Sarah Palin preaches to the choir

By Kim Nursall

The curtains opened on a full house this past Saturday night, with the star of the show, Sarah Palin, set to make her first appearance in Canada — aptly in the Conservative stronghold of Calgary. Right-wing political figures filled the BMO Centre: I passed by Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith, disappointedly viewed the Treasury Board’s own Stockwell Day sans wet-suit, sat three rows behind MP Rob Anders and heard former Premier Ralph Klein go on about how the Ontario Liberals are a “different breed.” The stage was set for a night of plebeian appeals — Palin did not disappoint.

Pandering to the overwhelmingly obsequious Canuck crowd by playing up her “hockey mom” label, Palin’s folksy, simplistic and logically-inept statements drew hearty applause and laughter. After watching her in action I can certainly understand her appeal to the “American heartland,” where her supporters advocate notions of small government, low taxes and resource development — principles to which the majority of Albertans undoubtedly relate. Her mention of the Tea Party movement roused Rob Anders’ applause and her defence of writing on her hand — “if it was good enough for God, scribbling on the palm of his hand, it’s good enough for me” — drew outright cheers. It was hilarious, yet nauseating.

Her rants about the cap-and-trade system — which she labelled the cap-and-tax system; one of her simple, ludicrous, yet ultimately effective statements — stemmed from her lauding of “Climategate,” whereby she straw-manned the audience by illogically arguing that the exaggeration of facts disproves the facts. Logic was not an integral part of her speech, however, as her discrediting of the “scientists” and their “political agenda” all-too-often revealed. Her major argument against the regulation of greenhouse gases depicted the elected representatives of Congress as better equipped to understand the science of climate change than the “agenda-driven scientists” of the Environmental Protection Agency. These scientists, and their several thousand counterparts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, contribute to a clear scientific view of the current state of climate change and its potentially adverse environmental and socio-economic consequences, but their arguments are clearly no match for the insight of creationist senators such as John Thune and David Vitter.

Palin also went on to say that the federal government should be like a small business, which is defined by Statistics Canada as under 500 employees. Given, as of 2008, that Canada has approximately 285,000 public servants, the notion should be laughable at best — especially considering most small businesses go under within their first few years. But the audience ate it up, as well as everything else the former vice-presidential candidate said, including Palin’s admission that her family took advantage of Canada’s public health-care system when she was younger.

Apparently when she was growing up in Skagway, Alaska, Palin and her family “used to hustle on over the border for health care” in Whitehorse. Considering Palin was born in 1964 and the Yukon territory introduced a hospital insurance plan with federal cost sharing in 1960, a public-option, which she has emphatically denounced as a “socialist evil,” was undeniably utilized by her family. Unfortunately, too many people in the audience were moronic/enamoured/crazy/all-three and didn’t realize her concession, but it certainly filled me with smug satisfaction.

What hit me later that night, however, after the entertainment value of her comedy show had all but faded away, was how she actually terrifies me. Her ability to woo a crowd with unintelligent drivel does not bode well for a polarized United States, whose Tea Party movement is guaranteed to mobilize voters. Frankly, as incompetent as she might be, she has mass appeal, and in the realm of politics it’s not hard to glean which trait will matter most come election day.

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