Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fear, hate, and Palinoia

I like Sarah Palin in that visceral sort of way that one likes or dislikes public figures. I think she would have made a perfectly adequate Vice-President and I don’t think electing her as such would have been a disaster under any circumstances. Best case scenario? John McCain would have served out his term and Palin would have buckled down, taken the opportunity to learn what she didn’t know, and emerged as a clearly qualified Presidential candidate in four (or, less likely, eight) years. Worst case scenario? McCain would have died before his term was over and Palin would have proven to be a bad President. The country would have survived - the goddess knows we’ve survived lots of bad Presidents in our history.

Middling scenarios? McCain would have served out his term and Palin would haven’t learned anything more than how to attend lots of state funerals and weddings. Or McCain would not have served out his term and Palin - with help from everyone in government who would have rallied around in time of crisis - would have proved her mettle and done a decent job as President.

At the same time, I understand there are lots of people who don’t like Sarah Palin in that visceral sort of way one likes or dislikes public figures. I also understand that there are people who thinks she’s not smart enough, too naive, too far right, not experienced enough, not intellectually curious enough to ever be seriously considered as Vice-Presidential material, much less Presidential material. That’s their prerogative and they may be at least partially right. I have some very similar thoughts about Barack Obama.

What I don’t understand is why so many people hate Sarah Palin. I mean really, really hate her. They can’t just ignore her and they can’t mention her without saying something ugly. They think every form of misogynistic insult is perfectly justified as long as it’s directed at Palin. They’re happy - really, really happy - to attack her children. They sound exactly like some bitter drunk who can’t stop talking about his or her ex, who left for a younger, more attractive lover and got the kids, the cars, the house, and the bank accounts. It is quite possibly the most bizarre phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed in politics.

As it happens, three of the bloggers I read regularly are writing about this very phenomenon - from three very different points of view. Reclusive Leftist writes about Fear of women:

... our nation is also in the grip of some kind of atavistic looming fear of women as evil monsters. Sarah Palin is no weirder than most Republican politicians; [snip] Yet based on the media coverage of the woman, you’d think she was the greatest threat to western civilization since the Battle of Tours.

All of her writing about the attack-Palin phenomenon is must reading and this post is no exception.

Megan McArdle presents the best brief summary I’ve seen of the Newsweek problem and coins the term Palinoia (perfect word, perfect concept):

It's when you think people are out to get you, and then they do their best to justify your erroneous belief.

She concludes:

There seems to be an unhealthy obsession with tearing her down. And really, guys, if you'll just back off a little, she'll do the job for you. Have you seen that resignation speech? How about we all act like she's a former governor and vice presidential candidate, rather than Public Enemy #1?

This, of course, is one of the most bizarre aspects of Palin Derangement Syndrome. People were also deranged when it came to George W. Bush but at least he was, like, you know, the President so he couldn't just be ignored. Palin holds no office, has no political position. If she’s as bad as her detractors think, she’s going to disappear without a trace when her fifteen minutes of fame are up. Why the compulsion to keep bashing her?

Meanwhile, Eric at Grim’s Hall quotes and links to InstaPunk, a blogger I don’t read. InstaPunk’s piece, Hating Sarah Palin, contains some language that I, as a feminist, can’t countenance but he asks the right question (emphasis his):

But here's what I don't get. Hating Sarah Palin. That's my whole point here. Think about it. Who do you have to be to hate Sarah Palin?

I can’t pick just one part of his answer to quote - you have to read the whole thing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I really hope I’m alive 20 or 30 years from now when sociologists and political scientists look back at the Presidential campaign of 2008 and its aftermath and explain what the heck was going on with all the people who hated - truly hated - Sarah Palin.


Paul Brinkley said...

Good post.

In times like this, I try to put myself in the shoes of the other person, and let my inner animal go free. In this case, I ask myself, if I were a reasonably bright person who voted mostly Democrat, what would make me hate Palin?

The best answer I can come up with is: because the right - and by that, I mean the part of the right that most viscerally gets my hackles up - seems to really love her. And I'm afraid she'll win, and they'll win, and suddenly I'll lose the right to abortion, see homosexuals institutionally trounced out of the military and the marriage office, but most importantly, the Presidency will once again be upheld in my country as an office where bright intellectuals are to be snubbed in favor of any irascible dummy with a lot of spit and fire.

I don't want to believe the above is really true - and I guess the fact that I can come up with it anyway says something about me - but if various enlightened liberals responded indignantly that they merely strongly oppose her politics, well, as you say, it wouldn't explain the hate.

Paul Brinkley said...

Now I see Ann Althouse posted about her diavlog with Michelle Goldberg that touches solidly on this:

Draw from that, what you will.

Elise said...


Hmm. No "reasonably bright" person of any political persuasion could believe your first two possibilities.

Alaskans were able to get abortions while Palin was Governor. The President is not able to single-handedly overturn Roe v Wade. Even if a President remained in office long enough to appoint SC Justices who could and would overturn Roe v Wade, abortion would simply return to being an issue for the States. If a State had legalized abortion prior to Roe v Wade it would remain legal.

The President cannot decide on his own whether same-sex marriage is or is not legal. I do not believe the President can decide on his own whether gays can serve openly in the military. Even if he attempts to do so, I'm sure Congress could thwart his efforts by some means. Plus surely even the most stalwart Obama supporter has noticed by now that neither same-sex marriage nor gays in the military have exactly been at the top of Obama's agenda.

You may have something with the intellectual argument - that probably explains some of the "hate". It's not a policy issue but rather something closer to what the geeky high school guy who aces all his courses and has a scholarship to MIT feels about the girl who has a solid B average and is voted head cheerleader, homecoming queen, and most likely to succeed.

Thanks for the link to Althouse but - as I think Althouse herself said recently - watching stuff is too slow (and the video is an hour long!) Life is too short - I'm pretty much sticking to the written word these days. Too bad there doesn't seem to be a transcript.

Anonymous said...

I recently read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and was struck by a comment quoted by the author. He'd spent some pleasant, educational time at Joel Salatin's sustainable-agriculture experimental farm in Virginia, then urged a New York colleague to do the same. She came back from her own visit outraged: "You didn't tell me they had a Jesus-fish on their front door!"

Isn't the Palin Derangement Syndrome something to do with the fear and loathing of the Church Lady? She represents a kind of down-market American Evangelical tradition that makes some liberals fear they'll be forced to attend Sunday School, and prevented from having guilt-free sex, and forced to bear children in captivity.

-- Texan99

Elise said...

"Bear children in captivity" - that cracked me up, Texan99.

I do think religion enters into it. It's odd and rather disconcerting the extent to which people on the Left have managed to convince themselves that if they let their guard down for even a second this huge Christian tidal wave will sweep over the country driving us all back to something that resembles Spain during the Inquisition.

It's also odd that so many on the Left seem to look askance at child-bearing - and I'm sure Palin's happy parenthood is part of why they're so uncomfortable with her.

Figment and Reality said...

I agree with Firebrand that if Palin had become VP or moved into a Presidential position not much would have happened. Even assuming the worst case scenario where John McCain never took office the rest of the election would have still stood and both the House and Senate would be democrat controlled. She wouldn't have submitted Sotomayor for the new Supreme Court office, but she would not have been able to force through someone drastically different because the Senate would never confirm them. Even with one party controlling both houses and the Presidency, things still move slowly, partly because each Representative or Senator is thinking about how will this impact my ability to stay in office during the next election.

So when we cast aside the fact that while some things would change, many things would not change, why don't people like Palin, or adore her for that matter? It all comes down to whether you favor the kind of person she represents and the side of the table in politics you prefer. Politics has become decidedly nasty and partisan. It is pushed to be more so by both sides of the discussion. People also "hate" Obama for reasons that don't make a lot of sense either. They can hate ones politics as Paul Brinkley says but it goes beyond that when you listen to the talk show hosts and read bloggers like InstaPunk. Liberals are portrayed as Stalins and "psychopathic impotents five-feet-three in the mirror" by Instapunk. Rush Limbaugh says "enraging liberals is simply one of the more enjoyable side effects of my wisdom" then you can see that the anti-Liberal folks are just as argumentative and hateful as the Liberals are about Palin. It is our own ultra-competitive nature coming out that doesn't like it when we lose an election or when future elections are threatened.

Is it wrong for both sides to say these things? Absolutely, if they want to deal in facts. Is it their right to say them? Again, it is absolutely their right but it makes me less likely to have a conversation with either side that adores or hates without reason.

Both sides need to tone it down a notch or ten. Instead of only listening to Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, Olbermann, Maddow, NPR, Coulter, Lamont Hill we need to read and listen to a variety of sources before making an opinion. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done and we want to believe those that are like us. Most of us don't have the time to make dinner each night, much less read or listen to enough sources to make an unbiased decision.