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Just because: Analyzing the psychology of Palin-hate

By Paul A. Ibbetson
web posted December 21, 2009

"I hate Sarah Palin, I… I just hate her!" That is not an uncommon outburst from some when it comes to feelings about one of the most polarizing figures (in "liberal" minds) in the political arena. As I write about the political happenings of the former governor of Alaska, I am continually amazed at both reader responses and callers to my radio program, Conscience of Kansas, when it comes to the level of hatred that Palin generates from some in the public. So, who are the real Palin-haters? Is there a common factor that binds people who find their blood boiling when this woman's name is mentioned? Is their argument for Palin-hate justified? I hope to create a discussion that may illuminate why some politicians just appear to be "hate-magnets."

First, we need to separate the broad strokes many often use to answer such questions. The quick and easy answer some might give on why they hate Palin is that she is a Republican – so Democrats will oppose her when it is prudent for their political survival. This is true to an extent, but can we say that people hate the opposing party with equal ferocity? To say that is true is to say that Gerald Ford garnered the same level of hate from his haters as Ronald Reagan did, or that George H.W. Bush made the hate meter go to the same level as his son George W. Bush. Yes, that's right, the differences are huge. Simply put, there is opposition, there is hate, and then there is a surreal, supercharged, bionic loathing that appears to go on forever – as if powered by the static energy of the dark energizer bunny. I call it "Palin-hate."

If we look at the 2008 presidential race we see a large disparity in the way many people treated the McCain/Palin ticket. Shortly after Sarah Palin joined the ticket, John McCain became all but forgotten by his adversaries who were drawn to Sarah Palin like hordes of angry moths to the flame. It would be accurate to say that from those that wished the McCain/Palin ticket to fail, John McCain drew at best opposition, while Sarah Palin drew pure hatred.

Many run to the argument that since Palin is a woman, the foundation for the hatred of her must be a product of male chauvinism. This is laughable, as the ironic cruelty of the matter happens to be that Palin is attacked more by feminists than by men. Cathy Young's 2008 Wall Street Journal article, Why Feminists Hate Sarah Palin, touches upon the topic of Palin's violation of feministic principles in her failure to terminate her special needs child, along with her adoration for her husband and her recognition of his importance to the family unit. So, it can be said that Sarah Palin is attacked as a woman, but neither for the reasons nor by the people one would traditionally think to be leveling such attacks. Even with the feminists out for Palin blood, they are only a small piece in a large puzzle. Further examples help to show that Palin-hate goes well beyond being only a "woman thing." 

Compare for a moment the 1984 presidential ticket of Mondale/Ferraro. Here we see another female vice presidential candidate attempting to break what is reported to be "the glass ceiling" holding women back from the highest levels of achievement. However, despite over two decades of "liberal-progressivism," Ferraro was treated with much greater respect and professionalism in 1984 than Palin would be in 2008. Ferraro's biggest scandals were based on personal tax issues and the business ties of her husband John Zaccaro. As unfortunate as it is, these problems are seen in American politics are all too commonly, and certainly should not be written off as a "woman thing." The media's feeding frenzy over how many skirts the McCain/Palin team would pay for the vice presidential candidate to wear during the campaign alone exceed the worst female-based attacks Geraldine Ferraro had to face. Even liberal Democrats Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, hate-magnets in their own right, are not hated in the same way as Palin. That is, they receive more mainstream alpha critiques of being power-hungry and overbearing. Not so for Palin.

Joel Sheppard of NewsBusters reports a more common example of Palin-hate in a documented interview with Hollywood star Martha Stewart as she spoke to HLN's "Showbiz Tonight" producer Jenny D'Attoma. Stewart asserted that Palin was "dangerous" as a person in politics, while also being "boring" and "confused." Note that the minimizing personal characteristics of being confused and boring still qualify Palin, in the eyes of Stewart, as having qualities of a "dangerous" person. Even President Barack Obama, who sits in the highest position of power in U.S. politics, receives a different level of scrutiny. Those on both sides of the fence that have extreme critiques of the President accuse him of being either the Son of God or the Antichrist himself. Either way, Obama gets top billing as a being with abilities and powers above the average person's, while Palin, deemed just as dangerous, manages to be with the not-so-super powers of boringness and confusion.

I have come to the conclusion that Palin-hate is more complex than originally thought. Even if it originated predominately with liberals, it appears to be comprised of multiple layers of negative narratives. For instance, those who say they hate Palin because they think she does not have enough experience to govern most likely have additional negative narratives influencing their level of anger over such issues as her conservative values, non-feminist qualities, anti-global warming views, and the list goes on and on. It is the layering of negative narratives constructed by Palin detractors that create the extreme emotions that we see from many today. While I know there are still many questions to be answered on this topic, I hope that this analysis will open the door for future discussions on the phenomenon known as "Palin-hate." ESR

Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and is currently completing his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of the books Living Under The Patriot Act: Educating A Society and Feeding Lions: Sharing The Conservative Philosophy In A Politically Hostile World. Paul is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008 and 2009 Entertainment Program of the Year, Conscience of Kansas airing on KSDB Manhattan 91.9FM. For interviews or questions, please contact ibbetson91.9@gmail.com.

 

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