At some point, covering Sarah Palin becomes a disease…

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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78 Responses

  1. TrexPushups says:

    1) You went to better college parties than I did.
    2) Your right.
    3) None of the people that need to read this will.
    4) Where is part three of your series that will warn us liberals off the path conservatives took. I really want to read it. I look for it daily.Report

  2. greginak says:

    They may be a clan but at least they aren’t Thugs.Report

  3. James Hanley says:

    Kitz not Klean? Say it isn’t so!Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    I have two aunts, they couldn’t be more opposite as one went to a prestigious college and has very upper crust sensibilities and one didn’t go to college and works as a dispatcher. We had Thanksgiving with the latter aunt. She has six kids, most of whom were there. They talked with great fondness of a collective fight they had on a cruise ship. It was… interesting.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    This is the first I am hearing about the Palin Family Brawl.

    I think the reason people post about her is a bunch of things:

    1. She can still attract huge crowds and love from the “True Americans” and “Real America” crowd.

    2. We are in an age of increasing political polarization and this shows no sign of decreasing anytime soon. It is probably going to increase dramatically over the next few years.

    3. We are in the all troll, all the time stage of political dialogue. Everyone is looking to play gotcha.

    4. Sarah Palin sets herself up for being a perfect example of schadenfreude for liberals especially so-called coastal elites who are not “real Americans”. For all her proclamations of small-town virtue, her family is a rather big mess. Blue states are the ones with lower teenage pregnancy rates, lower out of wedlock marriages, fewer divorces, etc. I think many blue-staters are tired and pissed about being described as wicked and decadent and are just starting to push back.Report

  6. Clem Fandango says:

    I’m still constantly seeing reports on credible, widely read news sites going into great detail about what Sarah Palin says about Obama, saying he is weak, a liar, a fool, lawless, his presidency is a “regime”, he’s encouraging our enemies when, in fact, Palin is the one encouraging our enemies by endlessly denigrating and emasculating Obama (he’s “impotent”, “has no cajones”, “leads from behind”, “shucks and jives”).

    The things she says about Obama on her widely read Facebook page make him look like useless, easy pickings to the rest of the world. Her Facebook page has millions of followers and she still commands a large, fairly unhinged cult of blind worshipers who put Sarah Palin first and their guns and 2nd amendment rights second. She’s now preparing for after he leaves office by saying, Obama isn’t as big a threat to the country as the people who voted for him are…”don’t retreat, reload!”

    She’s also running the country around endorsing horrible, nasty, incompetent Tea Party candidates in all types of elections.

    The fact that she takes her entire drunken family, including underage daughter Willow, to a party where they physically assault people shows that she has horrible judgement and can’t control her own family…yet there she is the very next day, playing armchair general, telling Obama how he should handle ISIS and Syria.

    By the way, did you take both your parents, sisters, brothers, nephews, etc to those youthful parties you went to and, as a family, start assaulting everyone there? Did your mother tell her 4 million Facebook followers the next day that she knows how to run the country better than our idiot President? Was her Facebook post reported on Huffington Post and ABC News? If not, your comparison with your own “college parties” is beyond ridiculous.Report

    • LWA in reply to Clem Fandango says:

      Sarah Palin is what the conservative movement wanted, many even to this very day.

      And they deserve to get it, good and hard.

      Or they could refudiate her.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        She’s what everybody wanted. Conservatives wanted a hero. Democrats wanted a villain. Palin wanted to be a star.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LWA says:

        If they don’t use this as a tagline for the inevitable biopic, I will run riot.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to LWA says:

        She’s what everybody wanted. Conservatives wanted a hero. Democrats wanted a villain. Palin wanted to be a star.
        To be honest, of the three of those — only one actually got to make the choice.

        The others just benefited from someone else’s decision. (I honestly still can’t figure out what drove McCain to pick her).Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        I’m not even sure which of the three you’re referring to. If it’s Palin, I read the situation exactly backwards. The conservatives* made the first move, but it couldn’t have happened without everybody’s participation and wouldn’t continue to happen without everybody’s continuing participation.

        * – Not McCain.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to LWA says:

        Conservatives, Democrats and Palin where the three — and ultimately the choice was in the hands of conservatives — well, very specifically McCain’s hands.

        His choice. Not hers, not Democrats certainly (I mean, they were undoubtedly thrilled).

        It wasn’t like McCain was Romney — who was basically the dance partner the conservatives chose after everyone else flamed out. There were dozens of potential running mates that would have shored up his base. Why her? Maybe it’s all spelled out somewhere and I just never read it, but she was such an odd choice — didn’t appear to be vetted at all, it’s like they saw a headshot and a blurb and hired right away after a softball interview. (Which I’ve seen done in business before, and it flames out often),.

        It just seemed like it was handled by amateurs. The sort of hiring choice (as it were) you’d see from volunteers, not professionals. It’s one thing for the base to fall in love (it happens, especially when a candidate is fresh and new — it takes time for the full picture to unfold) but this was an actual decision by McCain. The first real, solid decision of what might have been his Presidency. His first call, you know?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        Ahhh. We’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about how Palin became the VP nominee. I’m talking about how Palin became Palin. All that occurred after.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        As for how Palin became the VP pick, I thought Game Change had a pretty reasonable explanation. McCain couldn’t have who he wanted, but had been so set on going big for so long, he couldn’t settle for going small (Pawlenty).Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to LWA says:

        I don’t see how Palin becoming the VP candidate wasn’t her choice. If she felt she was unqualified or unprepared for the position, she certainly had the ability to decline McCain’s offer.

        The choice was made by 1) Republicans (specifically, the McCain campaign) and 2) Palin.
        Democrats just lucked out.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        Like I said above… it’s not about how Palin became the VP pick. It’s about how Palin became something more than a VP pick.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to LWA says:

        Certainly, she made the choice to accept. But in terms of the real choice — she can want to be VP with all her heart, but she can’t make the choice, because VP is a position you’re offered by the Presidential candidate.

        She can say “no”, but she can’t make the actual offer.

        It’s like wanting to borrow a million bucks. I can choose to borrow it all I want, but until someone actually offers it to me — it’s not a real choice. 🙂Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        @morat20 You’re still not talking about what I’m talking about. You’re talking about how she became the VP nominee. I’m talking about how she became what she is. Being tapped for VP was necessary for that, but the important part came after the selection.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        Or, put another way, we’re not still talking about her because she was the VP nominee. We’re talking about her because after her selection, she became a star (in a way that Tim Pawlenty wouldn’t have).Report

  7. dhex says:

    it’s a win-win for content producers. people hate her a lot. people love her a lot. both are quite passionate.

    passion leads to clicks. clicks leads to revenue. revenue leads to success.

    fwiw, i think clan may be code for “too many kids” + “hillbilly family”. a family planning/social class double header.Report

    • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      fwiw, i think clan may be code for “too many kids” + “hillbilly family”. a family planning/social class double header.

      Well, that and the association with the one that starts with ‘k’, which is the probably-primary common usage of the word, in modern American vernacular.Report

      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        kkk? really? i dunno if i’d go as far to call it the primary usage. maybe?

        maybe it’s a way for liberals to say she brings the motherfkin’ ruckus?Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Protect Ya Neck, the Palins are coming to the party?

        What other large families does the media regularly refer to as ‘clans’? It just doesn’t seem like all that common a usage to me outside of anthropological discussions (unless we are discussing the Wu).

        They’re already ‘snowbillies’ to many, I don’t think the ‘white’ association is all that subliminal.

        Intentional? Maybe not.

        Happy accident/word just “felt right” when they chose it?


      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        in this context, thun!

        hypothesis: for many american liberals of a certain kind (overeducated lattes) having a retarded child would be a fate worse than death, so i guess it’s like punishment from their version of god? (latte god) a clan is primitive, scary, dangerous. the sort of group that would sew someone’s asshole close and keep feeding ya and feeding ya and feeding ya…Report

      • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        I think the Kardashian’s are referred to as a clan as well as the Duck Dyn familial grouping.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Huh. The Kardashians blow up the half-assed theory I was coming up with, which was that ‘clan’ gets applied to conservative large families (I’d already looked up the Duggars) and not liberal ones.

        Though the Kardashians have the actual alliteration thing going on.Report

      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        it’s a class marker rather than a political one. hella gauche, yo!

        also you can just say “man, you’re amazing” whenever you feel like it. it’s cool. i’ll wait.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        [swipes @dhex ‘s wallet while he waits]Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

        As greg says, clan is used elsewhere. It does, though, have something of a cultural component in a codey sort of way. But it’s also something that many in the “target group” have embraced.Report

      • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        I would guess the Kennedy’s have been referred to as a clan. Of course to some degree that could be accurate given the Irish clan thing. Also i’d guess the Baldwin’s are a “clan”. They have loud mouth maroons on both sides so i don’t think that proves much.

        I think “clan” does have a vague sort of code but i’m not really sure how easy it would be to pin it down.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        “A pint of Kennedys”Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        Frankly, that’s NICE. The bushes have been referred to as the Bush Crime Family (with Barbara as the Don). I think that nickname’s from them, though, and not the media.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to dhex says:

      Frankly, it’s insulting to the hillbillies I know, including the Beverly Hillbillies, to refer to Palin as a hillbilly.

      Honestly, the term “hillbilly” is basically a class slur, and I kind of wince when I see it used.

      Mind you, I’m not stopping you from insulting the Palin family. Go for it. They earned it. I’d just prefer you used another word.

      Though, to be sure, I think Tod Kelly is right. I’ll be happier if I just ignore the Palins.Report

  8. j r says:

    Julian Sanchez covered a bit of this in his Voldemort Effect theory (I am too lazy to Google the link, but it should be pretty easy to find if you’re not familiar with it). Palin’s ability to get coverage in the progressive media is a result of her prominent role in the conservative movement and her prominence in the conservative movement is sustained by her ability to get coverage in the progressive media.

    As @saul-degraw alludes to above, it is part of one big trollish feedback loop.

    I’ve long said this: the progressive media constitutes one wall (at least) of the conservative echo chamber.Report

  9. John Howard Griffin says:

    This isn’t news.

    Mr. Kelly, while I agree with your point, I cannot help but think that this is done for money – the invisible hand, giving people what they want, clickbait, fluff, something for people to rage/laugh/cry about.

    In my mind, it isn’t much different than hundreds/thousands of other worthless contrivances pedaled by our free press. Humans do ridiculous things for money – and, in some cases, we are required to.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    I consider them more of “lumpenproletariat” than “clan”, myself.Report

  11. clawback says:

    If Sarah Palin is nothing more than a vapid, white-trash, B-list celebrity who degrades herself and her family in order to be on television …

    No one is saying she is nothing more than that. She is all that, plus a hero to a large part of the American electorate.Report

  12. Stillwater says:

    I get that overly clever people will note I’m opening the very can of worms that I argue should be closed. So be it.

    How do you know that everyone else who you think is obsessed with this topic isn’t sharing your own same meta-obsession about how everyone else is so obsessed with this topic…


    • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      Been thinking about this a bit more, but there are two things about meta analysis of this type that irritate me. The first is that the criticism isn’t speaking to anyone, it’s talking about other people. The second is that once you get to meta land, you’ve lost anything like a reliable truth predicate, so all the bitching and moaning only makes sense given the adoption of an initial ideological framework, one which – by definition! – the target audience doesn’t share, but also one which needs lots of argument to justify as better. Or more correct. Or “the right way” to think about things.

      Shorter: critical meta-analysis of pop-culture along these lines just amounts to bitching about how other people are doin it rong. And since the target audience excludes all those people, it strikes me as incredibly counterproductive.

      I’m thinking that this may be one of the last comments I make here, and I’d hate for it to be misunderstood. So I might take responses. But this place was a lot more fun and interesting when it was “libertarian” and we actually engaged with serious issues. Or engaged with issues seriously? At least it was stuff that we felt emotionally and intellectually personally, rather than being one step removed and just about what other people think about it all. And really, who really gives a rats ass what other people think about stuff? It’s not like we can change that without changing our own minds about it, eh?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

        Don’t really know what to say about this, Still. We do have those Liberals v. Libertarians conversations here; we have them a lot. We just don’t have them exclusively. And FTR, that’s not out of some grand design. Contributors here are encouraged to write about whatever they want. And if what they want to write about isn’t what you’re into, well, that’s cool. It’s a big internet.

        You might also try to just stop reading my stuff since I have the feeling that, for what ever reason, it’s me here that you really have a problem with. So you might just drop by and read the stuff that doesn’t have my name attached to it if you want. Or not, of course.

        Past that, I don’t know what to say. This is something you and I disagree about. What the news media and political parties are morphing into is something I do give a rat’s ass about. To me, it’s actually more ‘serious’ than, I dunno, whether Hanley or Saul scores more points against one another in the threads debating libertarianism. I don’t really see the need to lay out the case for why I feel that way, anymore than I want you to defend why you think the other is more important.

        But like I say, we have both things at this site. Choose to only read the stuff you’re looking for, or don’t.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

        Of course the issue is that Hanley and I don’t really try to score points against each other. At least not cognitively and we get along pretty well and are friends.

        Yet I somehow remind Still of everything that is wrong with liberalism in the world of Hanley and Roger.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        What the news media and political parties are morphing into is something I do give a rat’s ass about. To me, it’s actually more ‘serious’ than, I dunno, whether Hanley or Saul scores more points against one another in the threads debating libertarianism.

        Well, to change how the media operates you have to change the corporate model (for profit!). There’s a body of literature about how the media functions, what incentives it responds to, how the internal culture is shaped, etc. Criticizing people for lapping up Palin news isn’t gonna change any of that.

        Furthermore, I think you misunderstand the point of news and even what’s newsworthy. Fact is, lots and lots of people (you included!) found the Palin brawl fascinating. Fascinating enough read about it and – in your case – report on it. Granted, you’re making a meta point (similar to those fundamentalists who felt compelled to sift thru thousands of images of pornography to educate themselves that porn is badbadbad) and one that doesn’t address any (as far as I can see) of the structural issues sufficient for promoting real change.

        Second, as far as your concern about politics goes, there’s a body of literature about how politics functions, what incentives it responds to, how the internal culture is shaped, etc. Criticizing people for lapping up Palin-politics isn’t gonna change any of that.

        I just don’t see the point in the exercise myself. If you have a view about politics, then say it. If you have a view of Palin, then say it. But all this criticizing *other people* for doing the things that *other people* do just seems like a covert Broderesque way of bitching about how the stoopids are fucking things up for you.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Oh, and one more thing I forgot to include: Hanley talking about libertarianism isn’t all that interesting. Hanley making arguments about the best way to achieve outcome X, or to prevent outcome Y, are. His doing that, in a conversation with individuals and not nameless faceless “some folks” is, as far as I can tell, exactly how institutional progress is motivated and achieved. So I disagree with you about 100% on that score.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Shorter Saul: Hanley and I get along swell, so there’s no way he thinks I’m part of the problem.

        Well, I dunno Saul. For a person trained in fine-grained analysis of language you sure seem to miss the point a lot.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        it’s actually more ‘serious’ than, I dunno, whether Hanley or Saul scores more points against one another in the threads

        Are you kidding me? After our bar fight in San Francisco I had 16 stiches and Saul only had 8, so I’m still playing catch up.

        Hanley and I … get along pretty well and are friends.

        Other than the occasional bar fight, yeah.

        Hanley talking about libertarianism isn’t all that interesting.

        Hey, I think it’s the best thing on the internet!Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

        Like I say: Dunno what to say. You don’t like horror, don’t read Stephen King. Don’t like sci-fi, don’t read Asimov. Don’t like reading my stuff? Not really forcing you to.

        Seriously Stillwater, I have no idea why it is that you dislike me so vehemently, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. Lotta good stuff for you to read here without reading a single word I write, so I truly do hope you stick around and continue chatting with the others. But this comment will be that last of our dialogue on my part. Life and things too short and all that.

        Be well.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Yeah, dude. I agree. I think I’m done here. For all you’re criticisms of the media and politics, you’re just repeating the exact same formula hoping that things will turn out differently this time.

        Isn’t that one of the colloquial definitions of “insanity”?

        Good on ya. I’ll miss dex, tho. Gotta, I’ll miss dex.

        And Kolohe, too.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:


        I just want to say that A) I’ve noticed a change in the tone and tenor of your comments recently and I’m sorry to say that you’re feeling as frustrated with the site as you clearly are and B) I hope you do decide to stick around. You’re a valued commenter here — at least as far as I see it — and I benefit from your perspective. Of course, should you choose otherwise, I’ll respect your choice, wish you well, and hope to bump into you down the road.Report

  13. I haven’t read the comments yet (but I will) but I have a question. This is the second post of yours, Tod, that I’ve read in which there’s a footnote, but the link to the footnote actually goes to a footnote on your “aren’t all muslims alike” post. Is that intentional?

    (I know this sounds nitpicky. It is! I just wonder if it’s a meta thing or a typo/inefficacious link thing.)Report

  14. Fred says:

    Palin is proof that the GOP is incompetent to run government. The Republican Party enthusiastically ran an idiot for second seat in the most powerful office in the world. That is why Sarah Palin’s lunatic antics are news.
    America should never be allowed to forget that the inheritors of the Party of Lincoln are so incompetent that they will (and have) run the USA and the world into a ditch. Is it because they are stupid? Is it because they are deluded? Is it because they are evil? Is it some combination of all the above? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just know that it is imperative they be kept as far away from the levers of power as possible.
    Sarah Palin is the GOP’s monster and that makes her news.Report

    • Kim in reply to Fred says:

      She didn’t get the nickname Barracuda for no reason, kiddo.
      She’s smarter than she looks, and smarter than she acts.
      No Nixon, no genius, but certainly not an idiot (That’s below 25 IQ, as I recall).Report

      • ktward in reply to Kim says:

        [Palin] didn’t get the nickname Barracuda for no reason

        As I understand it, Palin got the name “barracuda” from her days of extreme competitiveness on the basketball court way back when she was in high school and, I dunno, maybe one of her colleges. Point being, she didn’t earn her moniker by way of, oh, let’s say the debate team.

        Meanwhile, post-08 and sans a crack PR team compliments of the GOP, Palin has had plenty of time to let the world know just how smart she is when she’s calling her own shots. Not so smart, I think most agree.

        So when you opine, @kim, that Palin’s smarter than she looks and acts, well … I’m of the mind that if she talks like a duck and walks like a duck, then, well, you know.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

        Palin’s IQ is likely about average, maybe marginally above. The problem is that she is in an atmosphere where average is way below average and where her lack of intellectual curiosity stands out.Report

    • aaron david in reply to Fred says:

      Wow, I think I caught the spittle on my monitor…Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Fred says:

      “Palin is proof that the GOP is incompetent to run government.”

      Since she hasn’t been nominated, hired, or appointed by the GOP to do anything in the past seven years, this seems an odd statement to make.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Fred says:

      Meanwhile the Democrats got wildly enthusiastic about a guy with less than four years experience at any level above state legislature, despite dozens of folks with a decade to decades of national level experience.

      I’m not sure that quite proves they’re competent to run government, either.Report

  15. Fred says:

    Well I’m glad to see everybody agrees Sarah is a bit brighter than a small appliance bulb. I’m quite sure she just says all that really dumb crap to keep the rubes off guard. And the GOP still ran her and the guy who picked her is still in the senate and on the most wanted list for the sunday tube.
    Six years ago ain’t ancient history. They haven’t gotten any better, they’ve gotten worse. And all the ‘both sides are just as bad’ crap doesn’t fly.
    The GWBush administration had all the leavers of power and got everything the GOP has been calling for since Reagan. Did anybody miss how that worked out? Can anyone name one thing that those folks did during that time that didn’t turn into a disaster? Probably one but I can’t think what it might be.
    As to Obama? He’s not my dream but the man hasn’t done such a bad job considering the mess he has to work with. I’m not sure there is much he could have done to make things work much better. Was he a fool to keep reaching out to his opposition? If he had been more hard line it probably would have blown up in his face.
    For six years the GOP (congress, states, courts) has been actively throwing monkey wrenches in the gears of government just to make sure a black man will fail. Not that they didn’t screw with the last Democratic president plenty but they weren’t trying to sink the country.
    So please forgive me if I get a bit frothy. It is past time to recognize that the loyal opposition has gone off the rails and they need to be sent to wander in the desert for a generation so they can meditate on their sins. Or maybe we should give them another chance. They surely have learned their lesson by now. Yeah, right. Never give a sucker an even break.Report