The anticipation for Going Rogue hasn't necessarily boosted Sarah Palin's poll numbers, or forestalled investigation into ghostwriter Lynn Vincent's homophobic past. But unlikely voices are now speaking up to defend the former Alaska governor.
According to a recent poll, 52% of Americans see Sarah Palin unfavorably, and 53% wouldn't consider voting for her for President. ABC's Gary Langer says Palin "stumbles outside her base" — she's perceived favorably by only 21% of Democrats, and just 37% of people under 30. Revelations about her ghostwriter Lynn Vincent and "favored blogger" Robert Stacy McCain are unlikely to help matters. Palin called on McCain to help her counter rumors of an impending divorce from Todd Palin,and he was the one who initially recommended Vincent. McCain (apparently no relation to John) co-wrote Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime and Corruption in the Democratic Party with Vincent in 2005, and his own politics are pretty embarrassing, even for Palin. A member of a neo-Confederate group that calls for a "second secession," he once wrote the following on a website called Reclaiming the South:
[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.
The views of Vincent, his onetime co-author, are no more palatable. In her columns for the evangelical magazine World, Vincent wrote,
As gay activists incrementally shatter their final barrier between deviance and "normal," government bodies are institutionalizing viewpoint discrimination against employees who still object to homosexuality on moral grounds.
The American Psychiatric Association, under political pressure from a vitriolic internal gay caucus, ignored that science and removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973. But science just wouldn't go away: Researchers have since found causal links between homosexuality and a lack of male role models (Journal of Genetics and Psychology, 1983); parental emotional abandonment (Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1989); and child sexual abuse (Child Abuse and Neglect, 1992).
But should we be criticizing Palin's friends, her ghostwriter, or even Palin herself? Even before her book's November 17 release date (that's tomorrow, folks!), some liberal writers have started up an anti-anti-Palin backlash, arguing that the left should let up on her already. Linda Hirschman argues pretty persuasively that Palin's expensive campaign clothes aren't the big deal they were made out to be, although her claim that complaints in this area stemmed from the expectation that women's husbands buy their clothes for them seems a bit far-fetched. A little harder to swallow is Lee Siegel's allegation that Palin's liberal critics are like masturbating dogs. He opens his piece with a description of his uncle's dachshunds:
As soon as each one had secured his position, they proceeded to rub against the object of desire until they ejaculated, after which they dragged themselves into a corner and fell into a deep sleep.
Sarah Palin is surrounded by frisky liberal dachsunds, who are so excited by the prospect of rubbing their critical faculties against her every move and utterance that on the eve of the publication of her autobiography, the sound of scrambling paws and frenetic squeals is everywhere.
Of course, it's no fun being compared to a horny dachshund, but the really upsetting thing about Siegel's piece is how he positions himself as a contrarian while simply echoing all the baseless praise Palin's supporters have always heaped on her. He writes that "I don't share any of Palin's politics," but what he does share with her base is the idea that Palin "embodies an American story" and that liberals "seize[d] on her outsiderness." He writes,
True outsiders often discombobulate the liberal mind. The source of liberal values is the idea that life's quick changes make us all fundamentally outsiders, and that any social and political arrangement has to take the outsider, not the cozy insider, as its moral starting point. [...] But powerful liberals are rarely outsiders, and so true outsiders shake their sense of self. Plenty of liberals must have felt a few minutes of alarm when Sarah Palin first appeared on the scene and challenged their authenticity. Then she imploded, and they tore her apart, perhaps in savage relief at finding their virtuous identities still intact.
Siegel is far from the first to argue that there must be some weird psychological reason why liberals hate Sarah Palin. But it's a truly strange and unnecessary argument given the many real ways in which Palin's beliefs and activities go against everything liberals stand for. Siegel mentions "death panels" in an aside, but the impact of Palin's Facebook misinformation on the healthcare debate has been large, and has nothing to do with who's an "outsider." Nor does the statement that being pro-choice also means wanting to deny old people insurance coverage. Nor, for that matter, does the fact that she would choose a writer for her book who thinks of homosexuality as "deviance." All these objections to Sarah Palin are quite concrete, while Siegel's defenses — and those offered by many Palin supporters — are frustratingly abstract. She's "fascinating," she's "refreshing," her "experience" of American civilization is "raw and uncontrolled." Siegel seems to be doing Palin just as much of a disservice as the "dachshunds" he mocks, by fetishizing her outsider status rather than judging her on her merits.
A more compelling argument than Siegel's is that, now that Palin no longer holds public office, liberals should simply ignore her. It's tempting, and I for one am hoping that, after her book tour, Palin begins a slow fade into obscurity. But she obviously has bigger plans, and whether or not they include a presidential run in 2012, Palin retains a certain influence, especially over the healthcare debate. As long as she holds this influence, she's worthy of critique — and she shouldn't be exempt just because some people find her "refreshing."
Palin Co-Author Lynn Vincent's Inflammatory Record [MediaMatters]
Palin's Fringe Literary Partners [Daily Beast]
Leave Palin Alone [Daily Beast]
Time To End Pantsuit-Gate [Daily Beast]
Sarah Palin: Rogue For President? [ABC]