Friday’s unexpected announcement by Sarah Palin that she would resign the Alaska governorship came as a surprise to everybody — including the rightbloggers who have supported her most strongly since she came to national attention. Some assumed that she had abandoned the cause, but a healthy remnant predicted that she would come back stronger than ever. Both RedState’s Erick Erickson and Big Hollywood’s Kurt Schlichter compared her to Obi-Won Kenobi allowing himself to be slain by Darth Vader in the first Star Wars movie (“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”).
This analogy perfectly suits the rightblogger Palin theology (as well as their obsession with science fiction entertainments); it portrays Palin as both victim and victor — someone who is both harried to destruction and ultimately triumphant, like Jesus Christ. (Though we also enjoyed The Anchoress’ comparison of Palin to a Vietnam prisoner of war: “I recall [John McCain] saying that survival meant understanding what you could not control, and what you could. I think that’s what Palin is doing”).
As we said earlier, we have no doubt Palin retains national ambitions, and that this gambit is a means to that end. The day after her announcement, a letter from Palin’s lawyer (pdf) gave a hint as to how she would proceed: by suing both mainstream media outlets and bloggers who had spread what Palin considers defamatory stories about her.
You could hardly ask for better evidence that Palin plans to build her movement on resentment and victim status, and rightbloggers went into raptures over it.
“Palin is going to shove as much crow down as many arrogant, mouthy throats in the Political Industrial Complex as she can,” said A.J. Strata. “And America will be cheering her on for the next decade as she does so.”
“The Palin-haters at MSNBC better watch it,” said Gateway Pundit. “Their bogus reports on Governor Palin may end up costing them.”
The most fulsome war-whoop was sounded by Cold Fury: “Sue them, bankrupt them, ruin their lives, destroy their careers, shut down their blogs and other propaganda outlets, get ’em locked up wherever possible. Kick them in the teeth again and again, until they howl in pain from the gutter they roll in. Scorch the very earth under their feet. Unleash pure hell on them, and make every single day of their lives a horror and a misery — just as they did to you, just as they’ve done to so many other decent men and women who have the temerity to disagree with their anti-American ideal of what this country should be. Liberal asswipes have gotten away with this sort of thing for far too long…
“Reap the whirlwind, you odious, gutless, evil pricks. We’ll fix your little red wagon yet; wait and see if we don’t.”
Now there’s a template for a winning national movement.
As the Palinists gained confidence, they even began to turn on rightbloggers who were not as sure of the wisdom of Palin’s ploy. When a relatively Palin-friendly post by Russ from Winterset at Ace of Spades was met with angry comments about “Vichy-republicans,” Ace himself rose to defend the non-dead-ender POV (“I disagree with you. I have tried to do so pleasantly but I am tired of the imputation of bad motive simply because I am more realistic and less prone to flights of hopeful fancy than you”). Russ came back to “Clarify My Statements” (“I know that I’ll be called a ‘deluded Palin fanboy’ or ‘Pollyanna’ for choosing to look on the bright side here…”).
The pressure also got to Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, who felt compelled to announce himself “someone who had never written a post critical of Palin before yesterday,” and posted a Mary Matalin video to begin “correcting the falsehood in the comment strings that I’ve been a Palin-hater. If people actually read what I’ve written about Palin over the past year, nothing could be further from the truth.”
And if any conservatives wanted to ignore Palin and concentrate on actual office-holders with a shot at the Presidency, they were on notice, too: Conservative4Palin declared, “I wonder if some of those who stood by while others attacked the governor’s children ever thought about standing up. I wonder if they’ll regret some day that they did not… I don’t know if they will or not. But I won’t forget that when they had the chance to take a stand for decency, to do the right thing, they stood by, silent.”
While these rightbloggers were celebrating the new litigious Palin and enforcing orthodoxy among their fellows, others worked afresh at burnishing the soon-to-be-ex-Governor’s image for whatever role she may next adopt, and attacking that of her enemies.
Pajamas Media’s Roger Kimball said, “Once again Sarah Palin has confounded the ‘progressive’ commmentariat,” who could not fathom what she was up to. What then did Kimball make of it? “I know as much about her plans and strategy as they do — i.e., absolutely nothing.” But though he had no better explanation to offer than the writers he’d just mocked, he did have a classical allusion none of them had thought of: Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who led his people to victory and then famously retired to his plow. Kimball did not say what similar victory Palin had accomplished to draw such a comparison, but he seemed pleased with it, and if Palin turns out not to be done with politics, so what? No one remembers what you say on the Internet anyway.
Legal Insurrection took a psychological approach, insisting that attacks on Palin were not, strictly speaking, politically motivated (though only liberals made them), but grew from disappointment by critics that Palin had not aborted her disabled child Trig. “The left would have been okay with it” if she had, he said; “If she hid Trig offstage and out of sight, all would be good. But treat the child as you would any other child, and that cannot be tolerated. There is something about a Down syndrome child in plain view which has exposed the moral and emotional bankruptcy of the left-wing of the Democratic party. And they hate Sarah Palin because deep down, they hate themselves for being who they are.” Maybe if she wins some lawsuits against reporters and bloggers, Palin can force them into counseling.
C. Edmund Wright of American Thinker thought it all came down to class warfare, with the well-off Palin representing the common people. Her enemies attacked her because “after all, what good is being able to hunt and prepare your own food when any decent speed dial will get you the Maitre’d at the Four Seasons? Why learn to run a business and turn a profit when real wisdom is running a deficit and taxing those who turn a profit to make up the difference?” This last bit is especially puzzling, as Palin has labored mostly in media and government, and her private business ventures have been none too profitable. Nevertheless, Wright asserted, “The Palin V. Pundit contest is but one battle on a huge stage in a vital war,” presumably between rich people who drop their g’s and those who do not.
Where does that leave things? For Palin, her impending resignation leaves her free to work her national ambitions without being tied down to Alaska. For the rightbloggers, it’s just one more thing to love about her and hate about her enemies. In a lengthy consideration at Instapundit, correspondents trotted out rightblogger buzzwords: She’ll be queen of the tea parties! She’s going Galt! Nothing she does alters their love for her — it just gives them another opportunity to express it. What effect that will have on voters who, for the most part, do not share their obsession remains to be seen.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 6, 2009