On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

One would have thought that no Republican would be able to drive pundits toward the edge of sanity as deftly as George W. Bush used to, but Sarah Palin has surpassed him. She is as hated by the Left as viscerally as Bill and Hillary were by the Right. She’s the latest in a string of conservative targets: Reagan, Bush, now Palin—all cast successively as rightwing bumpkins du jour.

That’s the observation of theologian Peter J. Leithard, writing for the scholarly website First Things

Some of the horror is political, or claims to be. Andrew Sullivan, one of Palin’s most relentless critics, attacks Palin in the name of conservatism. She is a radical masquerading as a conservative. She’s unscrupulous, and a racist too. If Palin runs for President in 2012, Sullivan predicts, it will be ugly: “She will play the race card powerfully, often and repeatedly. . . . She will make the Willie Horton ad look like happytalk.”

Leithart is pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho, and Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrews College. His most recent book is Athanasius from Baker Academic. He goes on to say:

Not content to attack Palin’s positions and tactics, Sullivan resorts to conspiracy theories and long-distance psychoanalysis. Trump, er, that is, Sullivan is a longtime un-birther, demanding proof that Palin is mother to her Downs Syndrome son Trig. Only in April of this year, following the publication of a lengthy Salon investigative piece, did Sullivan grudgingly concede that it might possibly be probable that Palin carried and gave birth to her own son after all. Sullivan has described Palin as “clinically deluded,” paranoid and vengeful, “psychologically unhinged.” She aims “to win power by a populist appeal, backed by a virulent Christianism” and leads a movement that aspires “to smash existing institutions and to ‘fundamentally restore’ the American status quo before the Great Society, and even, the New Deal.” Lust for destruction is “the core of today’s ‘conservative’ movement”—thus says the “conservative” defender of same-sex civil marriage.

I’m here to assure the Andrew Sullivans out there that America has nothing to fear from Palin. Even if she becomes leader of the free world, she will cause barely a ripple in the surface of American culture. It’s not just that her views are widely shared, or that she demonstrated uncommon courage, vision, and competence during her time as governor of Alaska. She’s no threat because she swims so easily in the eddies of the Zeitgeist. Rightwing she is on political hot buttons, but culturally she is as cheerily, effortlessly postmodern as they come. Palin is not a threat to the American way of life. She is the American way of life, a.d. 2011.

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