish a separate Alaskan nation. The founder of the AIP, Joe Vogler, expressed his intense disdain for the union to a reporter in a 1991 interview: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. ... And I won't be buried under their damn flag." (See http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/04/news/OE-BROOKS4).  


Joe Vogler, the founder of the Alaska Independence Party, once proclaimed that he wouldn't "be buried under their damn [American] flag."  Sarah Palin's husband Todd joined the AIP in the mid-1990s. (Photo from http://www.akip.org/joe.html).  

The party today embraces a wide range of far right positions, including repeal of all gun laws, an end to all environmental regulations, vouchers for parents not wanting to send their children to public schools, and abolition of all property taxes.  (See http://www.akip.org/issues.html#19).  According to the New York Times, the Palins attended an AIP convention in their hometown of Wasilla in 1994 while Sarah served as a city councilmember.  The convention called for a state referendum on whether to revoke Alaskan statehood and adopted a resolution supporting the establishment of an "Independent Republic of Alaska."  Todd Palin joined the party, though Sarah (perhaps because of the damage switching to the AIP would do to her political future)  remained a Republican.

 Palin spoke to the AIP convention in 2006 when she ran for governor as a Republican. She sent a  recorded message to the party after she won the election later that year. "I share your party's vision of upholding the constitution of our great state," she said in the taped talk.  "My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty and opportunity can expand.  I know you agree with that." She added, "Keep up the good work, and God bless you."  (See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/us/politics/04party.html).  

From childhood to at least 2002, the year before she became the ninth governor of Alaska, she attended a series of Assembly of God churches.  The Assembly of God churches are a Pentecostalist sect that believes in faith healing, speaking in tongues, and takes the Biblical historical narrative literally.  Assembly of God churches are also apocalyptic in their vision.  They believe that human society is in the "End Times," and that soon an "Anti-Christ" -- an earthly embodiment of Satan -- will emerge as a world dictator.  The Anti-Christ, they say, will lead the world into seven years  of unprecedented natural disasters, appalling plagues, and wars.  They call this period "the Tribulation."  They preach that this epoch that will almost completely destroy humanity before humanity is saved through the miraculous "Second Coming"  of Jesus.

These End Times beliefs, called "dispensationalism," require the most extreme support for the state of Israel. Dispensationalists think that the Second Coming can't happen until all Jews have gathered in the land of Israel.  Such Christians say that Jesus will come back specifically to save Israelis from extermination by the Anti-Christ.  They, therefore, support continued mass Jewish immigration from Russia to Israel, raise money for the Israeli state, and have formed a cozy relationship with the Israeli right-wing.  They contend that any attempt by Israelis and their allies to exchange land for peace with the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is part of a Satanic plot.  They thus urge Israelis to reject peace with their Arab neighbors.  More sinister is their certainty that most Jews in Israel will be killed by the Anti-Christ during the Tribulation.  Such horrors, however, are seen by Dispensationalists as a necessary precursor to the establishment of a Godly kingdom on Earth called "The Millennium."  They are willing to encourage Russian Jews to immigrate to a Middle Eastern home where they face ultimate doom as a means of achieving salvation for themselves.  Jews are not so much real flesh-and-blood people as they are a means to an end: an earthly paradise for Christians.

Dispensationalists also tend to be on the far right politically and see feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, and attempts to redistribute wealth as representing blasphemous faith in human agency as opposed to  God's sovereignty.  Satan, in such a worldview, is a leftist.  

Palin left the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in 2002 and joined the more mainstream Wasilla Bible Church.  But in 2005, just before her run for governor, Palin attended a service at her old congregation where a Pentecostalist preacher from Kenya, Thomas Muthee, laid hands on her, urging the flock to pray for her success "even in the political arena ... [to] bring finances her way ... and give her the personnel . . . In the name of Jesus. Every form of witchcraft is what you rebuke."  The video surfaced during the 2008 campaign.  It's hard to know what Palin thinks about religion today, other than she insists that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation, a definition which excludes every other faith  as having a claim to the American identity.  If she still embraces dispensationalism, not only would any degree of gay rights be unacceptable to her, but she would see any advancement of gay rights as bringing the world closer to the horrors of Armageddon -- a final battle in the Tribulation raining havoc on the planet just before Christ saves the human race.  If she were ever to be elected to the Senate or, more frightening, the White House, she would be theologically obligated to oppose an equitable Middle Eastern peace process that considers Palestinian rights. The Muthee video, meanwhile, suggests that Palin lives in a mental world in which she is surrounded by supernatural forces and in which witches are real and present danger to believers. (See http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/10/27/jesus-and-witches.html).  


For much of her life, Palin has belonged to churches with extremist views that border on anti-Semitism.  (Photo http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1848420,00.html

In any case, Palin's new congregation, Wasilla Baptist Church, also holds some disturbing beliefs about Jews. The church in 2008  hosted the executive director of Jews for Jesus, an organization of Jews who have converted to evangelical Christianity.  They believe that Jews have an incomplete religion which they must renounce to achieve salvation.  They therefore seek to convert their other former co-religionists.  The Jews for Jesus spokesman told the congregation, "“that violence against Israeli Jews is God's punishment for their failure to accept Jesus.” (http://www.nysun.com/editorials/palins-pastor/85166/).  Anti-Israeli acts of terror, such as the murders committed by suicide bombers in the West Bank, are therefore, in a twisted way, acts of God.




In spite of her ideologically and theologically dodgy background, Palin's term as governor turned out to be more moderate than the later myth would suggest. She did battle with entrenched  energy interests in the state and proved to be a mild reformer, but Palin would leave any trace of that moderation behind when she became John McCain's surprise pick as the Republican vice presidential nominee  in the summer of 2008.  Some of Palin's alarming associations with the political far right almost immediately bubbled to the surface.  

"We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity,” Palin said in one line of her vice presidential acceptance speech, scripted by George W. Bush staffer Matthew Scully, at the Republican National Convention September 3, 2008.  The speech attributed the line to “a writer.”  Scully, and Palin, didn’t mention the line was written by Westbrook Pegler, an infamously anti-Semitic and racist Republican newspaper columnist from the 1930s to the 1960s, a man so extreme he was expelled from the far-right John Birch Society. Fiercely anti-communist, Pegler saw Jews of Eastern European descent as enemies of America and described them as "instinctively sympathetic to Communism, however outwardly respectable they appeared."  Pegler liked to call Jews "geese," he said, because they supposedly “hiss when they talk, gulp down everything before them, and foul everything in their wake. (See http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Palins_source.html?showall and http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2004/03/dangerous_minds.html). 


In her vice presidential acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, Sarah Palin quoted Westbrook Pegler, an anti-Semitic newspaper columnist who mocked the African American civil rights movement and wished for the assassination of his political enemies.  Pegler was so extreme that the zealots of the John Birch Society kicked him out of their organization in the 1960s.  (Photo from http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/BE034377/james-westbrook-pegler-headshot).  


Pegler castigated psychiatry as a "Jewish science."  In 1963, while the African American Civil Rights Movement was reaching its crescendo and Martin Luther King, Jr. made his stirring "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., Pegler proudly described himself as a racist and wrote that it was  "clearly the bounden duty of all intelligent Americans to proclaim and practice bigotry.” As Diane McWhorter wrote in Slate,  “By the 1950s . . . Pegler was showing some nostalgia for the Third Reich. His proposal for ‘smashing’ the AF of L and the CIO was for the state to take them over. ‘Yes, that would be fascism,’ he wrote. ‘But I, who detest fascism, see advantages in such fascism.’” (See http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2004/03/dangerous_minds.html).

Pegler not only had positive things to say about right wing dictatorships, he openly wished for political violence against liberals.  In the 1930s, Pegler said that he wished someone would assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt, who he saw as a communist sympathizer.   He complained that Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted to kill the president but accidentally murdered Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak when the president-elect visited Miami, Florida on February 15, 1933, "hit the wrong man."  (See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122100226859616967.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_today).  He expressed similar sentiments in 1965 about liberal Sen. Robert Kennedy.  Pegler wrote with eager anticipation that perhaps,  "Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies."  Pegler lived to see his dream come true.  Robert Kennedy would die from an assassin's bullet just after winning the Democratic presidential primary in California in June 1968.  (The Kennedy quote comes from Thomas Frank, ed., Boob Jubilee -- The Mad Cultural Politics of the New Economy: Salvos from The Baffler,  New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003, 358.)


Westbrook Pegler, the "author" Sarah Palin quoted in her acceptance speech at the 2008 National Convention, once openly fantasized about the murder of liberal New York Senator Robert Kennedy.  He got his wish June 6, 1968. (Photo from http://life.time.com/history/behind-the-picture-rfks-assassination/#1).




This is the man the Palin team chose to quote in the governor's acceptance speech.  More than likely, Palin never heard of Pegler before she quoted him.  What is bothersome about the appearances of his words in Palin's speech, however, is what this choice said about the mindset of Palin's advisors.  Perhaps they picked the Pegler quote because it seemed an innocuous invocation of small town American virtue.  But, In fact, the speech as a whole struck a bitter, intolerant Pegler note of "us vs. them."  The small town folks, Palin said, “are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America ... who grow our food, run our factories, and fight our wars. They love their country, in good times and bad, and they're always proud of America.” Palin contrasted these "real Americans" with 'Washington elites . . . all those reporters and commentators." (See http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26535811/).  

It's a standard dichotomy presented in pseudo-populist rhetoric.  The hardworking, more genuinely patriotic Americans live in the country's whiter, straighter, more Protestant interior.  All they achieve, supposedly, comes in spite of the barriers created by parasites living in those coastal cities, where the people are blacker and browner, where the folks are more Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and secular, those dens of iniquity with larger and more activist gay, bi and transsexual communities.  In Palin's speech, she suggested that the more diverse a place is, the less patriotic the population.   In Palin's America, we're not all in it together: the real America represented by Wasilla stands in opposition to the inauthentic America represented by Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco and Hollywood.   And nurturing the anti-patriotic, anti-work ethic of those less authentically American Babylons on the coast  is a duplicitous media Westbrook Pegler and others on the right believed to be controlled by grasping, ruthless Jews.



GOP presidential nominee John McCain, his running mate Sarah Palin, and the Palin family at the 2008 Republican National Convention.  (Photo from http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Bristol+Palin/Sarah+Palin/2008+Republican+National+Convention+Day+3/jZeuTts7RfI).  


Shortly after her nomination, Huffington Post columnist Miles Mogulescu noted that “Sarah Palin is the most extremist major party candidate since Barry Goldwater, aligned with the most far right wing elements in American politics on issues ranging from denying that human activity has helped bring about global warming, to seeking to block protection of endangered species, to advocating the teaching of creationism in the public schools, to opposing abortion even in the case of rape and incest, to preventing teenagers from learning about contraception in school, to advocating drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, to flirting with Alaska voting to secede from the Union, to proclaiming our troops in Iraq are on a mission from God.” (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/let-swing-voters-know-tha_b_124384.html).  

A national campaign premised on such a Manichean view of the Unites States (in which the holy interior wages a moral crusade against the wicked metropolitan centers) was bound to collapse.  
McCain picked Palin to generate excitement, making her the first woman on a major national ticket since Rep. Geraldine Ferraro served as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, but he came to regret the decision. Under the national spotlight Palin mbarrassed the ticket with her inarticulate comments and her apparent cluelessness about policy.  At different points she referred to the Department of Justice as “the Department of Law.”  She didn’t seem to understand what a reporter meant by the phrase “the Bush Doctrine” (the foreign policy of the Bush administration adopted based on the premise it could invade a country in order to prevent the possible spread of terrorism even when no link to terror had yet been established).  In her most infamous moment, she couldn't name a single publication she relied on for news.  In her vice presidential debate with her Democratic opponent Joe Biden, she winked like a school girl, completely ignored reporters' questions and couldn't outline a single coherent policy position on the economy.  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/07/palin-department-of-law-p_n_226881.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/11/palins-abc-interview-stum_n_125818.html, and http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2008/09/30/30022/palins-news/). 

Nevertheless, at Republican rallies Palin was a big hit.  It was clear that Republican audiences showed up to cheer on the Alaska governor and that they saw McCain as an annoying sideshow.  During joint campaign appearances, Palin got the longer and louder cheers whenever her name was mentioned and the audience seemed vastly more energized when she spoke.  "She was a sudden, freakishly huge, full-fledged phenomenon," the Arizona senator's daughter Meghan McCain observed in her book Dirty Sexy Politics.  "It seemed too much. And it seemed too easy." (See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/sarah-palin-caused-stress-drama-panic-campaign-trail-john-mccain-daughter-meghan-article-1.202916).


Meghan McCain, daughter of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, said that Palin because "a sudden, freakishly huge, full-fledged phenomenon."  (Photo form http://www.inquisitr.com/243740/meghan-mccain-republicans-treat-me-like-a-freak-for-having-moderate-views/). 

The governor seemed to uncork a widely felt rage on the right.  As the probability of an Obama victory loomed, the audiences at McCain-Palin rallies grew more vitriolic and more racist.  
During a mid-October McCain-Palin rally in Minnesota, a woman asking a question of the GOP presidential nominee repeated to McCain the myth that Obama was born overseas and might be a secret Muslim: "I don't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's an Arab."  To his credit, McCain challenged the woman’s Birtherism (the false belief that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is not Constitutionally eligible for the presidency.)  “"No ma'am, no ma'am,” McCain said. “He's a decent family man...[a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what this campaign is all about."  Such moments of decency met with derision.  When McCain told the rally they didn’t need to be frightened by an Obama presidency, he was met with boos.

It got worse at a Waukesha, Wisconsin rally, where one man asking questions referred to Obama and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “hooligans” and another repeated the Birther lie, suggesting that Obama had risen so fast in politics as part of a sinister conspiracy. "And we're all wondering why that Obama is where he's at, how he got here. I mean, everybody in this room is stunned that we're in this position," the man said. "I'm mad. I'm really mad. And what's going to surprise you, it's not the economy. It's the socialists taking over our country," one said. (See http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/10/mccain.crowd/)

Nevertheless, even as McCain supposedly sought to calm the waters, his campaign ran ads exploiting the extremely tenuous connection between Obama and Bill Ayers, who belonged to the 1960s anti-Vietnam War terrorist group The Weather Underground while Obama was still in elementary school.  (The Underground set off a series of bombs and robbed banks in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of their would-be revolution).  Ayers and Obama barely knew each other.  Ayers and his wife, fellow 1960s radical Bernardine Dohrn, hosted a reception at their home when Obama ran for the Illinois State Senate and both Ayers and Obama served for three years on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago.  (See http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/05/fact-check-is-obama-palling-around-with-terrorists/).  

Unlike McCain, at her personal appearances Palin poured gasoline on the fire of rightwing fury. Referring to indirectly to Ayers at a rally in Colorado, Palin also sought to play to the suspicions of extremists that Obama was a Muslim “Manchurian candidate” – someone sent by either agents of radical Islam, or by communist,s to seize control of the country for evil purposes.  Questioning  Obama’s patriotism, Palin told an already angry crowd:


“There is a lot of interest, I guess, in what I read and what I’ve read lately. Well, I was reading my copy of today’s New York Times and I was interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago . . . I get to bring this up not to pick a fight, but it was there in the New York Times, so we are gonna talk about it. Turns out one of Barack’s earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, and they are hardly ever wrong, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol. Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes. [Note: Palin apparently wanted to prove she had read an issue of the New York Times.] 


“This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?” (See http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/04/palin-obama-is-palling-around-with-terrorists/). 


In 2008, Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorist" prompting one fan at a rally to shout "Kill him!"  Palin never denounced such reactions from her audience.  (Photo from http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/04/palin-obama-is-palling-around-with-terrorists/). 

Elsewhere Palin said that there was “a pattern in how our opponent has talked about one of his most troubling associations."  Such incendiary charges of treason and terrorism, over-layered with the racism many on the right felt towards Obama, produced predictable results. At a Jacksonville, Florida, rally in mid-October 2008, someone at a Palin rally yelled out the word, “Treason!” when the governor mentioned Obama.  When Palin referred to Obama and Ayers at another Florida rally, another person screamed, “Kill him!”  Meanwhile, McCain gave up trying to respond to extremists in his audiences.  When he asked at a New Mexico rally, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” someone in the audience shouted, “Terrorist.”  McCain said nothing in response. (See http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/10/mccain.crowd/).  

 Meanwhile, there was an increase in explicitly racist incidents at McCain-Palin rallies such as one the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported at a Clearwater, Florida, Palin campaign stop:

“Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her ‘less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.’ At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, ‘Sit down, boy.’” (See http://www.pensitoreview.com/2008/10/07/more-palin-incitement-racial-epithets-in-clearwater/). 

Palin won over a rabid audience of reactionaries, but increasingly drove away the rest of the country.

As Meghan McCain noted,"Sarah Palin. She was turning out to be somebody who leaves a wake of confusion and chaos - to the point of dizziness - wherever she went."  Palin's many verbal miscues on the trail, and reports that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 on hair, clothes, and makeup for the Palin family made her seem frivolous  and self-absorbed. (See http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2008/10/24/palin_blames_gender_bias_for_clothing_controversy.html).  As the election approached, most Americans worried about Palin as a potential chief executive.  McCain was 72 and a cancer survivor.  The thought of Palin being, as the cliché went, “a heartbeat away from the presidency,” frightened many voters and made them question his judgment.  Election day polls indicated that 60 percent of voters saw her a unqualified to serve as vice president and nearly a third of voters said her presence on the ticket made them less likely to vote for the Republican Party's nominees.  (See http://jonathanturley.org/2008/11/05/exit-poll-palin-hurt-ticket-with-vast-majority-of-voters/  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/us/politics/31poll.html?_r=0).  

Election night was not even close.  Obama won by almost 10 million popular votes, becoming the first Democrat to win more than 50 percent of the vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976.  Obama carried the Electoral College by a 365-173 margin, and even won in previous Republican strongholds like Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

Even after such a humiliating defeat, many still believed that Sarah Palin had a bright political future.  She ended the campaign as the most popular figure in the party.  Even as late as 2010, 76 percent of Republicans viewed her positively, ratings much higher than her potential GOP rivals for the 2012 nomination.  (See http://www.gallup.com/poll/141341/palin-favorable-among-republicans-tops-others-gop.aspx). Her problem, however, was never within the Republican Party, but with the much larger general public.

More serious political troubles began when she unexpectedly resigned as Alaska governor July 3, 2009, only 18 months into her first term and amid ethics investigations. (See http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-07-04/politics/36806852_1_sarah-palin-republican-alaska-palin-spokeswoman-meg-stapleton),  Her credibility took a further hit as she formed SarahPAC supposedly to raise funds for similar candidates, but which ended up being mostly a means to pay expenses as Palin and her family travelled across the country and promoted her "personal brand." (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/14/sarah-palins-strangest-ex_n_644249.html#s113407&title=Chartered_Flights).

Palin wrote a bestseller, Going Rogue: An American Life, but the book proved to be a fluffy mix of patriotic cliches, airing of personal grievances, and gossipy anecdotes complete empty of any political ideas might hope for in a potential leader of the free world. An ill-advised career in reality TV and flakey bus tours in states holding important Republican presidential contests in the upcoming 2012 presidential race convinced growing numbers of Americans, even some Republicans, that she only craved constant attention and had nothing significant to say.  In several cases, her always latent racism and homophobia became more explicit.



The media should have ignored her, but instead they cynically continued to promote her on the increasingly unlikely premise that she might one day rise to the presidency.  In late 2010, the reception to Palin’s second book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, proved tepid.  The publisher, HarperCollins ordered an initial press run less than half the size ordered for her debut book, Going Rogue: An American Life.  Even though America hit number two on the New York Times bestseller list, total sales fell well behind its predecessor in spite of heavy promotion by the Fox News network and rightwing talk radio stations across the country. Sales of America by Heart were 70 percent lower than those of Going Rogue.  (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120905857.html and http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2011/03/21/palin_s_book_sales_dropped_off_70_percent_from_going_rogue_to_america_by_heart.html.)  

Additionally, the sales of both books may have been grossly inflated. Conservative book clubs buy titles like Palin's to get the titles on bestseller lists, a form of advertising for not just for the authors but also for rightwing ideas.  Conservative political groups also buy such works in bulk in order to promote favored candidates like Palin.  Such groups then often distribute the copies for free. (See http://www.businessinsider.com/questions/why-are-so-many-bestselling-books-written-by-conservatives). 





To the amazement of anyone who has ever written a real book, Sarah Palin is credited as the author of two bestsellers and has a contract with HarperCollins to "write" a third, a predictable diatribe on the so-called  "war on Christmas."  HarperCollins apparently believes that their future is in the hands of people who don't read.  (Photo from http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/federal-judge-orders-gawker-to-remove-sarah-palin-excerpts_b17528).  

Palin's exaggerated success as an author did not translate into TV stardom.  In the same year that her second book appeared, 2010, the TLC cable network’s reality show Sarah Palin’s Alaska quickly tanked in spite of a huge audience of five million for its debut in November.  With the exception of her hardcore Republican base, most Americans did not mistake Palin's dopey, vacuous attacks on the Obamas for entertainment.  

In a typical small-minded episode, Palin ridiculed Michelle Obama's campaign against a serious and dangerous epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States by serving her family s'mores.  "Where are the s'mores ingredients?” Palin said. “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert."  By the way, health experts say that one in three American children are overweight or obese and that this generation of children may have a shorter lifespan that their parents.  Obesity greatly increases health care costs, which also endangers efforts to balance the federal  budget.  With typical hyperbole, Palin's characterized the First Lady's efforts to simply encourage exercise and healthier diets as an effort by the federal government to "take over and make decisions for us."  Meanwhile, conservatives like Palin had no problem when First Lady Nancy Reagan urged children to "just say no" to drugs. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/20/sarah-palin-michelle-obama_n_799031.html)


The total audience for Sarah Palin's Alaska collapsed 40 percent, to three million viewers for episode two and numbered only 2.5 million for the seventh and next-to-last original episode.  Seeing the ratings handwriting on the wall, TLC cancelled the series.  In any case, the audience for Palin’s books and her TV show clearly derived in part from the possibility that the former Alaska governor might run for president in 2012.  Palin was in a bind.  She couldn't really sing up for another full season and carry on the pretense that she was running for president.  On the other hand, the rest of her TV audience might vanish if she made it obvious that she had no intention of campaigning for the White House.  TLC cut the Gordian knot by just pulling the plug on the show. (See http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/blogs/live-feed/sarah-palins-alaska-ratings-plummet-48403, http://insidetv.ew.com/2010/11/23/sarah-palins-alaska-takes-big-ratings-hit/, and http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/01/07/sarah-palins-alaska-no-second-season/). 

If audiences tired of the elder Palin's fingers-on--a-chalk-board voice and phony political indignation, they turned away even more quickly from her daughter's reality show, Bristol Palin's: Life's a Tripp.   Bristol's little-watched show actually lasted longer than Sarah Palin's (a whopping 14 episodes vs. eight original episodes plus a clip show for mom's program) but it played to much smaller audiences. Bristol's "reality" series drew an anemic 0.2 rating for adults 18 to 49, the opening episode watched by a mere 726,000 people across the country.  The TLC network quickly bumped the show from prime time and buried it in a  late night slot.  (See http://insidetv.ew.com/2012/06/20/bristol-palin-ratings/).


Bristol Palin laughed when her small child called an aunt "faggot" on her short-lived TV show.  (Photo from http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/alaska-paid-354348-bristol-palins-canceled-reality-show). 

As bad as Bristol's show was, it gave Americans a glimpse into what nasty little bigots the woman who could have been vice president has raised.  In one episode, Sarah Palin's toddler grandson called his Aunt Willow a "faggot."  (See http://gawker.com/5928064/little-tripp-palin-calls-aunt-willow-the-f+word-on-bristol-palins-reality-show-updated).  A spokesman for the show later claimed the small child merely called his aunt a "fuck," and didn't use the anti-gay slur.  Bristol showed her parenting skills by laughing at her child's bleeped word, whether it was an wildly inappropriate obscenity or a disturbing case of pre-school gay bashing.  In any case, homophobic insults are a Palin family tradition. When a classmate of the Palin daughters Bristol and Willow criticized online the debut of Sarah Palin's Alaska, Willow went on an internet rant, calling her acquaintance "so gay" and "a faggot."  During none of these outbursts did Sarah Palin publicly suggest that such anti-gay language might be inappropriate.  Her grandson Trigg apparently learned his intolerant language from the family matriarch. (See http://gawker.com/5691856/willow-palins-homophobic-facebook-freakout).

The reality shows, and the policy-light and platitude-heavy books, reinforced the image from the 2008 campaign of the Alaska politician as an intellectual lightweight.  Bristol's show also represented one of many moments of Palin hypocrisy.  Presenting herself as a small govenrment conservative, the millionaire Palin happily accepted a $354,348 subsidy from Alaska taxpayers, in the form of a grant from the state's film incentive program.  The grant paid for expenses, including salaries for Bistol and other stars of the failed series. (See http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/alaska-paid-354348-bristol-palins-canceled-reality-show).

In March 2010, Palin flirted with the Birthers and their insane idea that Obama is an illegal immigrant from Kenya.  Obama had presented a copy of his birth certificate, verifying his birth in Hawaii, in the summer of 2008, but Republican racists insisted that this documentation was not good enough and demanded the release of the so-called "long form certificate" which contains slightly more details.  Hawaii does not, as a rule release the long form to its citizens.  A copy of the long form certificate however, had been examined and verified by the governor of Hawaii, a Republican, and the non-partisan website FactCheck.org, which posted pictures of the document on its website.  Many Republicans, however, could not accept that a black man could legitimately be president of the United States and continued to deny reality.  Palin was happy to reinforce their racism.  

Palin insisted that questions about Obama’s birth were fair and said that, "I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers."  Palin later supported fellow reality TV star, real estate mogul Donald Trump, in his demands for the release of the long form birth certificate.  She reiterated this support for Trump’s bigoted crusade in early 2011, announcing she “appreciated” Trump’s continued devotion to the non-issue. (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/sarah-palin-appreciates-donald-trumps-birther-questions/story?id=13342475.  See also http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/03/palin-goes-birther-obama_n_379634.html.  For more on Birtherism, see my earlier post at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-29-that-whole.html) 

n June of the same year, Palin inserted herself into the phony "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy, comfortably aligning herself with the Islamophobes trying to stop the opening of an Islamic Community Center that is not a mosque and that is in currently run-down neighborhood blocks away from "Ground Zero" the site of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.  Palin and others argued dishonestly argued that the center would dishonor the victims of 9/11, even the neighborhood was filled with boarded up buildings and "gentleman's clubs."  Never one to avoid demonizing an unpopular group for political gain, Palin mangled the language, urging in a series for New Yorkers to "refudiate" the non-Mosque and urging the cancellation of the projects in a series of tweets: "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand. Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in the interest of healing . . . “ she wrote.  In another tweet, she cleaned up her grammar. “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.  (See http://abcnews.go.com/US/sarah-palin-takes-twitter-oppose-ground-mosque/story?id=11194148).  

In 2010, Palin was not always a racist herself: she just rallied to the defense of racists whenever she could.  One of the more brazen examples of Palin's white supremacist thinking came in August of that year when she came to the defense of right wing radio host "Dr." Laura Schlessinger..  (Schlessinger actually has a Ph.D., but it is in physiology.  On her radio show, she dispensed advice on relationships, sex, addiction, etc., falsely implying with her title that she was a psychologist or psychiatrist. It was only after she began her career as a radio therapist that she was certified as a marriage and family counselor.  See http://www.salon.com/1999/08/23/drlaura/. )    

Schlessinger had spent much of her broadcasting career as a professional gaybasher.  For instance,  Schlessinger fiercely opposed the adoption of children by gay couples and accused gay men wanting to adopt children of being pedophiles.  Expressing a long-held anti-gay smear (one contradicting extensive evidence that most pedophiles are men who rape female children and that pedophiles are attracted to their victims because of their age and not their gender).  Schlessinger once said that, that "a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys.”  Sounding like an early 20th century eugenicist, Schlessinger characterized homosexuals as “a biological error.”  


Palin pal Dr. Laura Schlesinger, the face of American anti-gay hatred and anti-black animus.  When Schlessinger verbally assaulted a black listener on her radio show by using the word "nigger" 11 times in five minutes, Palin urged her to not resign but to "reload."  (Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/12/dr-lauras-n-word-rant-rad_n_680680.html). 

In a 1999 radio broadcast,  Schlessinger implied that Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old Wyoming college student horribly beaten and left tangled overnight in a barbed wire fence the night of October 6-7, 1998 by two men committing a hate crime, was to blame for his violent death.  "You know what was largely responsible for that guy’s [Matthew Shepard's] death?" Schlessinger asked  her audience.  She continued:

"Those two guys who killed him did not go out looking for a homosexual to kill that night. They were shooting pool. He went to the bar. He left with two guys he thought he was gonna have sex with. He got murdered. How many women has that happened to? How many women have left bars thinking they were gonna get some action with some guy who raped and murdered and tortured and murdered them? Far more women than homosexual men have ended up dead that way, I would guess. Is that a hate crime against women? I think so but they specifically picked the woman who was willing to leave for sex. If Matthew hadn’t been willing to leave for sex, he might still be alive. That certainly doesn’t make him responsible for his own death but when you put yourself into a situation of going off to have anonymous sex with people you meet at a bar, what kind of person is gonna leave with you? Usually scum.... This was a terrible tragedy but it’s also one that might have been avoided if he had simply gone home with his friends instead of thinking he was gonna get a little."




Schlessinger hates gays, which makes her Palin's kind of gal.   Even when the radio host made clear that she felt nothing but contempt for black people, Palin stood by the broadcaster's side.  In August, a black listener called Schlesinger's show to complain about her white husband's racist friends who went out their way to use the word "nigger" in her presence.  Rather than showing any empathy, or awareness of the potency of the word "nigger" in American history, Schlessinger went on a Klan-style rant:


Sarah Palin's favorite civil rights pioneer, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who bravely fought for whites' equal access to the word "nigger."   (Photo from http://gawker.com/5611670/dr-laura-apologizes-for-shocking-n+word-radio-rant).

“Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is 'nigger', 'nigger', 'nigger'. I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing.”

The show went on a commercial break, but when the broadcast resumed, the listener said that she was astonished by Schlessinger’s ugly rant.  The “doctor” doubled down on the bigotry.  “Oh, then I guess you don't watch HBO or listen to any black comedians," she said. "My dear, the point I am trying to make...we've got a black man as president and we've got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that's hilarious."

The exchange went downhill from there:

“CALLER: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?
DR. LAURA: It depends how it's said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it's ok.
CALLER: But you're not black, they're not black, my husband is white.
DR. LAURA: Oh, I see, so a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can't do much about that.
CALLER: I can't believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the 'nigger' word, and I hope everybody heard it.
DR. LAURA: I didn't spew out the ''nigger' word!
CALLER: You said ‘nigger, nigger, nigger’ and I hope everybody heard it.
DR. LAURA: Yes they did, and I'll say it again: 'nigger, nigger, nigger' is what you hear on HBO.”

The two then started talking over each other and then Schlesinger continued. 
DR. LAURA: Why don't you let me finish a sentence? Don't take things out of context. Don't NAACP me, leave them in context.

Schlessinger then attacked the black listener because she didn’t smile and laugh when white friends of her husband constantly said “nigger” in front of her. "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry outside of your race," Schlessinger said before hanging up on the woman. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/12/dr-lauras-n-word-rant-rad_n_680680.html)

You obviously don’t need to be smart, or be a decent human, to have a Ph.D. in physiology. Dr. Schlesinger is obviously jealous because she thinks black people get to say "nigger" and she doesn't.  Schlessinger ignores that white people people for centuries have used the word "nigger" to demean black people as inferiors and to assert power over them.  Some black people, for better or for worse, have tried to reclaim the word as a term of solidarity in the face of continued racism or to parody black people they think are playing up to racist stereotypes.  The context matters, except to bigots with grievances like Schlessinger.  In any case, the listener was not responsible for what some unnamed black comedians say.

The radio host's racism also bubbled to the surface with her absurd statement that any claims that racism still warps American culture are false because Barack Obama ir president.  (To refute that, simply check any of the 70 posts on this blog or just look at the sampling of explicitly racist anti-Obama posters, t-shirts and bumperstickers sold since our current president took office at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-30-products.html).  She also displays her inner-Grand Dragon viewpoint with her strange "Don't NAACP me," which suggests that a venerable, historically transformative civil rights group is only a trivia-driven vehicle for racial grievance.

It became clear after this revealing outburst that advertisers would abandon Schlessinger's show.  In any case, her a program's ratings had sharply declined since the host switched from giving uniformed advice on personal issues to tedious far-right political sermons.  Realizing her colossal blunder, the next day Schlessinger sort of apologized.  When the semi-apology didn't persuade anyone, she went on Larry King's show on CNN and announced she was ending the program.  Explaining why she was taking her show off the air, Schlessinger said, “The reason is I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, and attack sponsors."  Dr. Schlessinger apparently doesn’t know that the First Amendment doesn’t give someone the inherent right to host a talk show or require sponsors to subsidize racism.  (See http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2010/08/dr-laura-schlessinger-quits-radio-tells-larry-king-her-rights-were-violated-after-she-used-racial-sl.html).

These events horrified would-be world leader Sarah Palin.  Not Schlessinger showering a black listener with the word "nigger."  Palin was dismayed that her n-word hurling hero was gong off the air. Palin urged Dr. Laura to not quit.  "Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload!” Palin tweeted in her unique American dialect. “(Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")."  Palin didn’t say a word about the appropriateness of a white radio host saying “nigger” on the air 11 times.  One can only assume that this represents Palin’s passive endorsement of Schlessinger’s antebellum racial freakout.  (See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/sarah-palin-supports-dr-laura-schlessinger-n-word-controversy-don-retreat-reload-article-1.201853)




On Twitter, Palin (left) gave thumbs up to radio host Laura Schlessinger (right) and the radio host's repeated use of the word "nigger."  (Photo from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/sarah-palin-supports-dr-laura-schlessinger-n-word-controversy-don-retreat-reload-article-1.201853)

In 2010 Palin, unfortunately, did not simply dwell in the twitterverse.  She still dabbled in more conventional politics.  She continued to influence extremely conservative Republican primary voters, but her pull within the larger party has faded in the last three years as candidates she backed frequently got clobbered in the general elections of 2010 and 2012.   In 2010, a year marked by a small November electorate a fierce conservative backlash to Obama's health care programs, and the rise of the corporate-funded Tea Party movement, just under 60 percent of the candidates endorsed by Palin eventually won in November.  This number was padded because she often backed the most conservative candidate in highly conservative districts.

Her losses, however, were spectacular.  Palin backed extremists, flakes and bigots and her involvement in the 2010 election may have cost the Republican Party a chance at recapturing control of the U.S. Senate.  Among the candidates, promoted by Palin were:


  • Sharron Angle, a Senate candidate in Nevada, who lost to a  weakened Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a heavily Republican year and who darkly said that, should the election not go the Republican’s way, that “I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Angle implied that voters might have to use guns to overturn the electoral results.  At the beginning of the 2010 election year, Republicans were favored to beat the unpopular Reid, but the Palin-backed Angle handed the election to the incumbent.
  • Christine O’Donnell, the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware who as a Christian conservative activist once launched a public campaign against masturbation; lied about her college education; asked in a debate, “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?"; and who, in a tape that  surfaced during the campaign from a guest appearance yeas earlier on comedian Bill Maher's show Politically Incorrect, confessed to dabbling in witchcraft.  In response, O'Donnell taped an ad in which she declared, I'm not a witch.  I'm you!" Republicans were once considered likely to pick up the open Senate seat in Delaware, but O’Donnell got buried in November by Democratic Chris Coons.
  • Joe Miller, the Republican nominee for the Senate from Palin's home state of Alaska whose staff handcuffed a reporter during  campaign stop; who was accused of misusing borough equipment for a political campaign while serving as mayor of Fairbanks; and who at one time praised the defunct communist dictatorship in East Germany for its tough measures regarding immigration control.  Miller lost to Palin’s political nemesis Lisa Murkowski, who ran as an independent after losing in the GOP primary to Miller. 
  • Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado Congressman with a long history of anti-Latino and anti-black racism and who frequently appeared at rallies with extremist anti-immigrant groups.  Tancredo at one point complained that Miami was turning into a “third world country.” He accused Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor of being a member of the “Latino KKK” because she belonged to the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization.  He lent his support to the baseless “Birthers" and told a Tea Party rally that Obama should sent back to Kenya.  He hired an executive director for his political action committee, Marcus Epstein, who karate chopped a black woman while calling her “nigger".  Tancredo also said that Obama won the presidency only because “we do not have a civics, literacy test.”  None of this disqualified him for public office in Palin's eyes.  Trying to prove herself “Mavericky,” Palin bucked the Republican Party establishment and backed theTancredo in his 2010 third party quest for Colorado governor.  Tancredo resigned from the GOP and ran as the nominee of the Constitution Party.  In November, he handily defeated the Republican nominee but lost to the Democrat, John Hickenloper, by 15 points.  Palin's embrace of a clear racist with no real chance of winning in an ethnically diverse state like Colorado says as much about her soul as it does her political judggment.







A rogue's gallery: some of the failed candidates supported by Sarah Palin in 2010 were Sharron “Second Amendment Remedies” Angle; Christine “I’m Not a Witch” O’Donnell; Joe “Handcuffs” Miller; and Tom “Send Obama Back to Kenya” Tancredo.  (Photos from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/03/sarah-palin-endorsements_n_778556.html#s173399&title=Sharron_Angle_Nevadahttp://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/08/christine-odonnell-regrets-im-not-a-witch-ad.htmlhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/16/alaska-senate-race-joe-miller_n_784601.html, and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/03/sarah-palin-endorsements_n_778556.html#s173397&title=Tom_Tancredo_Colorado). 

Even some conservatives began to abandon Palin after a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.  Rightwingers had literally and metaphorically become gunslingers in the Obama era.  The Tea Party movement, big Palin supporters, began bringing guns to political rallies in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, and darkly wanted of violence if the administration made any attempts at gun control.  (See http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/chris-matthews-grills-tea-party-leader-why-would-someone-bring-a-gun-to-a-political-rally.php).  As noted above, failed Senate candidate Sharron Angle suggested that conservatives might have to turn to "Second Amendment remedies" if the elections turned out in an unsatisfactory way.  In 2010, Republican politicians began to use gun imagery in their rhetoric as well as their ads and web postings,  even as they urged their voters to "take back" the country."  As with every sinister impulse in American politics in the past five years, Palin jumped in with both pistols drawn.

All through 2010, Palin used the phrase "don't retreat, reload" gun metaphor when urging conservatives to fight on, even in the face of defeat.  As already observed, she used this language in the Laura Schlessinger fandango.  In the Tea Party wave election year of 2010, Palin literally targeted what she saw as vulnerable Democrats for the November elections.  On her SarahPAC website she posted a map of the United States and highlighted swing districts held by Democrats with gun crosshairs.  One such map posted on SarahPAC included the phrase, 'We've diagnosed the problem . . . Help us prescribe the solution."



Two "gun target maps" highlighting districts held by politically vulnerable Democrats posted on Palin's SarahPAC website in 2010. Note Palin's signature on the map identifying U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as a target.  A lunatic shot Giffords in the head and killed six others, including Federal Judge John Roll, on January 8, 2011, two months after the election.  (Screen captures from http://boingboing.net/2011/01/08/congresswoman-gabrie.html). 


Gabrielle Giffords, a moderate Democrat, represented Phoenix and her district ended up on Palin's map, literally in the crosshairs.  After Giffords appeared on the SarahPac site, someone vandalized her district.  Giffords realized that Palin’s imagery held potentially lethal consequences.  “When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said.  Palin didn’t take the maps down and her Republican opponent had already held a “Get On Target For Victory” rally in June in which supporter were urged to “help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office” and invited to “shoot a fully automatic M16 with” Republican Congressional nominee Jesse Kelly."  (See http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/rep-gabrielle-giffords-blood-sarah-palin-hands-putting-cross-hair-district-article-1.149099 and http://boingboing.net/2011/01/08/congresswoman-gabrie.html).  







Gabrielle Giffords warned that "there are consequence" to violent political imagery after her Congressional district was highlighted by gun crosshairs on the SarahPAC website in 2010.  Her Republican opponent that year, Jesse Kelly, invited supporters to fire an automatic weapon with him as he urged them to "remove" Giffords from office.  (Giffords official portrait from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_Giffords and pro-Kelly ad from http://boingboing.net/2011/01/08/congresswoman-gabrie.html).  

 A deranged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, fired a bullet into the 40-year-old Giffords’ head on January 8, 2011, shortly after she successfully won re-election over Palin’s protégé Kelly.  She was hosting a ‘Congress on Your Corner” event near a Safeway grocery store, where she shook hands and answered questions from constituents.  After shooting Giffords, Loughner proceeded to murder six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman, and nine-year-old Christine-Taylor Green. Eighteen other people were injured in the mass shooting.  (See http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/0110108arizona-giffords-brk.html?nclick_check=1 and http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/01/10/eveningnews/main7232620.shtml). 

Journalists and bloggers immediately noted Palin's gun target map and, in the immediate aftermath of the Giffords shooting, asked if the former V.P. candidate's violent language and crosshairs imagery had incited violence.  Palin proved a  consummate narcissist and made the mass shooting about herself.  In so doing, she again engaged in a lifelong pattern of treating Jews in a dehumanizing, insensitive way.  Responding to critics of her SarahPAC website's target map, in a taped statement Palin paid only scant attention to the real victims of the mass shooting and spent the rest of the time feeling sorry for herself.  Along the way she made a wildly inappropriate reference to  tragic Jewish history in Europe.  At one point responding to critics who suggested she bore some responsibility for the assassination attempt, Palin said:

“Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.” (See http://writingjunkie.net/info/sarah-palin-blood-libel.html).

As Jordan Zakarin noted in The Huffington Post, “Blood libel refers to a rumor that has fueled anti-semitism and the persecution of Jews for nearly 900 years. According to ReligiousTolerance.org, blood libel began as "an unfounded rumor began in eastern England, that Jews had kidnapped a Christian child, tied him to a cross, stabbed his head to simulate Jesus' crown of thorns, killed him, drained his body completely of blood, and mixed the blood into matzos (unleavened bread) at time of Passover."  

A myth spread that such ritual murders formed a regular part of the Passover rite.  This led to Jews being hounded from communities, tortured, and burned at the stake.  The blood libel also provoked murderous anti-Jewish riots throughout the Middle Ages.  In the 1930s, such false stories appeared regularly in the Nazi Party official newspaper Der Stuermer and depictions of Jewish sacrifice of Christian children appear at times in anti-Israeli propaganda films in countries like Egypt and in anti-Jewish television programs in countries with a history of anti-Semitism, such as Belarus, part of the old Soviet Union.  (For more, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/blood-libel-sarah-palin_n_808104.html, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_03147.html and http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2004/37195.htm). 






The real blood libel.  A fresco at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Sandomierz, Poland, portrays Jews making a human sacrifice of a Christian child.  (Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antisemitic-church-fresco.jpg).  

Palin thus equated criticism of her website and her violent, gun-saturated political rhetoric with an anti-Semitic myth that resulted in thousands of Jewish deaths for centuries in Europe.  Such glib trivialization of Jewish suffering has become standard fare in Republican political discourse, however, with Tea Party activists, for instance, regularly comparing Obama to Hitler and even drawing parallels between health care reform and the Holocaust (the subject of future entries at this blog site.)

As discussed above, this indifferent attitude towards mass Jewish death is consistent with Palin's religious views, if she is really a dispensationalist (as evidence cited above suggests.)   As already observed, mass Jewish death is a necessary future step, in the dispensationalist theology, if Christ is to return to Earth.  Trivialization of the blood libel is nothing if you eagerly anticipate an Antichrist's genocidal End Times war against Jews.  The anti-Semitic overtones of this trivialization is also not surprising for someone who quoted a famous Jew hater in the most important political speech of her political career.  

Jewish groups were appalled at the invocation of the blood libel. As the Jewish lobby group J Street, which seeks an equitable peace between Israel and the Palestinians put it in an official statement:


“J Street is saddened by Governor Palin's use of the term ‘blood libel.’


The country's attention is rightfully focused on the memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shooting. Our prayers continue to be with those who are still fighting to recover and the families of the victims. The last thing the country needs now is for the rhetoric in the wake of this tragedy to return to where it was before.

 We hope that Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term ‘blood libel’ brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds. When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words.”

National Jewish Democratic Council President David A. Harris was more blunt.  He said this:

“Following this weekend's tragedy, we -- and many others -- simply did two things: we prayed for our friend Gabby while keeping all of the murdered and wounded in our thoughts and prayers, and we talked in broad terms about our increasingly charged level of political debate -- asserting that now is as good a time as any to look inward and assess how all of us need to dial back the level of vitriol and anger in our public square. Nobody can disagree with the need for both. Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a ‘blood libel’ against her and others. This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries -- and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today. Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today. All we had asked following this weekend's tragedy was for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for all of us to take a step back and look inward to see how we can improve the tenor of our coarsening public debate. Sarah Palin's invocation of a ‘blood libel’ charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction.”   (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/blood-libel-sarah-palin_n_808104.html).  





Christine-Taylor Green (above), a nine-year-old murdered during the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt.  Below, Palin depicts herself as the real victim in a taped statement on the shooting. (Photo of Green from http://blogs.babble.com/famecrawler/tag/christina-taylor-green/.  Photo of Palin from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/blood-libel-sarah-palin_n_808104.html).  

In wake of this controversy, Palin's stock as a potential presidential candidate drooped from unlikely to nearly unthinkable.  In one poll. 40 percent of voters said her response to the shooting was "inappropriate" while only 27 percent approved of her post-shooting comments.  Most of the rest polled had ignored her and were not familiar with her taped message and the "blood libel" comments.  In this January 2011 poll, her national approval rating stood at only 35 percent, almost all of that number representing hardcore Republicans.  In a theoretical matchup with Obama in the 2012 election, Obama beat Palin by 17 points.  “That’s the largest deficit we’ve found for her since May of 2009,” said Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen. “[She’s] . . . perhaps further away from the Presidency than she’s been since the day before John McCain picked her as his running mate.” (See http://dailycaller.com/2011/01/18/poll-majority-says-palin-not-responsible-for-giffords-shooting-but-dislike-her-response/). 



She probably had no intention of running for president anyway, and saw the possibility of such a race as a tantalizing scam aimed at encouraging her gullible followers to donate to SarahPAC, which provided Palin an opportunity to sell TV shows, books and other merchandise.  In 2011, Palin engaged in a politically pointless "One Nation" bus tour to states with Republican presidential primary and caucus contests scheduled for 2012. The tour got Palin on camera but ground to a sudden stop in June 2011, well before the race began.  Palin spent most of her time during the tour knocking eventual 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but she hemmed and hawed on whether she would ever make up her mind and announce that she was actually running.   

By September of 2011, a former fan, fellow extremist and racist, the columnist and TV pundit Ann Colter, began denouncing Palin as a shallow fraud.  Coulter noted the obvious, that Palin was not interested in " digging really, really deep" on policy  and said of Palin's fans, “…she’s become sort of the Obama of the Tea Party. She’s just ‘The One’ to a certain segment of right wingers. And the tiniest criticism of her — I think many of your viewers may not know this. No conservative on TV will criticize Palin, because they don’t want to deal with the hate mail . . . You know, we used to all love Sarah Palin, conservatives like  me, for her enemies. I’m starting to dislike her because of her fans.”  (For more, see http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/06/22/palin_bus_tour_takes_extended_pit_stop__110313.html and http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2011/09/07/ann-coulter-laura-ingraham-quip-palins-the-obama-of-the-tea-party-shes-not-interested-in-digging-deep-on-policy/. )  

Under pressure from her then-employer Fox News to commit on her future, Palin finally put an end to her fundraising scheme and gave a similar excuse that Laura Schlessinger gave for quitting terrestrial radio and switching to a satellite program with a much smaller audience.  Palin said that as a non-candidate she would be freer to speak her mind, such as it is.  “Not being a candidate, really you are unshackled and you’re able to be even more active,” she disingenuously told rightwing radio host Mark Levin. “I need to be able to say what I want to say.”  In truth, she realized she had as much chance of being elected president as Christine O’Donnell. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/sarah-palin-not-running-for-president/2011/10/05/gIQAzr9MOL_blog.html).



At least she still had a gig at the Fox News Channel.  But ultimately she would fail to meet even the low standards of that faux "news" outlet.  Palin potentially had a chance to counter her reputation as the dimmest bulb in the refrigerator in her stint as a special news commentator for Fox, a job that began in 2010.  It proved a wasted opportunity.  In any case, Palin's boss at Fox News, President Roger Ailes, wasn't really interested in whatever the former VP candidate might have to say.  In a perhaps unintentionally honest moment, Ailes revealed himself to be a dirty old man.  "I hired Sarah Palin because she's hot and got ratings," Ailes admitted in 2011.  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/05/roger-ailes-sarah-palin-fox-news_n_995691.html).  


Palin at her new offices at Fox News in 2010.  Fox News President Roger Ailes hired her as a political analyst because she was "hot."  (Photo from http://politix.topix.com/homepage/4299-fox-news-drops-sarah-palin).  

Apparently Palin's ratings magic with even the rightwing Fox audience proved grossly overstated.  Audiences began switching channels when the half-governor began talking. Fox sharply reduced her on-air appearances during the 2012 election season when it would apparently have had greater need for her insights.  Palin complained on Facebook about how the network frequently cancelled her appearances. (See http://politix.topix.com/homepage/4299-fox-news-drops-sarah-palin and http://www.tvweek.com/blogs/tvbizwire/2012/08/sarah-palin-complains-about-ca.php.)  If Ailes had been surprisingly honest about his sexist, shallow and cynical motives for hiring Palin, he was even more blunt in private about his discontent with his one-time future star.   Ailes apparently told several Republican friends, according to New York reporter Gabriel Sherman in a May 2011 article, that he “thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she's stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven't elevated the conservative movement."  Of course, Ailes helped promote Palin as a political star and his regrets came too late.  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/22/roger-ailes-palin-stupid-fox-news-new-york_n_865117.html).  


Roger Ailes (left), president of Fox News, thought Palin (right) was an "idiot," but he kept her on the air as a political pundit for three years.  (Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/22/roger-ailes-palin-stupid-fox-news-new-york_n_865117.html).  

The final straw for Palin at Fox came in wake of the tragic killings  of U.S. embassy personnel at Benghazi, Libya September 11, 2012.  Palin's at her worst during tragedies.  Her pathetic, sophomoric need to be in front of a camera provides a jarring contrast to the gravity of such situations.  Palin took advantage of the embassy killings  to say something too jaw-droppingly racist for Fox, an almost impossible-to-meet standard.  (For more on Fox News'  history of racism, see an earlier post at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-17-fox-news.html). 

 There was immediate confusion about the cause of the Benghazi attack, which happened even as a controversy erupted over a film produced by far right evangelical Christians in the United States that portrayed the Muslim prophet Mohammad as a homosexual and a pedophile.  One evangelical who had earlier staged a deliberately provocative Koran burning, Terry Jones, posted the poorly-made film on the web.  Initially, the State Department thought that the attack might have been an emotional mob response to the anti-Mohammad movie, but it emerged that the killings were more likely a planned assault by a local affiliate of the terrorist Al Queda network.  Republicans quickly accused the president of being soft on Islamic extremists and insisted that he was too eager to blame conservative Christians for the tragedy.  Many in the GOP hoped that they could turn the embassy attack into a scandal that might deny Obama his re-election bid against Romney . 


Among them was Sarah Palin who, citing what she claimed were inconsistencies in the White House narrative regarding Beghazi said, “Why the dissembling about the cause of the murder of our ambassador on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil? We deserve answers to this. President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.” What everyone would remember from Palin’s comments was the “shuck and jive”  phrase.  Katy Waldman, a writer for the online Slate magazine masterfully wrote about the racist roots of the phrase:


As with her quoting Westbrook Pegler and her reference to the the blood libel, Palin undoubtedly was unaware the complete history behind her words.  But the phrase "shuck and jive" enjoys much wider usage than "blood libel" or anything Pegler said, and the phrase has always carried a racist connotation, an association with slaves and with black laziness and dishonesty.  Her only defense against charges of racism in this case is appalling ignorance, which hardly is an endorsement who wants to be taken seriously politically.


“A quick primer on the phrase shuck and jive: Erik Wemple at the Washington Post helpfully directs us to the etymological origins of the verb shuck: Since 1819, it has meant to husk corn, and more broadly to engage in ‘the capers associated with husking frolics,’ such as ‘fooling’ and ‘deceiving.’ And who were the ones originally carrying out antics while shucking corn? Those would be black slaves. According to the Dictionary of American Slang: 'slaves sang and shouted gleefully during corn-shucking season, and this behavior, along with lying and teasing, became a part of the protective and evasive behavior normally adopted towards white people.'

In 1884, Harper’s Magazine published a lyric by S.C. Cromwell that was part of a whole subgenre of ‘corn-shucking songs’ written by white poets. The first few lines will give you the flavor:

Shuck erlong, niggers, shuck dis c’on!
      Dar’s menny er bar’l in dis ya pile.
Dar’s menny er rashin, sho’s yo bo’n.
     Ter feed all de han’s wid arter wile.

Other examples of this unfortunate form tie shucking to deviousness more explicitly—as in this 1896 entry in which the speaker imagines unwrapping a ‘crooked ear fer stealin’’ and a ‘smutty ear fer trouble.’"


Yet, once again Palin tried to unconvincingly explain herself.   Palin insisted on Facebook, “For the record, there was nothing remotely racist in my use of the phrase ‘shuck and jive.’”  She then, without context, cited several figures in the media who also used the phrase, as if that justified such a charged word in connection to a black man.  “I’ve been known to use the phrase most often when chastising my daughter Piper to stop procrastinating and do her homework,” she continued.  Then, referring to her husband’s partial Inuit heritage, she added. “ . . . Just to be careful, from now on I’ll avoid using it with Piper, and I would appreciate it if the media refrained from using words and phrases like igloo, Eskimo Pie, and 'when hell freezes over,' as they might be considered offensive by my extended Alaska Native family.”  (See https://www.facebook.com/sarahpalin/posts/10151232848473588 and http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/palin-absurdity-nothing-remotely-racist-in-obama-comment/2012/10/25/6fa1a144-1eb6-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_blog.html).


Just as Schlessinger tried to suggest that there was no moral or social difference between when a black or a white person uses the word "nigger," Palin was trying to suggest that there was a moral equivalence between the phrase "when hell freezes over" and demeaning stereotypes  of African Americans or that using "shuck and jive" in reference to white people, who were not the historical targets of such stereotypes, is the same as directing the phrase towards African Americans.  It's an appalling argument that combines deliberate obtuseness with unrepentant intolerance. 

Roger Ailes, in any case, realized he was not getting the expected bang for his buck with Palin.  The "shuck and jive" comments probably were too explicitly racist even for him.  In late January, Palin and Fox News  announced that she would not continue as a pundit on the network.  Fox paid Palin about $1 million a year during his three years there.  The University of Minnesota's Smart Politics blog counted every word of wisdom Palin uttered on the network and estimate that Fox paid Palin $15 a word.  (See http://www.mediaite.com/tv/sarah-palin-reportedly-cost-fox-news-15-per-word-spoken-on-air/).  


Palin: paid $15 a word for three years and still not worth a dime. (Photo from http://www.mediaite.com/tv/sarah-palin-reportedly-cost-fox-news-15-per-word-spoken-on-air/).

In spite of this sorry record, Palin is like Dracula in the old horror movies. No matter how many times someone drives a stake through her heart, splashes her with holy water, or buries her at a crossroads, she keeps returning, more lethal to intelligent political discourse that ever.  This is even though a dwindling number of people express any interest in what she has to say  The fault, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is not in the stars.  The blame lay with the really-not-so-liberal media, for whom racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia are never unforgivable sins.  The media will only completely marginalize a political figure or movement, such as Ralph Nader or the Occupy! protestors, if they question the current regime of predatory capitalism.  Even if they ridicule her, hating African Americans, Jews, Muslims, or gays, however, will not deny someone like Palin the "mainstream" label.  She is right about something after all.  We are victimized by a "lamestream" press.

The blame also lay with the Republican establishment.  The GOP's worldview since 2008 has moved closer to Palin and farther away from most  Americans.  Palin's inarticulate sound and fury is now the authentic voice of the Republican Party.   So Palin gets an audience this week at CPAC.  And her book will appear in time for Christmas and serve not other purpose that to antagonize fundamentalist Christians about non-Christians.  That's what the rightwing is about today.  Not building a country, but identifying enemies.

Comedian Tina Fey's devastating impersonation of Palin in 2008 reduced the politician to a punchline.  The rap on Palin became that she's dumb.  That's true enough, but that makes her no less dangerous.  She represents the grim underside of American politics: the place where lurks aggrieved white hatred of blacks, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, intellectuals, and gays.  We will never overcome, as the old civil rights anthem put it, as long as Palin continues to have a just-significant-enough following and occasional access to the national spotlight.  Tina Fey is hilarious, but there is nothing remotely funny about what Palin's continued presence in the public eye says about American politics.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:


White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001.  (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013).

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.