Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tea anyone?

Sarah Palin made her widely heralded keynote at the “Tea Party”
convention.  It was a long rambling
affair.  Long perhaps because,
having learned from Bill Clinton and others, she commands big bucks for sharing
her “wisdom” these days.  After some
uproar over this fee, she now disclaims using the money for herself, but will
certainly collect her check, said to be $100K for about an hour’s work.  Ah no fat cat here, just plain Wasilla
people.  That also tells you
something about this faux party. 
Rambling because it contained essentially a rehash of her stump speeches
long on platitudes — I love America — and very short on substance.  To her credit there were relatively few
flubs.  Having been out of office
such a short time, one can excuse referring to the world looking to “Alaska as
that beacon of hope”. 

While the talk got the expected applause and cries at the end for “run
Sarah run”, in being so predictable it was more medium rare than red meat.  Palin, who now focuses most of her
attention on foreign policy (her area of special expertise), complained that
Obama gave it short shrift in the State of the Union.  She of course had little in the way of proposals for what
she would do there or at home, at least nothing that was new or viable.  Okay, get government out of the
way!  She complained about the lack
of bi-partisanship on healthcare offering this solution to our massive problem
— allow interstate marketing of insurance and bring on tort reform.  That should do it, real deficit-busting coverage-expanding grass roots proposals.  If
only the President would listen.  But
hey, her Republican colleagues on the Hill haven’t offered much more.  And she did make one piece of really big
news. Todd is not a Republican — “he’s too independent” to join a party.  Well that clears up a lot about the guy
the Times reported last week was much
more than just the First Gentleman of Alaska. 
Finally she suggested that, given our being human and not knowing the
answer to all questions, government officials should “be seeking divine
intervention” and not be ashamed to do so.  That echoes Senate Chaplain Black’s recent comment to NPR
that “Senators need supernatural guidance”, which I guess is what he enables.  Forget church and state, I wonder which
senators are making their decisions based on such help.

Palin’s speech was as expected. 
What is more informative was her audience; virtually all white and,
despite the “grassroots” billing, appearing comfortable and prosperous.  Not even a plumber that one could
identify.  There was after all a
fee to be paid, hardly in the budget of the disgruntled unemployed they claim
to represent, or as bottom up as Palin would have it.  So there was an air of theater around this particular
affair, dutifully covered by the press and broadcast on C-Span who together, more
than any Supreme Court legitimized corporate funders, are the effective underwriters
of politicians like Palin.  Don’t
cover them and you’re accused of being the “liberal media” — would that such a
thing existed.  Cover them and
you’re into showbiz as “news”, but of course that can be very good for ratings. 

It won’t surprise you that I am not one to support the tea party in
Nashville or even more so its “grass root” rallies sporting despicable
anti-Obama posters with their unsubtle race bating caricatures.  I try not to over read Scott Brown the
current hero of the “movement”, though in senator mode he seems to be
distancing himself.  Perhaps he
understands that Massachusetts is still a liberal state.  At the same time, we should not
underestimate the level of frustration on the ground.  When Palin rails against the banks, she’s not alone in
seeing them as free loaders and predators (my words not hers).   That’s something upon which
liberals and conservatives, the employed and the unemployed, mortgage payers
and the foreclosed can agree.  So
she’s striking some chords that resonate widely and, as Mrs. Loman said with
regard to her burdened husband Willy, “attention must be paid”.  Palin and her appeal still mystifies me,
her shrill rhetoric is hard on the ears. 
But people do strange and often terribly frightening things when they
are down and out or frustrated. 
The depression brought us FDR but also Huey Long.  History is replete with demagogues who
seized the day and brought unintended consequences to desperate and enamored
audiences.  I need not spell that
out.  Perhaps Palin will self
destruct or turn more fully toward personal capitalism long before 2012, but we
shouldn’t either count on it or sit idly by while this train of discontent
moves out of the station.  Attention must be paid, now not later.

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