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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Every mention of the woman who quit being governor of Alaska after a brief stint as the Republican nominee for vice president made her an international star, prompts a justifiable response: UM, WHO?

There’s no doubt that if the state of American politics were not even worse than it looks, Sarah Palin would be irrelevant.

“For years, I couldn’t tell Sarah Palin and Tina Fey apart,” conservative writer Michael Potemra wrote in a joke that sums up how even many on the right feel about the Tea Party hero. “I finally discovered a surefire way to do it: One of them sounds like a viciously unfair left-wing caricature of conservatives. The other was the star of 30 Rock.”

But the government shutdown made it clear that Palinism is alive and well, if not the dominant philosophy in the Republican Party.

Republicans want to fight for “something,” even if they can’t say what it is.

Everyone but Palin’s fans knows the Fox News contributor will never run for public office again. That would require her to actually work.

Becoming a member of the U.S. Senate minority — the current favorite path of more successful Tea Party heroes, e.g. those who don’t have the last name “the Plumber” — is as close as an elected official can get to receiving a check for nothing. But even that would require constant fundraising that wouldn’t directly fill Mrs. Palin’s pockets.

The former governor has a perfect chance to help her party by running for the Senate in Alaska, in a race that could decide who controls the upper house of Congress. But if she lost, she would prove her irrelevancy in a way that continually threatening to run for president never quite will.

Instead she focuses on being a real-life Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float filled with the angst and anger that drives the Republican base.

Her new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas speaks to the “culture rot” that white evangelicals fear that’s exacerbated by the “unmitigated evil” of “big government, regulations, and dependency” that riles Tea Partiers.

There’s no doubt that the middle class is suffering from wage stagnation and a creeping lack of security, the direct result of the success of conservative policies. And the instability that feeds super-sized amounts of resentment.

“They eat better than I do,” one evangelical man told Democracy Corps in a recent focus group.

“They” are people on welfare and food stamps. Wink. Wink.

Palin’s book imagines an America where the most popular and beloved holiday is under attack by a craven, godless left that won’t be happy until nativity scenes are considered hate speech. She’s activating the meme that somehow requiring public institutions like schools and local governments to be inclusive limits Christians’ ability to get their yuletide on.

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