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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

More About St. Joan of the Tundra

Listening to conservatives right now is a fascinating exercise in cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, many of them are convinced that Sarah Palin has revolutionized not only this election, but American politics and even our cultural life. She’s said to have single-handedly reversed the terrible prospects of congressional Republicans, for example. John McCain can barely stand to be out of her presence.
But on the other hand, she’s still a poor, downtrodden victim, “the object of the most vicious and concerted smear campaign in modern American history,” as one of the bloggers at PowerLine puts it. And the latest whine, predictably articulated by Michael Gerson in his Washington Post column, is that “liberals” are smearing her religion, making her not just a victim, but a martyr.
Like most of the whining about poor (yet triumphant) Palin, Gerson’s piece does not deign to offer a single example of or source for the alleged attacks on Palin’s faith, beyond a sneer about “reporters” asking Palin’s pastor if she’s ever spoken in tongues. “[L]iberals have been drawn, helpless and mesmerized — like beetles to the vivid, blue paradise of the bug zapper — toward criticizing Sarah Palin’s religion,” he says. And then Gerson is off to the races, with several hundreds words of abuse for the “secularists” who don’t know that charismatic Christianity is a big deal these days. The clincher is Gerson’s identification of these unnamed liberals with those who derided the early Christians.
Who? Where? Can we get a name here? A direct quote? Has Barack Obama, or Joe Biden, or Nancy Pelosi, or David Axelrod mocked Palin’s religion?
As for those “reporters” who asked if Palin had spoken in tongues, how, exactly, does this represent persecution? Sarah Palin is the first self-identified Pentecostal Christian to appear on a national party ticket. Simple questions about the nature of her faith are no more unnatural than the questions asked of Jimmy Carter back in 1976 about his “born-again” evangelicalism, or the questions posed to John F. Kennedy in 1960 about his support for church-state separation. And if Gerson’s right, and pentecostalism is far more typical of Americans than the “liberal Episcopalianism” he sneers at, why should she be offended by non-derisive questions, and hide her light under a bushel?
Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running-mate touched off some of the most excited celebrations on the Christian Right that we’ve seen since the election of Ronald Reagan. Fine, but they can’t have it both ways, touting her as a revolutionary, redemptive figure in American politics and then complaining the minute someone notices that her views on the nexus of politics and faith seem to be central to her appeal to conservatives.
As a Christian myself (though one of those “liberals” that Gerson and other conservatives contemptuously dismiss, in what I might choose to construe as a vicious attack on my religion), Gerson’s column and many others like it exemplify one of the most unsavory characteristics of contemporary conservative Christianity: self-pity combined with vengefulness. The best example is the ludicrous annual rite of “War on Christmas” whining, where Christians who have never suffered a moment of real discrimination in their lives complain about department store signs and launch boycotts to force compliance with their tender sensibilities.
Throughout the history of the Christianity, people have actually suffered and actually died for their faith in Jesus Christ. I seriously doubt that many conservative Christians in America share the phony sense of persecution that their “spokesmen” like Michael Gerson encourage them in, or view themselves as martyrs. Nor should they or anyone else buy into this effort to turn Gov. Sarah Palin into St. Joan of the Tundra, even as she is said to vanquish all foes in her colossal path.

4 comments on “More About St. Joan of the Tundra

  1. ThinkingGuy on

    I will never understand why people insist that there is ANY segment out there with “open ears”. Christians by definition, in general do not have any. (Christian=Republican by and large). And the so called independents…well, they have ALREADY CHOSEN! If they can see, and we all can, the obvious evil, lying, cowardly slime that is John McCain, and still think, “hmmm..maybe!”, then they are NEVER NEVER NEVER going to be convinced to change their minds. They have already abdicated common sense and common decency. No amount of strategic phone calling and “letting Obama drive the bus” is going to change their minds.

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  2. LG on

    Exactly because “people have actually suffered and actually died for their faith in Jesus Christ”, you should understand their “tender sensibilities”..

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  3. Brian Gaerity on

    Brilliant dissection. And “St. Joan of the Tundra” is a terrific sobriquet.
    Palin is a phenomenon unlike anything I’ve seen in national politics. Yes, she is cognitive dissonance writ large. But she has genuinely connected with voters on many levels: personal, political, social, emotional. She is without a doubt an intellectual lightweight, but since when has that been a drawback in politics?
    Just watch; her off-the-charts self-assurance will get her through the next 50+ days, no matter what anyone throws at her. Unless someone has a picture of Palin accepting a bribe or worshipping the devil, her “brand” has been burned into the American consciousness and won’t change significantly before Election Day.
    In 1992, Republicans fumed when Bill Clinton prevailed despite (credible) accusations of infidelity, childish equivocations (“I didn’t inhale”) and dishonest answers regarding how he got out of military service. We’re wrong to think that Palin will go down simply because of her internal contradictions, lack of knowledge and experience, or her speaking in (forked) tongues.
    My position on how to combat her has not changed one bit since she was first announced. The only way to raise doubts among Independents and undecided voters (who are the only ones still listening with open ears) is to focus on her extreme views, challenge her credentials as a reformer and hit back hard on the entire McCain/Palin platform.
    And my message to Democrats who are wringing their hands or turning blue with outrage is this: get on the Obama bus and let him drive it. He’s the candidate, not you, not me. If everyone tries to take the wheel, we’re going straight into the ditch.

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