Nightmare Scenario

New York Magazine has a truly horrific thought experiment about the 2012 presidential election and how Michael Bloomberg’s entry as a third party candidate could throw the election to the Republican nominee, presumably Sarah Palin.

The magazine supposes that were Palin to get the Republican nomination, Bloomberg would run as an independent. The problem I have with this supposition is that while it’s clearly likely that Bloomberg would not support the idea of Palin as the Republican alternative, there’s no real basis to suggest he is equally disgusted by the chances of Obama winning reelection. As the article notes, the administration has done a lot to keep Bloomberg in the fold, including lots of face time with the President, Vice President and Treasury Secretary. The administration clearly values his perspective. I find it hard to believe that he’d reward that with a course of action that is likely to throw the White House to Palin. A candidate doesn’t get into a race because he hates one outcome when getting into the race assures that outcome will come true. That is, while I do think gaming out the consequences of Bloomberg entering the 2012 race (throwing it to the GOP candidate) is interesting, it’s hard to believe that Bloomberg would enter the race out of a desire to stop Sarah Palin from being elected.

What’s really remarkable about the thought of Sarah Palin getting the Republican nomination is how important it makes the 2012 election. 2004 was the most important election of my lifetime, until 2008 was. And now, with the prospect of Palin as his opponent, 2012 might become the most important election. The stakes keep getting raised by the Republican Party through the militarism, demagoguery, and fundamentalism of their candidates.  Nothing would close any perceived Democratic enthusiasm gap in 2012 fast than a Palin nomination.

Militarizing Politics

Via Digby, I see that Sarah Palin and her own private security force have recently engaged in exactly the same sort of bullying, anti-free speech behavior as Joe Miller and his paramilitary guards. Shannyn Moore reports:

Sarah Palin & company spent several days in Homer filming her “Sarah Palin’s Uh-laska” show. (Eyes rolled).

On the public dock, private security patted down private citizens. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure from their government. Private security searching private citizens in a public place, doesn’t fall under that category. It’s a bit more hinky.

Whether it was TLC or the Palins who contracted security, under what authority did they operate in a public location? Were they looking for weapons? Well, now there’s a Second Amendment issue.

This is Alaska, we carry guns. You can open-carry or acquire a concealed weapons permit from the state. If you are a law abiding citizen, you don’t even need a permit. Sarah Palin recently endorsed Alaska Tea Party Candidate Joe Miller for US Senate. His supporters carried assault rifles in last month’s Golden Days Parade in Fairbanks. If weapons are good enough for a public parade, weapons should be fine at a public dock.

Maybe it wasn’t about guns. Maybe it was about cameras. In that case, it’s a First Amendment issue. Whether Palin had a problem with the First Amendment, the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, she contradicted her entourage’s actions at the Homer dock.

Risking accusations of being all “Wee-Wee’d Up”, one Homer woman made a sign in her shed. She then took the 30-foot-by-3-foot banner out to the boat harbor. It said “WORST GOVERNOR EVER”. Kathleen Gustafson is a teacher married to a local commercial fisherman. She felt like Sarah Palin had let the state down by becoming a dollar-chasing celebrity and ignoring the oath of office she’d sworn on a Bible.
[…]

Saturday morning, Billy Sullivan helped Kathleen tape the banner up on his place of business at the top of the boat ramp. Then here she came. Sarah.

She couldn’t just walk by. Only a few fishermen and tourists would have seen the banner, but Sarah had to stop and protest….

Billy Sullivan caught much of the interchange on his cell phone camera. The back of her security guard’s head and Todd Palin attempted to block Billy’s view…

In what has become typical tragic irony, Sarah initially claimed to support Kathleen’s First Amendment Rights. But as soon as Billy Sullivan walked toward the dock, one of Palin’s entourage tore down the sign to great applause from her group.

Todd Palin approached Billy (who owns a business called Dockside Fish and buys halibut on that dock) and asked him to get out of the Discovery crew’s shot. “You just can’t get enough of her, can you?” he asked. An Alaska State Trooper told Billy he should call the Homer Police Department and report the trespassing and destruction of property.

Digby draws this correct conclusion:

This isn’t an Alaskan thing. It’s a teabagger thing. They are authoritarians. They have no respect for others’ individual rights, only their own.

That’s my take too. I lived in Alaska for less than a year, but am consistently saddened by how the authoritarianism and quasi-fascism displayed by Palin and Miller keep giving Alaska a bad name. Palin isn’t just making people militant Tea Partiers in Alaska; she’s actually militarizing politics. Never before had I heard of political supporters openly carrying assault rifles in parades – and I went to plenty of parades when I was working in Alaska politics. This isn’t normal. It isn’t about Alaska being a conservative state (it isn’t), nor is it about being a state were gun ownership is common and open carry is legal. This is about a splinter group who are responding to elections with Second Amendment remedies.

What’s so dangerous about this style of politics put forward by Palin and Miller is that it doesn’t serve the Constitution nor individual freedom. It actually serves pure, tribal Republican politics. Miller and Palin might provide the patina of selfish anger, but at the end of the day, it’s Wall Street banks, outsourcing manufacturers, polluting mining companies, and Social Security privatizer who will reap any benefits won at the ballot box. This doesn’t mitigate the danger of the Palin/Miller sect, but it’s important to remember that their electoral successes won’t lead to some sort of free market paradise, devoid of government intervention. Rather, it will be what it’s always been: a question of how far the GOP can bend the regulatory power of government to create a favorable set of conditions for Wall Street and big corporate executives to reach billions in profits, while driving down the wages and benefits of working Americans. The real consequences for this, beyond the continued militarization of politics on the right, are going to be felt by Americans who desperately need the economy to improve and jobs to be created.

Vanity Fair on Palin

There are a lot of posts up already in response to Vanity Fair’s long expose by Michael Joseph Gross on Sarah Palin. Ben Smith and Dave Weigel have spotted on small factual error, though both seem to take it as a basis to dismiss the entire work. Dismissing a piece of many quotes and anonymous stories because one of them is wrong is as absurd as basing an entire story around one anonymous anecdote – something that Gross does not do. What makes Gross’s piece so terrifying is how many stories of the same vein he is able to get people to talk about, particularly ones which suggest that Palin may have some sort of personality disorder akin to being manic or bipolar.

When I was living in Alaska, I heard a lot of stories about Palin. Many of those stories ended up being told by various reporters and political operatives during the 2008 general election. In my experience with what went public, most of the rumors had a much higher basis in truth in Alaska than they do in the Lower 48. It’s a small state and people know each other well – including their dirty laundry. Of course, the shotgun wedding story that Smith and Weigel highlight as debunked is something that didn’t originate in Alaska, but with McCain campaign aides.

Obviously there are other Palin rumors that never panned out – specifically the rumor that Sarah was not in fact Trig’s mother. That rumor was started by Republican opponents of Palin’s in Alaska. The problem with this as it stands now is that the rumor went after a bogus issue. The real hit on Palin for Trig’s birth was how she made reckless choices to take multiple long flights and a long drive to give birth to Trig not just in Alaska, but in Wasilla.

Gross’s piece is really scary and damning. If you have a problem with the number of anonymous quotes or stories conveyed in it, his reasoning is there to explain it: people are scared of Palin’s wrath for speaking out on the record about her to reporters. This is a real phenomenon and not one to be overlooked. If a subject can intimidate those around her into not talking to the press, it has a deliberate chilling effect on journalists who seek to cover her.

Ben Smith’s conclusion is that “you can really write anything about Palin.” Sure, you can – she’s an interesting figure who a lot of people want to read about either because they hate her or they love her. But that’s not to say that everything written about her is falsified or sensationalistic. She did get hundreds of thousands of dollars for her and her family paid for by the RNC. She did have essentially zero grasp of contemporary current affairs, foreign affairs, economics, or political history. She did and does continue to have an open disdain for intellectualism. She is crafting an Us versus Them narrative, wherein she occupies a major leadership role in the course of American events. She does have an (arguably typically) dysfunctional family. And, perhaps most importantly, she quit her job as Governor of Alaska after only two years to pursue media and speaking opportunities that are netting her upwards of $13 million per year. She may well have presidential ambitions, though I will believe she will voluntarily step off the Conservative Icon gravy train when I see it.

There may be one or more bad anecdotes in Gross’s piece. But dismissing it out of hand seems nuts to me given everything that is documented about Palin in the public record.

Beck-a-Palooza

I watched almost all of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally this past Saturday from the comfort of my living room. I’m not a conservative Christian and am obviously not the target of his speech, but it struck me as phenomenally long, rambling, and incoherent. There was no arc to it. The only takeaway in this ostensible non-political speech was that Beck thinks America is turning its back to God and, you know, America shouldn’t do that.

Greg Sargent has a great piece evaluating what Beck (and collaborator Sarah Palin) sought through their demagoguery. On the apolitical nature of the event, he writes:

Beck repeatedly claimed that his rally wasn’t meant to be “political.” As high-minded as that may sound, the real point of stressing the rally’s apolitical goals was political in nature. The idea was to relieve himself of the responsibility to pinpoint who, precisely, he wants his followers to blame for leading us away from God and for tarnishing our honor. Beck wants this all to be drawn by inference — classic political demagoguery.

I agree that this apolitical speech was actually very political in nature. But I think this isn’t about relieving Beck of responsibility for the conclusions his followers make vis a vis President Obama and the Democratic Party, though that is certainly a benefit of the speech. No, I think Beck’s apolitical rally was a massive call to the Religious Right in which Beck is saying: I am one of you, I have a soft side, I may be a Mormon, but I share the same concerns about God in American life.

It’s hard to imagine someone who is as high profile and as egomaniacal as Glenn Beck to not harbor some aspirations for higher office. He already casts himself as a martyr in waiting. Running for President (or Vice President) must not be too far from his mind. Unfortunately, the horse that is pulling his cart is the Tea Party, a political “movement” that is so far outside the American mainstream that association with it could be disqualifying for a national candidate. To soften his image and, more importantly, broaden his base, the “Restoring Honor” rally gave Beck the opportunity to embrace the Religious Right.

He’s made himself more of a mainstream Republican figure, at least on Saturday. We know that come tonight’s broadcast, he’ll be spewing the same hateful, dishonest invective against all Democrats (Christian or otherwise), labor unions, and progressive organizations. We shall see if the Religious Right welcomes him into their fold. We’ll see if his Tea Party supporters who shelled out hundreds if not thousands of dollars to travel to Washington to see Beck dish out red meat are still enthusiastic about his rambling sermonizing. We’ll see if this rally proves a jumping point for Beck to run for office. But for now, here are my predictions: The Religious Right won’t fully embrace Beck – sure, there will be some affiliation where there is common cause, but a Mormon isn’t going to become a figurehead leader of movement evangelicals. The Tea Party base that came out for Beck will stick around, because he’s going to be in Full Blown Hatred today about something or Other.  And in the end, Beck will talk about running for office at some point, but like most talk show hosts from Chris Matthews to Lou Dobbs, Beck will remember that it’s a lot nicer to sit in a comfy chair and talk than it is to put it on the line as a public figure. Time will tell, but I really hope that Beck comes nowhere near even thinking about running for higher office. It’s too scary a thought.

…Adding, Steve Benen points out that the early reception from thought leaders on the Religious Right is not going so great for Glenn Beck.

Taibbi on the Marginalizing of the Republican Base

Matt Taibbi, writing at True/Slant, has a must-read analysis of the mainstream media Village culture, as it pertains to Sarah Palin. Or, more specifically, how groupthink by Beltway journalists regarding when to promote a politician and when to aim for their head has coalesced behind further marginalizing Palin and by extension her Teabag supporters.

While Taibbi does provide a stinging and pointed analysis of how Beltway Conventional Wisdom is made in the journalist clubhouse, he really shines through in his take on what this means for the Tea Party “movement.”

What the people who are flipping out about the treatment of Palin should be asking themselves is what it means when it’s not just jerks like us but everybody piling on against Palin. For those of you who can’t connect the dots, I’ll tell you what it means. It means she’s been cut loose. It means that all five of the families have given the okay to this hit job, including even the mainstream Republican leaders. You teabaggers are in the process of being marginalized by your own ostensible party leaders in exactly the same way the anti-war crowd was abandoned by the Democratic party elders in the earlier part of this decade. Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s “winnability.”

And do you know what that means? That means that just as the antiwar crowd spent years being painted by the national press as weepy, unpatriotic pussies whose enthusiastic support is toxic to any serious presidential aspirant, so too will all of you afternoon-radio ignoramuses who seem bent on spending the next three years kicking and screaming your way up the eternal asshole of white resentment now find yourself and your political champions painted as knee-jerk loonies whose rabid irrationality is undeserving of the political center. And yes, that’s me saying that, but I’ve always been saying that, not just about Palin but about George Bush and all your other moron-heroes.

What’s different now is who else is saying it. You had these people eating out of the palms of your hands (remember what it was like in the Dixie Chicks days?). Now they’re all drawing horns and Groucho mustaches on your heroes, and rapidly transitioning you from your previous political kingmaking role in the real world to a new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic that exists solely to be manipulated for ratings and ad revenue. What you should be asking yourself is why this is happening to you. Even I don’t know the answer to that question, but honestly, I don’t really care. All I know is that I find it extremely funny.

I certainly agree with Taibbi that there is a delightfully comic side to the shift to discredit the rabid Republican base as…rabid.  Of course I think he sells his understanding of the situation a bit short. Just because the analysis by Beltway journalists on the danger posed by the anti-war left to Democratic electoral hopes was fundamentally wrong (and conclusively proven so in 2006 and 2008) doesn’t mean that the analysis of Teabaggers as a group who can cost the Republican Party elections is wrong. Take NY-23 — a seat that Democrats hadn’t won since Reconstruction was won by a conservative Democrat after an independent Teabagger candidate forced the GOP nominee out of the race. Teabaggers cost the GOP that seat. While one race is by no means determinative of a political movement, this is certainly not a time to sell your Teabagger stock.

As it relates to Palin, she has thrown herself into the Teabagger mix with all her energy. She came out strongly for Hoffman in NY-23 and is building a brand running in support of these radical rightwing candidates. When she put herself all-in on NY-23, she also took on some of the consequences from that loss. The most notable one, obviously, being that Teabaggers didn’t win.

It’s also important to note that Taibbi isn’t saying that Democrats or liberal pundits shouldn’t help push the Beltway journalist stone down hill onto the Teabaggers. There is real value in this group being marginalized as a decisive voice in American politics. It was the influence of the Republican base that helped win George W. Bush and Dick Cheney two terms in office, along with quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, a massive recession, and an assault on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights unseen in the last two hundred years of American history. If any group deserves to have their influence marginalized in American politics, it is the base of the Republican Party (well, them and the Beltway journalistic set).

Watching this cohort of angry Americans fail at political success, while being treated for what they are by the establishment press, is satisfying on many levels. Sure, part of this is schadenfreude, but a good portion of it is watching the politically privileged group in American politics other than the super rich live life like the rest of us DFHs for the first time. The result is one of the leaders of their political movement, Sarah Palin, turning offense into a cottage industry and the other, Glenn Beck, making on camera tears book-ended by conspiracy theories of persecution into the path to gold advertising glory. As Taibbi said, it’s funny stuff.

The Palin Way: Making Things Up

This hardly counts as news, at least not to anyone who paid attention to Sarah Palin’s antics as Governor of Alaska and even less so for those of us who watched her as John McCain’s running mate, but Sarah Palin has a remarkable tendency to just make shit up. Palin posted a much-touted statement on Facebook, her first foray into the public spotlight since quitting as Alaska’s Governor.

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Of course that would be evil. So evil that it would only exist in some sort of work of dystopian fiction or a horror scifi flick. It has zero basis in, you know, reality.

I think it’s worthwhile to post a rebuttal to such a blatantly false and absurd statement, simply because the person issuing the rebuttal in this case is the ultra-conservative Senator from Georgia, Johnny Isakson. Isakson smacks down Palin’s fear-mongering in an interview with Ezra Klein:

How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

You’re saying that this is not a question of government. It’s for individuals.

It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.

I think the answer of how this got so mixed up is that Sarah Palin, once again, threw out facts in an effort to drive her divisive brand of Us-vs-Them politics straight onto the fairway of the healthcare debate. She has a stated desire to be a bigger player in national politics and her strategy seems to be to rush towards the Glenn Beck-Michelle Bachmann segment of the Republican base and play towards their worst fears. How long before Palin starts posting her objections to Obama’s efforts to institute one world currency or a North American superhighway? When will Palin post a straight-to-camera plea for Americans to just say no to the Democrats’ plan to make all fire arms and purity balls illegal?

Nothing coming from the Palin-Beck-Bachmann wing of the Republican Party should be taken as grounded in any semblance of reality other than the one fabricated within the confines of their delusional sense of persecution. Comments like this about fake “death panels” should immediately preclude Palin from ever being given a platform to speak to the country again. Sadly, I think this is just the first of what will be many efforts to rile up her supporters in the lead-up to a run for the Oval Office.

Update:

I think Josh Marshall is right here:

I don’t think the Democrats have lost the message war because I see no evidence that even close to a majority of Americans believe completely preposterous things like this. But journalists have no capacity to deal with this stuff. In any sane civic discourse Sarah Palin’s comments about ‘death panels’ would have permanently written her out of any public debate about anything. But even though very few people actually believe this stuff, the entire debate gets knocked off the rails by this sort of freak show which allows the organized interests who want to prevent reform to gain the upper hand.

This is why the divisive work of the radical right, particularly through astroturfing that brings out high levels Palin/Beck craziness to public light, is so effective. That the people speaking out are often times lower-income people who stand to benefit the most from massive healthcare reform is only a sad coincidence that falls in line with the work of the Republican Party for years. While the low wage workers support conservative policies, the Republican corporate elite is the cohort that actually stands to benefit. Oh well, it shows that at least for the GOP elite, Palin, Beck, and Bachmann are useful idiots.

17 Year Old vs Sarah Palin

William Nelligan has something to say to Sarah Palin about her brand of divisive politics. Nelligan is seventeen and he’s penned Alaska’s former governor an open letter on YouthRadio.org (cross posted on Huffington Post). While Nelligan isn’t offering a brand new slate of charges against Palin’s unique style of self-righteous willful ignorance, he writes with the clarity driven by his strong convictions of what is good in America. He writes to preserve the vision of America as a land of hope and opportunity that he was taught in school. Despite coming of age entirely in the Bush administration, Nelligan shows the poise of an educated and commited progressive.

It’s not so much that you and I see two different Americas, or that we just have different perceptions of the same core American ideals. It’s that you fundamentally misunderstand America’s ideals. Every time you talk about freedom, or the future, or “the wisdom of the people,” I only have one question: what the hell are you trying to say?

You’re right in asserting that government can’t make us happy, just like it can’t tell women what they can and can’t talk to their doctors about, and can’t tell gays and lesbians what kind of love is moral. However, you are wrong in saying that government can’t cure the sick and insure their families; that it can’t educate our children and reform our adults; or that it can’t generate employment for those who need it and lift those who don’t have it out of poverty. Government has done all of those things for a very long time, and will continue to do them for even longer.

I have had to grow up in this country, the land Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, under George W. Bush. A man who demonizes being smart and educated as “elitist,” and who somehow manages to make being uninformed and unengaged into something honorable. I’m lucky enough now to have a President who does none of those things, and quite frankly I don’t want to turn back the clock.

Nelligan clearly recognizes Palin as what she is: a politican who would seek to turn back the clock on the progress of the 20th century by dividing Americans against each other. Palin’s path to political power is one that she has set to be laid out through outrage and anger, two things that have not tended to produce the best our nation has to offer. Hopefully Nelligan is right and Palin will continue to recede from public life. But for the sake of today’s youth, in case she is thinking otherwise, I hope this open letter finds it way to her so she can see how dramatically she stands in contrast to the hopes and dreams of America’s youth.