Friday, March 18, 2011

Is Sarah Palin Becoming the New Al Sharpton?

A few things.

I have a feature piece on the front page of Alternet. I asked if I could call Clarence Thomas a "black golem." The editors obliged. I am pleased. But more seriously, I was kindly pitched to develop something on Herman Cain, my favorite Uncle Ruckus black conservative of the moment, and how he made light of Jim Crow a few days ago in order to win points with the white tea bagger crowd. So please check it out.

I am also going to be doing my thing at the 2nd annual C2E2 convention in Chicago. So, you can find me there if you are so inclined.

And now on a more substantive note...

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, Al Sharpton is a friend of mine. You Sarah Palin, are no Al Sharpton. Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

We have dissected Sarah Palin quite a bit, from entertaining a counter-factual in which she were black, to working through how Palin performs "rural blackface." But, Politco's piece on "Palin Becoming Al Sharpton" is a new high in Palin Studies.

[Wow, I think I just coined a phrase. What exactly would the field of Palin Studies look like? What would be its foundational texts and principles? What are its epistemological priors?]

A broke clock is right twice a day. Thus, it is rewarding to see conservatives more publicly calling out Palin for her crass anti-intellectualism and know-nothing appeal. She has made stupid a brand name and is an Eva Braun figure for the worst Right-wing tea party knuckledraggers. The Tea Party GOP is up against a generational wall and is going for the low hanging fruit of naked racial and ethnic reactionary politics. Palin was/is the cheap sugar high and linchpin for that effort. Hopefully, the grown ups will reign in the kiddies on the New Right and get them to act responsibly. But, I won't be holding my breath.

An attempt to link Palin to Sharpton resonates for the Right because black activists, of any stripe, are de facto "race pimps" in the conservative imagination. Conservatives have no small amount of disdain for folks who attempt to speak truth power. They also have no real amount of love for black folks. Thus, race pimp is a powerful word in their slogan filled, talking point lexicon along with "Dred Scott" and "personal responsibility."

But, what exactly is a race pimp? And aren't white racial reactionary conservatives such as Buchanan, Beck, King, Barbour et al. also race pimps...of a far more dangerous stripe?

I do not know if linking Palin to Sharpton is more of an insult to the former than the latter. Nevertheless, the full piece on Politico is well worth checking out in its entirety.

A choice selection from the full essay:

Palin defenders say she has good reason to be dismissive of elite critics — she has outpaced their low expectations at every turn. And while intellectuals may disdain identity politics in theory, in practice nearly all successful national politicians in both parties succeed in part by striking a populist chord — catering to the pride of targeted groups and giving voice to their grievances. So far, Palin has been uncommonly effective at channeling the anti-Washington, anti-establishment energy powering the right since Obama’s election.

But Palin’s skeptics said a successful presidential candidacy would need to be buoyed by genuine policy vision, not merely grievance. For now, however, Palin’s appeal is largely rooted in the sympathy she’s gleaned from her loudly voiced resentments toward the left, the news media and the GOP establishment.

“The appeal of conservatism is supposed to be people taking responsibility for their own actions,” said Labash. “But if you close your eyes and listen to Palin and her most irate supporters constantly squawk or bellyache or tweet about how unfair a ride she gets from evil mustache-twirling elites and RINO saboteurs, she sounds like a professional victimologist, the flip side of any lefty grievance group leader. She’s becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition. The only difference being, she wears naughty-librarian glasses instead of a James Brown ‘do”...

Over two years later, Mac Donald, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, said of Palin: “She is living up to the most skeptical assessment of her.”

“Practicing identity politics completely undercuts the idea that you don’t have to be white to govern whites or black to govern blacks and that gender and chromosomes are completely irrelevant job qualifications,” said Mac Donald. “It’s just a total rejection of a very important principle which is that race, gender and class don’t matter.”

Asked specifically about Palin’s attempt to woo women through her “Mama Grizzlies” appeals, Mac Donald sighed and complained about “the feminist strain” among even conservative females.

“A lot of women have it, unfortunately,” she said.

Voicing the conservative ideal, Mac Donald said: “The public should stop wanting to see itself reflected in a leader. There is something narcissistic about that. It’s really irrelevant if a political leader has any affinity with my life. The only thing that should matter are ideas, experience and executive ability."


Vesuvian Woman said...

Thanks for keeping us informed.I will be reading the full article shortly but, I can't help but to presume. It seems as though SP is snatching-up supporters among people (women) who would never vote for anyone who didn't (physically) resemble their ideas (or them). The same types who hoped to be over-powered by wisdom as opposed to empowered by it. Naughty indeed ; )

Gunnar Kaufman said...

Let me opine, for a moment if I may, on Reverend Sharpton (I'll get to S.P. in a minute).

First, let's get this out of the way... I've really never liked him. Living in New York during the Tawanna Brawley embarrassment was a particularly painful time for many (right thinking) black folk. Ms. Brawley's story always had more holes in it than a homeless man's underwear, but Sharpton and crew pushed full steam ahead with her falsehoods anyway. And in doing so, did serious damage to the public perception of black peoples struggles against oppression in NYC and America at large.

Also, and I'm sure many of your readers don't know this, but in certain circles the rumor persisted for years that Sharpton wore a wire for the feds who were at the time looking for dirt on other black "leaders". Make of that what you will.

Add to that the fact that he's always been a shameless self-promoter (for God's sake, the man actually hosted a cheesy reality show! This from a man who claimed to represent the interests of black people! He actually compared himself to MLK once!) who has unapologetically chased the almighty dollar and you can understand my enmity toward him.

Did I forget to mention that ridiculous presidential run?

But to be fair to the man, he did have one shining moment (at least to my eyes).

When Amadou Diallo was murdered by those four police officers in the Bronx and the fascist Giuliani tried desperately to sweep the story under the rug, Rev. Al made sure that the public remained aware of the story. His involvement forced the NY press to continue to cover the story and, remarkably, to report the truth.

As you wrote, "a broke clock is right twice a day".

Given all that, I actually don't think the comparison between the two is all that unfair or unrealistic.

Shameless self promoter? Chasing the almighty dollar? Unrealistic fantasies of winning higher public office? Check, check and check!

You know they really should get together and compare notes. Maybe they could run for office together! What a presidential ticket that would be!

chaunceydevega said...

Vesuvian. Palin is the very definition of naughty...a bad bad bad woman.

Gunnar. Don't you dare make fun of the permed one! Not ever. Just kidding. I met him. Good guy. On Tawanna Brawley? A low point of the 1980s. His talk show. Funny. A Palin Sharpton ticket would truly be a sign of the endtimes. If that happened the evangelicals, christian zionists, and others would all be jumping out of their clothes. Bonus points if you get the reference.

Gunnar Kaufman said...

Do you mean "The Rapture"? A bunch of "saved" naked folks floating up to Heaven?

Are they about to have an orgy up in that piece? And if so, why wasn't I invited?

Yes I know. I'm going to Hell. On the express elevator. Straight down.

Re your response: "Don't you dare make fun of the permed one! Not ever." — in my previous comment I was going to write that in some parts of Brooklyn if you repeated the views I expressed about the right reverend in a conversation, you might have to throw your hands up and guard your grill.

CNu said...


I moseys over to alternet licking my chops in anticipation of yet another planstmantx/oh crap zatoichi style hootenanny with the conservative spambots - and what do I get for my mouseclicks?


Methinkst Cain is fast approaching the 16th minute of his 15 minute run - and the novelty has already worn hella thin.

{either that or plantsmantx and oh crap murdelized'em so tough last time they just don't want no more...,}

Plane Ideas said...

AL has evolved and second acts do exist in America..

I think Sara Palin will be first woman president in the white house..Just sayin

Plantsmantx said...

{either that or plantsmantx and oh crap murdelized'em so tough last time they just don't want no more...,}

Thanks, lol.I don't know if I murdelized 'em, but knocking down all those prefab memes was fun. For some reason, the conservatives responding to Chauncey's current post on Cain aren't nearly as hardcore and given to spouting stupid rationalizations.