In a must-read article, Ed Pilkington traces the rise of Sarah Palin in The Guardian:
Her trajectory has run in parallel with that of her party. Her career took off precisely at the moment when the Christian right seized control of the Republican movement, casting out the fiscal conservatives who had traditionally held sway with their focus on such worldly matters as low taxes and small government.
The shift in the party’s focus from mammon to God is illustrated perfectly in Palin’s successful campaign to become mayor in 1996. All previous elections had revolved around such existential questions as how to improve the pavements and get litter off the streets. She ignored all that, campaigning instead against abortion and gun control and casting aspersions on her (Republican) opponent about his infrequent attendance of church.
Victoria Naegele was editor of the local paper, The Frontiersman, at the time and can recall the shock of the Palin revolution. “I remember thinking ‘Wow! Are religious issues really germane to the job of being mayor of a town of just 5,000 people?'”
Victoria, as you and I both know, those religious issues have nothing to do with being the mayor of a small town. But unfortanately, those distractions are often way too effective, as I fear theymay be this year as well.
Naegele remembers vividly too a second shockwave that came swiftly after Palin’s election. Instead of easing her way into the role, she went in with guns blazing, demanding that six of the department heads of the council – none of them political appointments, several with many years’ service – submit their resignations. When Naegele protested through the editorial columns of the paper at what she saw as the new mayor’s heavy-handed style, she felt the heat. “It was a difficult time. I was lambasted as a liberal, when in fact I am a Christian conservative Republican, just like Sarah Palin.”
In Palin’s mind, it seems that if someone dares to question corrupt practices, he or she must be a liberal. Hmm, maybe there’s something to that.
Again, she was utterly in tune with the trajectory of her party. By the end of the 1990s the Republican leadership had adopted a modus operandi that also combined religious zealotry with managerial ruthlessness. Yet this development was not without its detractors within the party. One of the loudest critics was the very man who has put Palin on the national stage: John McCain. Paradoxically, it was partly his disdain for the grip that TV preachers came to hold over the Republicans that earned him a reputation as a maverick.
The maverick McCain died years ago. The McCain we see today is a man who is willing to compromise his principles to pander to the religious right in hopes of someday becoming president. He voted with Bush 100% of the time in 2008. And people still think of him as a maverick?
Most poignantly, she will not countenance sex education for teenagers, preferring instead to preach that abstinence is the only complete protection against pregnancy or venereal disease. It would be a cheap shot to suggest that this week’s bombshell revelation that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is herself pregnant was Palin’s comeuppance.
But it would not be unfair to point out that Alaska has the highest per capita incidence of chlamydia in the country, and that the rate of teenage pregnancies across the US, including within her state, has just risen for the first time in 14 years – a trend many blame on George Bush’s preferment of abstinence-only education. “It’s frustrating we aren’t doing more to inform our children,” said Brittany Goodnight of the Alaska branch of Planned Parenthood.
But it’s not a cheap shot to suggest that Bristol’s pregnancy is a direct result of abstinence-only education. And Sarah played a role in that.
First came the embarrassment of a radio interview between Palin and a local rightwing shock-jock in which the interviewer called (Lyda) Green a bitch and a cancer within the party. Palin’s response on air? She laughed.
“She knew I’m a cancer survivor – she sent me flowers,” Green says. “That was a very lacklustre moment.”
And John McCain laughed heartily when a supporter asked him about Hillary: How do we beat the bitch?
Anyway, just go read the article. It presents a frightening portrait of the woman who very well may become president.
She may be worse than you thought she is.