Endless Curiosity

November 20, 2009

Palin’s People

Filed under: God, Life, Republicans — Alec @ 6:27 am

The fascination with Sarah Palin is fascinating. On a superficial level she’s a phycially attractive woman that lots of male voters probably fantatize about having sex with. But on a deeper level the fascinating reality is that a woman so incoherent, so hypocritical, so lacking in knowledge about the world, and so lacking in curiousity to learn more can be a national phenomenon.

The answer lies less in Palin than in her followers. As Max Blumenthal says in The Palin Effect:

Why has her appeal only increased in the wake of her catastrophic political expeditions? Why won’t she listen to, or abide by, conventional political wisdom?

The answer lies beyond the realm of polls and punditry in the political psychology of the movement that animates and, to a great degree, controls, the Republican grassroots — a uniquely evangelical subculture defined by the personal crises of its believers and their perceived persecution at the hands of cosmopolitan elites.

By emphasizing her own crises and her victimization by the “liberal media,” Palin has established an invisible, indissoluble bond with adherents of that subculture — so visceral it transcends any rational political analysis. As a result, her career has become a vehicle through which the right-wing evangelical movement feels it can express its deepest identity in opposition both to secular society and to its representatives in the Obama White House.

To me the real fascination lies not in Palin but in Blumenthal’s “uniquely evangelical subculture defined by the personal crises of its believers.”  I’d love to know more about these crises. Do they believe that if we became a “Christian Nation” all their problems would be solved? That their children would be virginal, that they’d never get ill, that they’d never lose a job? Please tell me or point me to information about their beliefs.

As it turns out, evangelical areas are rather backward in some of the hot-button issues they care about, one of them being pre-marital sex. As Blumenthal says,

Palin’s daughter’s drama caught vividly a culture of personal crisis that defines so many evangelical communities across the country. That culture is described in a landmark congressionally funded study of adolescent behavior, Add Health, revealing that white evangelical women like Bristol Palin lose their virginity, on average, at age 16 — earlier, that is, than any group except black Protestants.

Another recent study by sociologists Peter Bearman and Hannah Bruckner notes that over half of evangelical girls who have pledged to maintain their virginity until marriage wind up having sex before marriage, and with a man other than their future husband. Bearman and Bruckner also disclose that communities with the highest population of girls who attend so-called purity balls, where they vow chastity until marriage before their fathers in a prom-like religious ceremony, also have some of the country’s highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. In Lubbock, Texas, where abstinence education has been mandated since 1995, the rate of gonorrhea is now double the national average, while teen pregnancy has spiked to the highest levels in the state.

Fair enough, social policies that don’t work are enough to give anyone a personal crisis. But to what do these people attribute the problems? They have the programs they wanted but are not getting the results they’d hoped for. So the answer is…… what? What do they expect someone like Palin can do for them?

Or have they given up on solutions and now just want someone who can understand their anxiety and distress? Perhaps that’s really the secret to politics – not to promise solutions, but to identify with and relate to people’s pain and personal crises. Bill Clinton’s statement, “I feel your pain,” was after all one of the key factors in his election.

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