The idea of placing blame on an individual for the bad actions of an entire movement is beyond shortsighted or misplaced; it is just absurd. It also gives the impression that one individual wields god-like power and control over masses of people, as well as excuses the actions of seriously bad actors that are beyond the control of the alleged ‘blameworthy’ person. For the past going on seven years it is likely that at least one American has noticed the Republican Party’s so-called dysfunction, and one in particular has concluded that Sarah Palin caused the GOP to go “off the rails.”
Now, it is true that Palin certainly embraces nearly all of the Republican crazy and dysfunction, but she did not create it. It is curious why a former White House Chief of Staff (COS) blames the GOP’s “alleged” dysfunction on Palin’s entrance into national politics. According to President Obama’s COS from 2011-2012, William M. Daly, the GOP’s “insanity” began when Senator John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2008. It is noteworthy that Daly felt obliged to say that his point was not to heap scorn on these various imbecile characters representing the GOP, it was to “attack the recklessness of putting a moron like Palin that close to the presidency.”
Daly wrote in the Washington Post that, “When The Post’s front page declares: ‘Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party,’ it’s time to ask: How did this come to pass? How did we get to the side-to-side clown shows of the GOP presidential contest, and the total breakdown of a functioning party in Congress?”
According to Daly, it all began when the Party put Sarah Palin “a heartbeat away from the presidency despite her utter lack of competency.” To his credit, it does appear that he noted that the GOP as a party, and more importantly its base of support, wholly embraced incompetence, inexperience, and mean-spiritedness as a virtue that defines a “real American;” and a “real Republican.”
Daly errantly claims that all of the GOP’s ills, including the current crop of idiotic presidential candidates, flows from Palin’s national exposure and the dumbing-down of the party. He is ignoring the fact that the party never needed “dumbing down” because they exist because of it. Daley wrote that,
“Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. After the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.
Now that tiger is devouring the GOP establishment. Party elders are watching helplessly as Trump leads the pack and House Republicans engage in fratricide. The Republican establishment’s 2008 embrace of Palin set an irresponsibly low bar. Coincidence or not, a batch of nonsense-spewing, hard-right candidates quickly followed, often to disastrous effect.”
About the only part of Daly’s statement that makes any sense is that the extremists in the party, the self-named “teabaggers,” have been disastrous for America; but not for the Republican Party in particular and the conservative movement in general. Anyone that believes otherwise has to consider how much of America the “dysfunctional” and “ceasing to function” Republican Party really controls. Republicans control both houses of Congress, 31 governorships, control both houses of 24 state legislatures (Democrats control 7) they hold 55 percent of all state senate and house seats, and they hold substantially more offices than Democrats among lieutenant governors, state attorney generals, secretaries of state, state treasurers, state auditors, agriculture commissioners, and public service commissioners. Dysfunctional? Possibly. On the verge of ceasing to function? Quite the contrary.
It is true that the GOP began its blatant uber-right wing extremist lurch after the 2008 general election, but like any movement it was a concerted effort and nothing whatsoever to do with Sarah Palin. For one thing, Palin as vice-presidential candidate was not involved in, or invited to, the secret Inauguration night meeting of leading Republicans plotting to obstruct any and every attempt by then-incoming President Barack Obama to rescue the economy; or anything else for that matter.
Palin’s candidacy also had nothing to do with secret Koch brother meetings to funnel money and organizational activists into the so-called Tea Party movement to oppose and protest any and every last thing remotely connected to President Barack Obama. In fact, while angry white people with guns and bibles were screaming for tax cuts because they were “taxed enough already,” they were receiving a substantial tax cut courtesy of President Barack Obama’s stimulus; the one Republicans and Tea Party extremists opposed vehemently. Palin may have embraced the Tea Party like many Republicans, but the Koch brothers created it and continue sustaining its candidates and many members serving in Congress.
Although Palin is associated with the religious right fanatics embracing a truly bastardized version of neo-American Christianity, McCain choosing her as running mate did not inspire the rise of evangelical crazy among Republicans. It was there long before the nation heard of Sarah Palin and fundamentalists simply shifted their tried-and-true virulent propaganda focus on Barack Obama. They warned, and are still warning, that Obama was going to come after Christians and their bibles; even though one of his first and most ridiculous, acts was continuing Bush’s free taxpayer money to churches with “faith-based initiatives.”
It is also true that because the President supported a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive healthcare, the onward Christian soldiers grabbed their bibles, came out of the woodwork, ran for and were elected to office as Republicans in the House, Senate, governor’s mansions, and state legislatures. The extremist evangelicals in the Republican movement are as responsible for the party’s so-called “dysfunction” as any other group and they can take serious credit for electing Republicans.
Everything going on in the Republican movement today, the extremism, the phony religiosity, the racism, the anti-everything-but-war mindset, and the sheer contempt for other Americans existed long-before Sarah Palin came on the scene. The catalyst for the rapid lunge to extremism in the conservative movement was that Americans elected an African American man as President, and “dysfunctional” Republicans were savvy enough to tap into that latent racism. After that simple task, it was an easy lift to connect all the conservative’s favorite things to hate to Barack Obama, rile up the base and welcome more extremist Republicans in Congress.
The danger of citing one person as the reason for any movement is that all of the underlying reasons are easily ignored, or in Americans’ cases, likely forgotten. What Mr. Daly was remiss to mention is the apathy among Democrats who bear a part of the responsibility for the rise of the incompetence, inexperience, and mean-spiritedness as a virtue that holds majorities in both houses of Congress. Of course Democrats do not embrace those Republican qualities, but because they sat home and allowed the Palin-types in America elect Republicans relatively uncontested, they bear some blame. There is plenty of blame to go around for the dysfunction in American politics, and of course one would like to blame it all on Palin, but no incompetent quitter and inexperienced dolt could even imagine creating today’s Republican Party; it has been a thirty year effort.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.