Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Upsides to Ms. Palin's Post-Loughner Video?

In his LA Times essay of a couple of days ago, Doyle McManus asserts that Sarah Palin's post-Loughner video pretty much ended her chance of being elected president (not that they were promising before) because it revealed her as unable to rise to a significant challenge. She came across as defensive, even petty - in stark contrast to Pres. Obama's uplifting eloquence in Tucson in a speech that even John McCain, Obama's 2008 opponent and the Dr. Frankenstein who created Palin, acknowledged in an essay in yesterday's WaPo.  Of course, the woman who was nicknamed the "barracuda" as a high-school cager is hardly about to exit the stage.  She has created around her message - and her person - the aura of a cult of ultra-Americanism and hyper-White-Christianism that has already attracted thousands of like-minded people.  Any more mainstream Republicans who were counting on their support will be faced with the difficult task of easing her off the pedestal before which her followers adore her.  She won't be moved easily, and to the extent that she can cast herself as the martyr-victim of a largely white-male Republican establishment, she will be able to rally her followers to her defense.  I'm only afraid that some of them will literally reload (as she has called upon them to do) and start packing heat in public places and to public events as a show of support.

As a professor of history, however, I'm also grateful to Ms. Palin (in a smirking sort of way) for her careless invocation of the "blood libel."  It's obvious that (in contrast to any of the hundreds of students who have taken my HST 237 course) she was clueless as to the origin of the term, its historical significance, and the way its misuse will resonate against her among some pro-Israel groups on whose support she has relied.  But her miscue has led many commentators (including McManus) to explain to readers what the "blood libel" was actually about, which only serves to better educate an American electorate whose historical ignorance is difficult to under-estimate.

Thank you, Sarah.

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