Palinism And Primus Inter Pares

Many moons ago, I described what I called ‘Palinism’, which was essentially a reaction by white Christians to losing their primus inter pares status:

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)….

But that romanticism is at the heart of Palinism. It’s not a forward-looking utopianism, but a desire to return to a mythical, halcyon America that was Christian, low-tax, small government, and had less racial and ethnic discord (the latter is the most absurd, but, if you were white, there weren’t racial problems: you were white–no problems!). This vision has not existed for decades, if at all, but it is a predictable reaction to the loss of primus inter pares status of Christian whites; they are no longer the default setting.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, there has been a lot of emphasis on the white part, but we can’t ignore the Christian part either, as Paul Waldman notes (boldface mine):

President Trump has a message for conservative Christians: It’s all about you. On Thursday, he’ll sign an executive order that professes to strengthen “religious liberty,” but isn’t about the liberty of Jews or Muslims or Hindus or mainline Protestants. It’s about offering some special privileges to right-wing Christians who want to restrict women’s reproductive lives and turn their churches into semi-official arms of the Republican Party.

That may sound like a crazy exaggeration, but it isn’t. And it helps explain the unlikely degree of loyalty Trump got from religious right voters in the 2016 election…

It’s because Trump was forthright about establishing lines of division and saying that he was going to be a president only for certain people. It was always about Us and Them with Trump, who assured conservative Christians that they were part of Us. Part of that was a pledge to advance a special set of rights for conservative Christians in particular

The message from Trump to conservative Christians is clear: This administration will privilege your particular beliefs above others. This isn’t a nation where all are treated equally, it’s a nation where you’re on top.

While Il Trumpe is awful, this crap definitely did not start with him.

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