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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Sarah Palin - America's Thatcher?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 1st February 2010

Will Sarah Palin be the next US Republican presidential candidate? And if so, what would that mean?

Next Pres?: Sarah Palin
The New Statesman recently reviewed two volumes on the former right-wing fundamentalist Republican Wasilla mayor and Alaskan Governor. Indisputably, she is a populist and her cronies are right-wing US media outlets like FoxNews (for which she is currently employed as a political pundit) and talkback radio. She's a creationist, opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights and comes from a sparsely-populated state. She depicts her native Wasilla as a bicultural, conservative pastoral Arctic idyll of 'traditional values.'

(Other, more objective commentators describe it as an endless sea of malls, Pentecostal churches and as harbouring the most crystal meth labs in the state, a sure sign of rural poverty, the 'black economy' and economic neglect. As Alaskan Governor, she also presided over truncated public works programmes.)

Palin doesn't like mainstream media and investigative journalism. She also has a tendency to blame others for her own political mishaps. She is a profoundly polarising figure and uncomfortable outside the right-wing media circuit where she currently works. She depicts herself as a 'powerless outsider' and 'hockey mum." However, when it comes to her actual public policy positions, this is far from the truth. Like many other Pentecostal fundamentalists, Palin is an advocate of the 'prosperity gospel' of unregulated capitalism, entrepreneurialism and radical welfare privatisation. There are uncanny echoes of Margaret Thatcher's maternal fiscal management populism, although whether or not this is deliberate I have no idea. Certainly, Thatcher is still lionised amongst US New Right aficionados.

Given the above, why is Palin still regarded as a promising presidential contender? Unlike other western liberal democracies, the United States has no durable Leader of the Opposition during presidential terms, so the position of Republican presidential candidate is up for grabs and her rivals are likely to be former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney from Massachuesetts. She is backed by a populist "Tea Party Nation" pseudo-movement of anti-tax libertarians, gun ownership lobbyists, private health insurers that refers to 'limited goverment' and militarism, and is opposed to a sensible public health sector and economic stimulus packages. Palin is using TPN as a populist valve against 'movement' conservatives and the Democrats alike.

If she succeeds and brings more right-wing Republicans with her, the US LGBT movement can probably bid farewell to an end to employment, accomodation, goods and service and military discrimination during the Obama administration. More seriously, given her dire Alaska track record, one shudders to think of what the United States would become under her reign.


Sarah Churchwall: "Patriot Missile" New Statesman: 18.01.10: 52-53.

Andrew Stephens: "Trouble Brewing" New Statesman: 18.01.10: 24-25.

Craig Young - 1st February 2010

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