There’s a persistent refrain among Sarah Palin fanatics — and New Confederacy governors like Rick Perry — that they want to “take back” America from the thieves who took it from them. You can read some of these quotes in Kate Zernike’s NYT’s story on Palin:
“It may not be this year, it may not be next year, but we’re going to take our country back,” said Sherry Haner, 54, who was standing in the cold on Wednesday outside a mall in Grand Rapids, Mich., hoping to make it into the overflow crowd after failing to get one of the 1,000 bracelets Barnes & Noble had handed out as tickets to the [Palin] signing.
Clinical denial and self-deceit are necessary to the “take back our country” meme. The deception is made obvious by a recent poll that 52 percent of Republican voters believe ACORN stole the election for President Barack Obama. Obama won the national popular vote, 53 percent to 46 percent. Before anyone says, well, Democrats said the same thing about Bush, I’d ask that they remember that Gore won the popular vote in 2000. Even so, I don’t like the “take back” theme, no matter who uses it. It’s not always the case that something was taken. We might have just lost it.
What’s most alarming about the Palinsyndrome is its implicit denial of democracy. The “stolen election” theme is necessary to disguise the real sentiment behind the right wing movement: there’s a natural order to life, certain of us (usually white and fundamentalist Christian) are supposed to rule the greater number of sinners. If this natural order is not in place, it must have been subverted by forces of evil. They can’t come out and say that democracy itself empowers these alleged satanic forces, so they say democracy was subverted, by ACORN, in this instance. But it’s not what they really feel.
As George Lakoff, Daniel Elazar and others have taught us, the authoritarian, orthodox Calvinist strain has always been a part of the nation’s political culture. The vehemence of the reaction to Civil Rights in the South wasn’t there just because the white’s still wanted to punish the blacks. It was because the whites’ entire worldview was turned upside down. In the great chain of being in their heads, whites lived at a higher altitude.
But the essential anti-democratic theme of this worldview is seldom explored by mainstream journalism. It’s overlooked so it can be made legitimate within the context of democracy. This has always puzzled me. The U.S. Constitution was established to protect against authoritarian tyranny. There are some who believe freedom is found in obedience to authority, but that’s not what democracy has ever been about. It’s about the empowerment of the individual. It’s in the people — all of them — that authority resides.
And here’s where an asymmetry leads to the disadvantage of progressives. Our moral worldview keeps open a place for all kinds of beliefs, even beliefs that challenge the fundamental principles of democracy. The Right can, without contradicting its own worldview, seek to eliminate the rights of its opponents altogether — and feel it just because, after all, they are only trying to restore the natural order of their universe.