palin : le dernier cri

The FundamentaList, No. 48
Sarah Posner, American Prospect

1. Religious Right Ecstatic Over Sarah Palin.

Before the public knew very much at all about Sarah Palin, the religious right’s leadership, previously listless and unenthusiastic about John McCain, was suddenly ready to pull out all the stops to put McCain-Palin in the White House.

On Friday, an hour before McCain introduced Palin at a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio, religious-right and conservative-movement leaders hosted a conference call with reporters to trumpet Palin’s conservative credentials. Members of the Council for National Policy, the secretive association of movement elites meeting in Minneapolis ahead of the Republican National Convention, watched Palin’s speech on television and were, according to Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery, “electrified.”

The endorsements came fast and furious: James Dobson called the pick “outstanding,” and Tony Perkins added his applause, deeming Palin “the strongest pro-life, pro-family governor in Alaska to date.” Matthew Staver of the Liberty Alliance, the conservative legal group founded by Jerry Falwell, who convened Christian-right leadership in Colorado this summer to acquiesce around McCain, reiterated the “electrified” talking point. The clearly intended message: Get ready for an army of Christian-right activists to do battle with Obama’s on-the-ground organizing in all 50 states.

2. Not A Maverick, An Extremist.

This week’s news of Palin’s 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy regrettably trumped other, far more significant revelations, like Palin’s husband’s membership in the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), a secessionist group that believes that Alaska should not be part of the United States (Palin was also somewhat friendly with the group, even recording a video greeting for them while governor), and Palin’s support for Pat Buchanan’s retrograde presidential campaigns. The AIP — whose founder, Joseph Vogler, once said, “The problem with you John Birchers is that you are too damn liberal!” — is to the right of the Council on National Policy, itself founded by a group of Birchers. According to the watchdog group Political Research Associates, the John Birch Society’s founder, Robert Welch, believed that “both the U.S. and Soviet governments are controlled by the same furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians. If left unexposed, the traitors inside the U.S. government would betray the country’s sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist new world order managed by a “‘one-world socialist government.'”

The ardor of the Christian-right leadership says everything you need to know about Palin: She is an extremist who makes them confident of their access to and influence over a McCain administration. Palin has vowed to protect the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance because, she believes, “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me.” (The pledge was written in 1892, and the words “under God” added in 1954.) She opposes amending hate-crime laws to include protections for LGBTQ people, which the religious right wrongly claims would criminalize Christian speechifying about homosexuality being a sin. Last year, she signed a resolution designating an Alaska Christian Heritage Week.

And in case you’re worried about whether she can beat back the Islamists the religious right says are bent on destroying our Christian nation, Ken Blackwell, who co-chaired the GOP’s platform-writing committee, helpfully points out that as “the commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard, Mrs. Palin [is] staring across a narrow strait at Vladimir Putin’s Russia.” Chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is overrated isn’t it?

3. The Religious Right’s New Superwoman.

“Take that, feminists,” was Janice Shaw Crouse’s, director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, response to Sarah Palin’s selection as GOP VP nominee. “For years the feminist movement has acknowledged for leadership only those women who embrace a radical agenda,” Crouse said in a statement. “Sarah Palin is pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family. She is a woman who is balancing the personal and professional in admirable ways. … Here is a woman of accomplishment who brings a fresh face to traditional values and models the type of woman most girls want to become.”

The Beverly LaHaye Institute, however, typically disdains working mothers: A 2004 paper it issued, “The Symptoms of Parent Withdrawal,” claimed that “the feminists have achieved their goal: widely available child care to ‘free themselves of motherhood.'” In that particular disparagement of working mothers, Crouse charged that “we’ve known for years that the outcomes are undesirable when children spend too much time in day care.” The article concluded, “Instead of asking the typical question of what is best or more convenient for the adults, we must ask the serious question: ‘What is best for our children?’ Dr. Crouse’s answer: The best environment to foster a child’s intellectual development is one in which his or her mother is actively involved on a day-to-day basis; the best environment is the home.”

But as Palin embarks on a grueling campaign to become vice-president of the United States, she is, in Crouse’s view, a model mother, unlike the millions of American women who have no choice but to put their kids in day care.

4. GOTV: Hype or Real?

Although it is Dobson’s endorsement that the national media holds its breath for, his stamp of approval in and of itself won’t drive people to the polls. That will be done by on-the-ground organizing and get-out-the-vote drives. Here’s a peek at who to watch in the religious right’s attempt to replicate past get-out-the-vote drives and face down Obama’s in the crucial state of Ohio:

David Barton, the religious right’s own historian of Christian nationhood, worked as a consultant to the Republican Party in 2004, traveling to churches advising pastors on how to encourage their parishioners to vote. In October, Barton will be appearing in conjunction with Citizens for Community Values (CCV), the Cincinnati-based organization that mobilized support for Ohio’s 2004 gay-marriage ban. He will make six appearances in the state, including some at churches, to help his audience “to understand the true historical and biblical role of Christians in civil government.”

The six appearances will be co-sponsored by and broadcast on radio stations owned by Salem Communications, which owns over 100 Christian radio stations nationwide and provides syndicated news and commentary to hundreds more. In 2004, Salem principals, many of whom have been long involved in fundraising for far-right Christian candidates and causes, helped organize a 2004 get-out-the-vote drive called Americans of Faith.

5. Palin: The Un-Hick Huck.

During the primaries, an internecine feud was on display between the anti-taxers, who tagged Mike Huckabee as a tax-and-spend liberal, and the evangelicals who loved him. Palin brings all the wings together, with the anti-taxers joining hands with the social conservatives in giving her their collective stamp of approval.

But aside from getting the thumbs up from Grover Norquist, Palin offers a new face for the religious right, a movement that has been dominated, not only by men, but by decidedly uncool men. Huckabee tried to change that image by playing in a rock band and being a conservative “but not mad about it.” Still, Palin isn’t a Southern Baptist pastor from the rural South — she’s an athletic beauty queen from the rugged West, an image that the movement no doubt relishes.

So with all that in mind, I have a short religious-right “in” and “out” list:

OUT: The South. IN: The West.

OUT: Folksy. IN: Frontiers-y.

OUT: Covenant marriage. IN: Eloping.

OUT: Eating squirrels. IN: Eating moose.

OUT: Pick-up trucks. IN: Snow machines.

OUT: NASCAR. IN: Ididarod.

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