Those who may wonder why it is so difficult for me in invoke the name of Sarah Palin without using some variant of "demagogue" in the same sentence would do well to take a look at how Book TV decided to cover her book Going Rogue. In the absence of any opportunity to make a video document of Palin reading from and/or talking about the book, they settled on documenting one of her book-signing events. The one selected for broadcast took place on this past November 20 at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio. The best they could do was to interview those waiting to have their copies of the book signed; and, as one can imagine, everyone being interviewed was pro-Palin, to the point of suggesting that she ought to become President to get this country out of its current troubles.
Those of us who do not agree with this position need to study these people to appreciate the challenge that we face. These are strong opinions held with a passion that borders on rabid. The interviews that survived the editing process all were delivered with calm and sober speech, and that may be one sign of the challenge. These people are unshakable in the image they have of Palin as the source of all good and Barack Obama as the source of evil, and they sound as if they are ready to erupt with rage if evil is allowed to prevail. As in the old song about the Daily News, these are people whose minds will not be changed by facts, particularly when those facts are laid out as straightforwardly as, for example, Jonathan Raban did in his recent review of Going Rogue for The New York Review. We need to analyze this event to appreciate the extent to which the political processes that determine our electoral system are in jeopardy of being undermined by a social force once described as a putsch when a government bogged down by its own ineffective practices was displaced by a dictatorship through an equally vigorous popular uprising.
These are people who attack "socialism" but then sputter helplessly when asked what it is about socialism they do not like. One of them told the interviewer that Palin was qualified to be President because she had "convictions," "charisma," and "courage." Those three Cs made for an easy-to-memorize formula, even if the interviewer decided not to ask, "What about competence?" We cannot expect logic to prevail at gatherings like this one. If we want to set the record straight (as well we should), we need to start figuring out how to do so by rhetorical, rather than logical, strategies.