Now that Moosewoman is all over the news these days — Max Blumenthal has an insightful piece about Why Wingnuts Love Her at TomDispatch.
The answer lies beyond the realm of polls and punditry in the political psychology of the movement that animates and, to a great degree, controls, the Republican grassroots — a uniquely evangelical subculture defined by the personal crises of its believers and their perceived persecution at the hands of cosmopolitan elites.
Last fall I wrote that “The Right has pinned on Sarah Palin its fantasies of vengeance on the Left. Thatâ€™s why they love her.” I still think that, but I also agree with what Blumenthal says about “subculture defined by the personal crises of its believers.”
He brings up Bristol Palin’s pregnancy and why her supposedly conservative followers didn’t blink about it. In a logical world, people who consider out-of-wedlock sex to be evil would be appalled at an unmarried, pregnant teenage daughter. In fact, Bristol’s pregnancy just made cultural conservatives feel more bonded to Palin.
Palin’s daughter’s drama caught vividly a culture of personal crisis that defines so many evangelical communities across the country. That culture is described in a landmark congressionally funded study of adolescent behavior, Add Health, revealing that white evangelical women like Bristol Palin lose their virginity, on average, at age 16 — earlier, that is, than any group except black Protestants. … communities with the highest population of girls who attend so-called purity balls, where they vow chastity until marriage before their fathers in a prom-like religious ceremony, also have some of the country’s highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. In Lubbock, Texas, where abstinence education has been mandated since 1995, the rate of gonorrhea is now double the national average, while teen pregnancy has spiked to the highest levels in the state.
Of course, in these same communities, the response to the crisis is to blame outside forces — media and liberals — and push harder for more of what doesn’t work — more purity balls, more “abstinence only.” Because, in a way, they aren’t really distressed about the pregnancies and STDs as much as by the imagined outside forces that they think are causing their problems. They see themselves besieged, and the pregnancies and STDs are reassuring “proof” that they are beseiged. And they wallow in that self-definition of being besieged, victimized, and ridiculed.
Palin is so well positioned as the darling of the movement that any criticism of her would be experienced by believers as a personal attack on them. In this way, their identification with her through the politics of personal crisis is complete. … The more she is attacked, the more the Republican base adores her.
She claims victim status for herself. Her narrative requires that she be a neophyte in perpetual war with the political pros. Kicked around by the vicious media (for her family!), straitjacketed by the McCain campaign, forced to wear fancy duds, Palin is the Pitiful Pearl of her tale.
Remember “true confession” magazines? It’s been years since I’ve seen one, but years ago they were hugely popular. They were full of “first-person” accounts of various personal crises. Most of these were written by freelance writers who just made stuff up, but it was a well-established genre. Palin is starting to remind of of a walking true confession saga.
For most people, Palin’s incessant whining, excuses, blaming, and palpable resentments are a huge turn-off in a national leader, but not to the culturally conservative evangelical subculture. It is the very stuff they are made of.