I have to be honest.
I don’t understand why anyone would vote for Sarah Palin.
She hasn’t demonstrated that she can effectively govern. Her short stint as Alaska’s governor was nothing special.
She has demonstrated shocking gaps in understanding of both domestic and international issues. As an example, she recently called out Machelle Obama’s initiative to reduce childhood obesity as an unwarranted government intrusion into families.
She hasn’t demonstrated any special success either academically or in business.
All she has is celebrity.
Yet here she is as a potential nominee for President in 2012.
So she must know something.
I did a little research to figure out what it is.
What I found is that her support is predominantly white working class men. These are the folks that have been hardest hit over the last decade by outsourcing and unemployment.
Channeling white male working class anger is nothing new for Republicans. They first tapped into it in the 60’s when white southern men objected to expansion of civil rights for people of color. In the 70’s working-class wages across the country began to stagnate. In response, working class families send their women to work, worked longer hours, and ultimately went deeper into debt pulling money out of home equity. When the housing bubble broke along with manufacturing, anxiety became panic and panic became rage.
What is odd is that Republican policies created the economy where corporate profits and stock prices rose while white working class wages fell. Good jobs got outsourced or eliminated by labor-saving technologies. Productivity continued to rise because American companies could make more money with fewer domestic workers than ever before. The result is that while white collar unemployment rates are around 9%, working class unemployment is closer to 20%.
Republicans reached out to this group positioning them as the “silent majority” that liberal Democrats were ignoring. They supported “tax revolts” for those desperate for any sort of financial relief. And they reached out to them through fairly overt appeals to racism (Willie Horton). So it’s not surprising that when the Great Recession eliminated jobs and home equity, this group began to take to the streets in an effort to regain the position of influence the felt they had in the 50’s.
They are looking for someone to blame. Republican’s certainly don’t want to take the blame so they have effectively refocused this anger on immigrants, blacks, gays, intellectuals, and lately international bankers like George Soros. They have done this by spinning the narrative that global intellectual elites who run the mainstream media, direct the government, dispense benefits to the undeserving, and dominate popular culture have it in for the working man. This is a proven formula for growth in fascism having working during most every historical time of economic distress.
Sarah Palin’s particular spin on this message wraps it in a perky upbeat package. She is the fishing, hunting, cheerleading, patriotic Christian hockey mom that is willing to tell anyone that it would all be better if the working man were in power. Unfortunately, the dark undertones are still there. She promises the same revenge that every previous demagogue did, “The liberal elites think they can keep screwing us, but we know something they don’t. When we’re in power, we are going to punish them.”
As the ultimate populist, she has also positioned herself as outside even the Republican establishment. So even they have a difficult time controlling her.
Her fundamental strength comes from the fact that a lot her supporters are desperate for simple answers. They don’t like to hear that their high paying jobs are not coming back and they may need to retrain themselves and change their lifestyle. They don’t want to hear that the Republicans that they trusted are the ones who are actually screwing them. They don’t want to hear that the solutions to our problems are complicated and potentially painful. They don’t want to hear that the wealthy plan to keep their money, because trickle down wealth is their last best hope.
As long as we continue to suffer high unemployment, Sarah is going to have a base of power. It isn’t clear that she is electable, because her supporters are still in the minority; but she very easily could wield enough power to undermine any other candidate that the Republicans may choose to nominate. So my money is on her making a third party run in 2012 after she is denied the Republican nomination.
That will actually work to her favor, because Obama will retain the office and remain a foil for her ambition. In some ways the worst thing that could happen to Sarah Palin is that she actually gets elected.