Trump and the Palinist Impulse

For those just joining us, here’s what we mean by Palinism (boldface mine):

While people have described Palin as engaging in identity politics, that sells identity politics short. Palin along with the proto-movement surrounding her–Palinism–practices what could be call ‘politics of the blood.’ It’s derived from Giovanni Gentile’s description of fascism: “We think with our blood.”… In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional appeal to a romanticized, mythical past of “real America.” And that’s why I think the fixation people have on Palin’s complete policy incoherence and ignorance is missing the point.

Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans (think about the phrase “red blooded American”) and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers (obviously, if you’re not a ‘real’ American, you might view this as a bad thing…). Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?

In this way, symbols and short phrases are the goal, not a means (although others, such as corporations and lobbyists, are willing to co-opt the emotions these symbols generate to further their own agendas).

Finally, people more respectable than the Mad Biologist are catching on to this. Not only did Newsweek publish a piece which called the hair piece-hominid symbiosis known as ‘Donald Trump’ a fascist*, but Josh Marshall notes (boldface mine):

Is Trump a joke? Of course, he is. But if we judge politicians by any other standard than their ability to garner votes and polling support, we’ll soon run out of candidates. If clowns are above your dignity to report on, find another line of work. Especially with this primary field. Trump isn’t a distraction or mere entertainment any more than the rest of the GOP field is. In fact, this version of his candidacy (I can imagine him running more as a Perot-type centrist figure in earlier cycles) is the logical end result of the Tea Party-ization of the GOP since 2009. Trump is running an angry, populist campaign focused on xenophobia and “I don’t care what you think” aggression against ‘the establishment’ and ‘elites’ of all stripes. To think that trash talk against an establishment favorite, who is only marginally relevant to the politics of the moment in any case, will upset that apple cart is to thoroughly misunderstand the politics of the moment. Trump is the Frankenstein’s Hair Monster, finally walking among us, who is the inevitable product of a decades long embrace of clown-show anti-establishmentism and the stoking of xenophobic and racial paranoia.

Where I disagree with Marshall is that this isn’t just trash talk. Or more accurately, the trash talk is the whole point. Solving actual problems (forcing Mexico to pay for policing the border?!?) isn’t even in the picture.

All those Palinists had to go somewhere. And they were just as incoherent in 2008 as they are now.

*I kid. I truly believe that ‘Donald Trump’ will suddenly rip off his rubber mask and reveal himself to be either Shia LeBeouf or James Franco.

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