I assume it is unnecessary to answer the logically prior question of whether or not they hate Sarah Palin. The level of vitriol flung at her over the past week and a half by critics in every liberal outlet ranging from The New York Times to Air America is particularly awe-inspiring given that this is all the longer they’ve even known her name. Ordinarily, such hatred takes years to cultivate. The force and acceleration of their vehemence virtually demands psychoanalysis. Since this sport is in vogue, I’ll give my diagnostic skills a shot at the trophy.
Preface: There Is a Pathology
The natural first reaction of a Palin-hater to this column is to deny the hatred. They will say it’s her politics, her religion, or possibly the whiff of scandal some have managed to ladle upon her. But if they’re honest with themselves, they’ll have to admit three simple facts.
First, the reasons they give aren’t the reasons they hate. If they didn’t have these, they’d manufacture others. There’s an old story about a man asking to borrow his neighbor’s lawn mower and being told, “No, I’m making potato soup.” “What does that have to do with me borrowing your lawn mower?” the incredulous man replies. “Nothing, but if I don’t want to loan you my lawn mower, one excuse is just as good as another.” Likewise, Governor Palin is not hated because of whatever reasons they offer. These are afterthoughts to an animosity which is embarrassed to admit it was born prior to reason. Hence, refuting them will prove futile.
Second, even those who persist in asserting such reasons as their motive will have to admit that all of them put together still can’t justify the disproportionate vigor of their attacks upon her. To use an aging phrase, this is the politics of personal destruction; a nuclear response to what their own arguments admit is a merely conventional threat.
Third, no one can hate this deeply this quickly. Conservatives generally despise certain political figures such as Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy and John Paul Stevens. But it’s taken us years, sometimes decades to detest these people. Similarly for liberals, contempt only begins to describe their feelings toward George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, and Antonin Scalia. But, again, at least such a sentiment has developed over time. It took Sarah Palin less than a week to receive treatment these men have taken years to earn. Such an immediate mauling of someone’s character says far more about the predators than about their prey.
So, what explains this pathology? I have two mutually compatible theories.
Theory 1: The Cult of Personality
Barack Obama is the left’s messiah. Their hopes, their dreams and even their patriotism are at this point invested in him. He cannot be criticized. He cannot be joked about. And he most certainly cannot be mocked. All such response to him (perfectly normal with any other politician) is viewed as blasphemy rather than politics. Not only is the left salvifically invested in him, they secretly fear they have been too rash to the altar call. Calm reflection proves Barack Obama isn’t ready to be president yet, but who can resist the hope beyond hope that he’s more than just a golden voice reading a teleprompter?
So when little Sarah Palin comes along and castigates him with condescending satire, they react as any devastated schoolgirl with a crush would. Her speech stated every major flaw with his candidacy. Not just honestly, but with a Reagenesque comedic flair. And since their deepest fear is that everything she said about him is right, the only option to reconsidering their betrothal was to destroy her.
It’s pretty simple. If we disagree, you correct me. If I am silly, you ignore me. But if I articulate your own fears in attacking something you cherish irrationally, you excoriate me … as cover. As Robert Pirsig explained in his lovely novel on motorcycle maintenance, no one jumps up and down screaming that the sun will rise tomorrow. Highly emotional responses indicate fear and uncertainty, not the opposite.
Sarah Palin’s on-target reductio of Barack Obama turned their messiah into a joke, earning the very predictable treatment a heretic deserves. Disabusing people of a savored fantasy always does.
Theory 2: Her Non-Feminist Feminism
I used to marvel at the rudeness so often publicly shown to parents with many children. But then I saw how the very existence of such families exposes the guilt and self-doubt others feel about their own decisions to stop having children. The surest way to avoid dealing with these stifled concerns is to assault the character or intelligence of parents who dare to expose them with their large families.
So, too with Sarah Palin and the left. Her very life rebukes them.
She has five children, two of them after the age of 40. When her infant son was diagnosed with Down syndrome, she chose life. And when her own daughter was discovered pregnant, she helped her choose life, too. Without ever saying a word about being pro-life (to say it would have been superfluous), she demolished all the common arguments used in favor of abortion and family planning, totemic doctrines of the left.
But it’s more than just doctrine. It’s that so many people on the left have condoned abortions, helped others obtain abortions, or even had abortions themselves in the very same circumstances under which Sarah Palin chose life. Honest people are an affront to liars. Law-abiders are an affront to criminals. And the woman who has made pro-life “choices” is a stinging affront to modern feminism, which has spent decades trying to convince women that an unwanted pregnancy is like a disease and the unborn child something like a parasite.
They must demonize her because her choices so clearly condemn their own. Make no mistake, when your example disproves someone else’s deeply internalized rationalizations, they will try to destroy you. After all, the only other option would be to repent.
In “Beyond Good and Evil,” Nietzsche said, “Anyone who has looked deeply into the world may guess how much wisdom lies in the superficiality of men … let nobody doubt that whoever stands that much in need of the cult of surfaces must at some time have reached beneath them with disastrous results.” His critique of religion so perfectly fits probamaism that one is forced to conclude the latter is but a new flavor of the former.
There may be other pathologies at play here, but these explain both the left’s tsunamic response and why it struck last Thursday morning. It was the speech, stupid.