Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 5, 2009


Juan Cole, Hisory News Network - Is Sarah Palin America's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The two differ in many key respects, of course, but it is remarkable how similar they are. There are uncanny parallels in their biographies, their domestic politics and the way they present themselves -- even in their rocky relationships with party elders.

Both are former governors of a northwest frontier state with great natural beauty (in Ahmadinejad's case, Ardabil). Both are known for saying things that produce a classic Scooby-Doo double take in their audiences. Both appeal to a sort of wounded nationalism, speaking of the sacrifice of dedicated troops for an often feckless public, and identifying themselves with the common soldier. They are vigilant against foreign designs on their countries and insist on energy and other independence.

But above all, both are populists who claim to represent the little people against wily and unscrupulous elites, and against pampered upper-middle-class yuppies pretending to be the voice of democracy. Together, they tell us something about dangerous competing populisms in an age of globalization. . .

Right-wing populism, rooted in the religion, culture and aspirations of the lower middle class, is often caricatured as insane by its critics. That judgment is unfair. But it is true that such movements often encourage a political style of exhibitionism, disregard for the facts as understood by the mainstream media, and exaltation of the values of people who feel themselves marginalized by the political system. Not all forms of protest, however, are healthy, even if the protesters have legitimate grievances. Right-wing populism is centered on a theory of media conspiracy, a "my country right or wrong" chauvinism, a fascination with an armed citizenry, an intolerance of dissent and a willingness to declare political opponents mere terrorists. It is cavalier in its disregard of elementary facts and arrogant about the self-evident rightness of its religious and political doctrines. It therefore holds dangers both for the country in which it grows up and for the international community. Palin is polling well at the moment against other Republican front-runners such as Mitt Romney, and so, astonishingly, is a plausible future president. At least Iranians only got Ahmadinejad because of rigged elections, and they had the decency to mount massive protests against the result.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right-wing populism: rooted in religion, centered on media conspiracy, its “my country, right or wrong” chauvinism, its fascination with an armed citizenry, its intolerance of dissent and its declaration of political opponents as terrorists... is Fascism.

Don't they teach European History in schools anymore? Or is it called Intelligent Whatchamacallit?

August 6, 2009 12:19 PM  
Anonymous wellbasically said...

This is unfair to Palin and her supporters. I am not one, but I see where she is coming from. Compared to the rest of the Republican field and its faux-populism, she has a much better handle on what is wrong.

August 6, 2009 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

In that one short screed, Juan Cole reveals himself to be just as much a tool of the status quo as Palin herself is.

"disregard for the facts as understood by the mainstream media"??? Hathor have mercy!

August 7, 2009 3:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home