BY FRANK J. RANELLIPart II of my contrarians view as to why and how Sarah Palin was able to delivery for the McCain camp and reinvigorated the base once again.
In a recent article, “Why Palin Will Win the VP Debate
”, I made the case that she would win, not on acumen, but on style. I argued that “glib stagecraft” and clever ploys of derision would win out the night. I was harangued for suggesting that the appearance of ineptitude, during recent interviews with the conventional press, was deceiving and hid a crafty doggedness for debating people she opposed. I surmised her entire persona is one of calculated disarmament that veiled a skillful debater. It appears, at least in part, I may have been right.
I wish I could take comfort in the fact that I may have been prescient in my prediction about how she would debate, but I am only more and deeply concerned. Truly, I wish I had been wrong, but I have studied authoritarian people, like Sarah Palin, for more than two years now and it takes very little effort to identify one after even a cursory glance, let alone a comprehensive analysis, once you know what to look for and how to diagnose the glaring signs.
To be clear, Joe Biden did everything right, virtually mistake free, in order to stay about the ground fire salvos Palin was carefully dispatching to pillory him. Biden offered strong, cogent answers and showed a sparkling command of superiority on the issues. It was not a foreboding performance by Palin that mortally wound Obama, but it did stop the McCain hemorrhaging. Nevertheless, Biden still took on a lot of shrapnel from the beguiling ideologue, and darling of the right, Governor Sarah Palin.
In fact, Palin did exactly what she has been trained to do – deliver an uncritical, contemptuous attack of belligerent mockery. Authoritarian people do not think; they act. And they act on instinct and emotion alone. They are always loose with facts but stridently persuasive. They are charming, disarming, almost irresistible, yet completely ethically bankrupt and amoral. She did not understand a single obfuscating, sometimes-mangled answer she gave during the debate, but it did not matter. The base of the party, Joe Six-Pack, loved it.
The problem here is they (authoritarians) are masters at using base intellect, not
intelligence, to appeal to people’s pathos. (Many barbaric dictators through out history have used this same tactic with stunning and ghastly success.) In essence, they are scheming, devious and capable of anything in order to subvert the will of other people in order to achieve their own objectives.
Scientific studies have conclusively proven that hardliner conservatives suffer a “cognitive dissonance”; they grapple with nuance, struggle with vagaries, and reject abstract thinking. They are visceral, not cerebral. They are ill-suited for and not capable of collegial deliberation. Further, most are highly intolerant people when someone does not share their narrow paradigm window view of the world.
Last night’s put-on was a recital for Palin – it was not a debate. It was absent any lucidity, clearly forced, though a highly successful presentation of chides, condescension and hollow talking points. Palin was even rude and impertinent toward the moderator and Joe Biden, but this is standard operating procedure for an authoritarian person. Assuredly, it was much to the sheer jubilation of the conservative, irascible base.
Have you ever watched Bill O’Reilly shout down a guest, ridicule him or her, or use a sneering outrage of indignation to intimidate the person being ostensibly interviewed? Last night you saw a subdued version of Bill O’Reilly in a skirt with lipstick. The visage changes, but the persona and intrinsic need to dominate by fear is omnipresent. Someone must always be blamed (liberals, gays, intellectuals, minorities, etc.) and they (authoritarians) are never at fault – compromise, tolerance, and humility are not an option.
The purpose is to play always to basal fears, ignorance, and prejudices; it is never to sensibly discuss or achieve anything other than to eliminate a perceived threat (liberals, gays, intellectuals, minorities, etc.) – it is Orwellian in every way and driven by pure appeals to the audience's emotions.
Palin’s folksy, down home hokum and charm is a veneer than acts as subterfuge to hide a venal, vindictive, and brutal outlook towards anyone who disagrees with her recalcitrant and reactionary –certainly radical and fringe – ideology. She lives in a binary world – one of good and evil only. You can easily speculate on your own as to which side anyone that is antithetical to her belief system (liberals, gays, intellectuals, minorities, etc.) falls in this clash of Manichean thinking.
One critical point and it’s worth noting. Sarah Palin is a “compartmental thinker.” She cannot see her duplicitous judgments and incompatible positions, her intense hypocrisy and nonsensical answers, nor can she be facilitated to understand her flawed, uncritical, fealty allegiance. Loyalty to people in positions of power she admires is unchallenged, even when they are as egregious and heinous as those committed by someone the likes of George Bush.
Hence, Sarah Palin makes resolute statements (such as expanding the powers of the vice president beyond its constitutional bounds) that have no relationship to reality, laws, or facts. These types of detached proclamations are to reinforce her distorted belief of the world through a prism of unquestioned and dangerous beliefs. She is an actor acting on behalf of what she deems is a higher echelon from a higher authority. This is not an accident; it is a dare to defy her and a maneuver that covers up a deep, beseeching cry for legitimacy from a person desperately foundering in a sea of irrelevance and mediocrity. The more you press her, the more deluded she will become and act out, sometimes viciously, if necessary.
As Dr. Robert Altermyer suggested (the world’s leading expert on authoritarians), when asked how to deal with an authoritarian person, his reply was stark, “You don’t, and you can’t.” You can only mitigate their influence in society by ensuring they do not obtain positions of power or influence. No amount of rational though can persuade them, as they are quite literally, wholly irrational and mentally unbalanced.
Thomas Paine once said, "It is the duty of every patriot to protect his country from its government." After tonight, it is clear that every patriot's duty is to prevent Sarah Palin from becoming the next Vice President of the United States.