Alex Massie

The Essence of Palinism

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Commenting on Sarah Palin here, regular correspondent Snowman does us all a favour by distilling Palinism to its essence:

Tell me, if you will, what is it that irks you that much? If she is that of a comedian, why does she make you madder than the dogs, ha? You reckon the great unwashed of America have to told by the likes of you what to think of her? Why? Do you possess the capacity to tell us how to rate politicians, how to think, how to live our lives?

Isn’t ‘hopeandchange’ equally glib? Glibness happens to be the trademark of any political rhetoric, it’s the art of talking a lot without saying very much of any substance. I grant you, Obama’s language hints at refinement, erudition and stuff, but this ain’t the key pre-requisite of a politician that gets results, and certainly not the results that move us forward into the uncertain future in a way that would make historians in the years ahead applaud rather than despair.

I have no idea whether Palin has the ability to dissect, synthesise and reach a conclusion on anything from cooking a pie to pushing for a deeper hole to be dug in Afghanistan. The mere fact that she drives you, the pseudo-liberal elite, to as near insanity as is humanely possible without, sadly, the unlikely chance that you may actually explode, warms my cockles soooo pleasingly. It truly does.

May she long continue to kick you where it really hurts.

Credit to him for his honest admission that Palin and Palinism is essentially a question of style or sentiment rather than anything so tiresome as building a Republicanism that can win. If all you want from politics is entertainment or the pleasure of seeing your opponents annoyed then Palinism makes sense. And, sure, it's enjoyable enough in its own way. But it's also not enough.

There's a difference between a provocateur and a serious candidate for national office. Perhaps Palin now prefers to be a celebrity. That's fine and her right. But it's as though the Democratic party had responded to the alienation brought on by the 2000 election by deciding that Michael Moore was the proper champion to carry the progressive agenda forward. And of course many American lefties did enjoy watching Moore twist conservative tails. But they didn't make the mistake of thinking that Moore might be a sensible or credible electoral figure.

Finally, the people exasperated by Palin* are not, in my experience, Democrats; rather they're Republicans who wonder why their party has lost its mind and now thinks that her brand of politics - based on rabble-rousing and, it must be said, genuine ignorance - is part of any long-term way forward for the party.

No-one doubts that the GOP will make gains this year but will they draw the right lessons from that or will they echo the mistakes made by the Democrats after the 1982 mid-terms? Back then, the Donkeys took back 27 seats in the House but learnt none of the right lessons from that success.

*The other thing, mind you, is that the Idea of Palin when she first burst onto the scene was appealling and had a certain logic to it. Like many others I was initially quite enthusiastic about her. Alas, then she started doing interviews and everything fell apart as it became obvious that she wasn't up to the job.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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