Sarah Palin and the Politics of Joy and Contempt

Guest Submission by: Rip Pauley

Much has been written on why Sarah Palin stirs such profound hatred on the Left. The list of reasons is well known to most by now (and well-enumerated here): her “outsider” authenticity, i.e., her political rise from modest and rural roots lacking in the elitist associations and sponsorships so dear and sustaining to the Left; her plain-speaking style and walk-the-talk conservatism; her reformist spurs earned in the trenches of the old boys’ battlefields; her scandalous anti-feminist feminism; and certainly not least, her pro-life convictions instantiated by the birth and embrace of her special needs son.

While these form the profile of an irresistible target for the Left, they fall short of explaining its slavering derangement – on display en masse in the aftermath of the shooting in Tucson. While it is true that the Left has been outdoing itself setting new benchmarks of calumny in recent years, Palin-hatred is unprecedented and seemingly boundless.

There is another, less commonly cited explanation for the rage – a characteristic of Palin’s more intangible and seemingly apolitical. I speak of her sense of joy.

In its various forms, from her everyday ebullience and obvious delight in people and life to her joyous paeans to American exceptionalism, this quality of joy represents something confounding, anathematizing and dire to the Left. They hate it as a matter of principle, hate and fear its particular infectious potential right now, and hate and fear her for being its unique and preternatural champion.

The Left would naturally fear and despise any conservative, and most certainly a conservative woman, who not only embodied joy but showed an instinct or inclination to incorporate it into her political presentation. (The Left views all groups within its “legion of the victimized” as grim and single-minded foot soldiers in a perpetual ground war, but feminists have always been seen as especially joyless sloggers for the “cause.” To the Leftist, joy from anybody is bad enough; but from a woman, it is galling.) So, in one sense, the exact etiology of Palin’s joy hardly matters.

In another sense, it matters greatly.

Palin’s particular brand of hearty and mobilizing joy – a mix of religiously-infused appreciation of America and celebration of its exceptionalism, and simple and rejoicing affirmations of liberty and individuality – is poison to the Left. As the Left sees it, this emotion, and the shocks of recognition and hunger for American renewal it has the potential to incite, must never be permitted to penetrate the American blood-brain barrier of “legitimacy” (over which the liberal cultural gatekeepers stand guard) — where an actual Palin candidacy and nomination would have to take it.

To understand the Left’s hatred of this joy one must fully appreciate the role and shape of contempt – the antonym of joy — in its genesis and worldview.

The Left’s creation theory is based on contempt: a vision of man as essentially unfit to rule his own life and necessarily subject to the control of his betters. Man is born subordinate to a supreme and beneficent authority of betters – the suzerains of the State — whose reach and control over all of his life should be, by rights and moral logic, unlimited – i.e., consistent with the State’s noble Utopian intentions (its secular divinity) and man’s own limitless selfishness and incapacities. Leftism’s grand contempt is informed by sanctimony and superiority, driven by plaint and grievance, and deeply invested in the people’s disaffection from their democratic charters and institutions. It is, at best, a political and social composite of joylessness.

The Left doesn’t envision a society of competent and autonomous individuals free to work, invent, create, engage in commerce and pursue happiness under the aegis of a fair and predictable system of laws within a Constitutionally-ratified limited government. It does not see men as free agents who may succeed or fail based on their own industry and devices, and pass on their legacy of freedom and responsibility and risk to the next civically vigilant generation — as our Founders intended.

The Left envisions a world not of free men but of helpless mendicants who, if they thought of liberty at all, would do so only reluctantly, as a problem or burden of which the munificent and custodial State had long since happily relieved them.

The Left’s “dirty little secret” (rather, the epic scandal at its core) is its fraudulent twin claims to moral and political superiority: empowerment and compassion. The Left has outdone the greatest scam artists in history in selling itself as a movement dedicated to the “power of the people” and whose collective heart bleeds for their best interests. In fact, Leftism is the greatest human-disempowering political and cultural force on earth. In its every mode and machination it seeks the transfusion of power from the individual to the authoritarian collective. Every Leftist policy leads to loss of liberty and dignity.

Every Leftist state has led to the suppression or strict control of freedom, of every kind. Leftism’s anthem – a secular and salvational State as the only answer to the evils of uncontrolled individuality, to the depredations of capitalism, to the sapping Philistinism of the bourgeois – never dims or changes.

The Left despises and denies the facts: capitalism, the institutionalization of “selfishness” within an ordered society of rights and laws, has tolerated, empowered, liberated, educated, enriched and materially promoted more individuals, and led to more prosperous, generous and just societies, than any form of Socialism or indeed any socio-political organization ever conceived. The Left seethes at this reality.

America enrages the Left. America – the merry, messy welter of individuality coming together around a simple compact of rights and responsibilities and limitations to authority – has stubbornly resisted the Left’s lies and seductions for more than 200 years. The contempt, and the fierce need to “transform,” is clear.

Thus during his campaign Barack Obama can reveal nothing of his true radical intentions, feign Socratic moderation and  declaim against health insurance mandates, then, once in office, impose the same onerous mandate. Thus he can offer honeyed promises of post-partisanship, then ramrod through poisonously ideological legislation based on absurd and readily falsifiable claims of economic necessity. How better to measure contempt? (The audacity and relentlessness of the contempt also reveal his supreme confidence in the flanking cover provided by his ally-in-contempt, the media.)

We have seen the entire arc of Leftist contempt in just two years – turning the people’s houses of congress into makeshift mad-scientist laboratories to animate monstrous and democratically-mutative legislation – i.e., legislation designed to weaken, confuse and frustrate the individual and enthrall him further to an insatiable and unaccountable State. But it is also there to see in history books, the same semblance of contempt and lust for control over the individual in the Left’s every governing manifestation in its history, from Jacobinism to Stalinism to Maoism to Castro-ism to Chavez-ism.

Finally, it becomes literal, as Barack Obama’s administration is cited for contempt by defying a federal ruling to end its deep water drilling moratorium, and, in turn, as it defies Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of Obamacare (while personally smearing the Judge for good measure). Both cases are potential constitutional crises born of contempt.

Just as contempt and joy cannot be reconciled, neither can competing premises of a nation formed on the bedrock idea of individuality on one hand and that of the State on the other. One gains, the other loses. Our Founding Fathers understood this zero-sum irreconcilability as a truth of political existence, and prepared our ship of state for the stormy seas of human corruptibility they knew would surely assail us; they were brutally clear-eyed.

The Left, in its perpetual angry adolescence, its misty Utopian delusions, its designs on perfection through the unchecked imperatives of its own “enlightened,” would change all that. It would overhaul the ship, plank by plank, as it is attempting now – even while we are at sea. Simultaneously, it would trash our founding timbers, citing their age and inadequacy.

Thus, we see the Left mock the reading of the Constitution before Congress. Leftist wunderkind Ezra Klein’s recent dismissive comments on the Constitution were nothing less than the birth of a new narrative: the Constitution as an abstruse and antiquated document, increasingly irrelevant to our fast-moving lives.

And the Left singles out, with unerring focus and ferocity, the rare leader who would rally us toward our Constitution’s founding truths. It fears, at this precarious stage of its power, a leader who might bind and electrify all the loose currents of anomie and outrage and longing for Constitutional revival in the American consciousness.

In Palin, the Left recognizes an obverse image of itself: someone able to frame and express her sense of American joy as effectively as the Left has found expression and formed policies to reflect its contempt. The Left recognizes an equally fierce antipodal force.

Palin’s sense of joy is deep, revolutionary and pragmatic – something she is able to unwind from her own moral mainsprings and cast into the body politic. Her words and writings mingle confident policy phrasings and arpeggios of joy and patriotism both unashamedly retro and arrestingly nouveau – unique, reassuring and somehow ideally suited to this moment in time.

Joy seems to radiate out of her, just as it informs and steadies her. Unlike the fixed, forced smiles of many politicians – hers seems fluid, curious and ready to be surprised or informed or delighted.

And she comes at the worst possible time for the Left. The Left’s great transformative project for America is in trouble. Thanks to its cocksure, fast-track crusade to socialize America, the inherent absurdities, mendacities and degradations of its theories and policies – fiscal and social – have become too clear too fast to too many people. The Left realizes it is running out of time to lock in irreversible expansions of State power. And resistance and a counter-movement have taken shape.

Palin is pure unalloyed danger to the Left, and her joy is the energy driving it; it is the effective antidote to their own deadening schemes.

The Left knows she grows more dangerous each day. The Left is caught in a vicious cycle of its own making, a self-destructive feedback loop; as their smears keep fizzling, Palin’s power and appeal fortifies, demanding yet more smears. In their fevered imaginations, a Palin freed from their cocoon of caricature floats over a national stage, overshadowing a joyless and droning Obama, and razes the entire empire of their conceits, the remains of their credibility, even the wellspring of their very existence – the power of the libelous narrative.

Palin’s message and potential compounds in proportion to the widening recognition of this failed narrative. But the Left has invested too much time and moral authority in her caricature. It hasn’t the reflective capacity or courage required to recant. It has no choice: it must throw all its money after bad money. Palin’s rise to the nomination augurs the fall of everything for the Left, a universal undoing – total catastrophe. No other person or candidate after Ronald Reagan has ever represented this threat.

The Left senses similarities to Ronald Reagan, but also important differences. Reagan, for all the talk of his namesake  “Revolution,” was very much a figure of the establishment. While he was a westerner, not of the beltway Kultur in breeding, upbringing or education, he was not a radical reformer of the system – not an actual revolutionary, nor even terribly  confrontational.

He was clear and exhilarating in his convictions, but did not threaten reform of the government itself. He focused on a handful of objectives – tax reduction, defense build-up, confronting Communism – and left the government to its own devices. He did not overhaul or eradicate bureaucracies. He did not call out or challenge corruption or crony capitalism. He did not confront corporate bad faith. The Left senses Sarah Palin will do all these things.

Under her presidency, they sense, whole agencies will be zeroed out, many others purged and the entire culture of Washington torqued back into alignment to Constitutional limits and values. While Reagan was derided and resented by the elites, he hired and surrounded himself with many of them. The Left senses here as well that Palin will not. They fear she will import a wholly different model of non-bureaucratic bureaucrat – those with a more traditionally American ethos — into Washington.

The Left senses all of this at the animal level. They extrapolate her resolve to act from her resolute joy in the face of their attacks. It is all part and parcel to them, to their hyena sensory apparatus: because she does not shrink from their attacks or stare back baffled and mute, but responds with undeterred and even annealed joy and determination, they see something wholly phenomenal – a threat to their existence.

Palin promises to break the spell of the Left’s soporific tyranny. The idea that Americans could rediscover their sense of celebration about their country, a revitalized sense of what is possible on one hand and no longer tolerable on the other, sets in motion a concatenation of national reforms chilling to the Left. What would a uniquely American joy in a position of power mean? What would it mean for Americans to newly consider and savor their possibilities, rather than see life through the circumambient colorless prism of Statism?

The Left quivers at the prospect. Its entire mission is to dull our senses to our individual possibilities. How else could we endure its contempt, or settle for its “equality”, i.e., its equality of misery.

What other candidate promises this advent of joy – and the individual energy, enterprise and authentic empowerment (all things inimical to the collectivized and bureaucratized Left) it would inspire. That is the point of America – an adventure into the frontier of individual chance and achievement. This adventure does not accept or submit to the reality of limits imposed by those vested in a misery they administrate, or to future in the bleak coal bin of socialism among a scattered candied assortment of extorted redistributions.

At this tender point in their mission of quiet conquest, the Left is acutely aware of the disastrous potential of joy, of how the election of a strong, jubilant and exhortative American leader might stop their seemingly unstoppable Statism and even reverse our nation’s slow, collective zombie-march to submission.

This is why the Left has singled out and descended on her, and why it cannot stop their frenzied hounding even as it leads to their ruin.

Rip Pauley is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. Previous submissions here and here.

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