Sarah Palin at Opryland
By Bernie Quigley
- For The Hill on 1/7/10
My first impression in watching Sarah Palin’s Opryland speech on C Span was that this was like Bob Dylan in Newport in 1963 or ‘64, raw and unpretentious, unformed and unscripted, informal and from the heart, but the beginning of something purely original and of vast and natural willfulness which was just now awakened and would not be held back.
It was Ronald Reagan’s 99th birthday and she spoke again and again of Reagan. She spoke of Barry Goldwater as well, that home-grown political avatar of western self-reliance. No mention of Bush.
She began her speech with reference to Scott Brown with the comic aside: “If there’s hope for Massachusetts, there’s hope everywhere.” She spoke of the Christmas bomber and the tragedy deflected by a “Christmas miracle.” The Christmas terrorist attempt and the Scott Brown election clearly framed her speech and were prelude to it.
At one point she mentioned people throughout the world seeing “Alaska” as a beacon of hope. I think she meant to say “America” as a beacon of hope, but it was a nice synchronicity. As the free spirit that called Jack London to the wild in 1903 still beacons. Her slightly erratic style in public speaking is a “personality type” (as in Myers-Briggs) thing. She has inner, comprehensive abilities; “right brain” – which gives her larger cultural perspective than most politicians. Perfect speech, the trade of slick politics, indicates a narrow, fixed, matrix perspective. It is why common folk sense the life force in her and why politicos and handlers hate her.
In the scheme I use to understand long-term politics, there is always one character which appears in the middle of a post-war period that will re-emerge and awaken the next century. The popularity of Teddy Roosevelt was prelude to the outwardly expanding American century which followed decades later. In our post-war period that person in the middle would have been either John F. Kennedy of Ronald Reagan. In hindsight of one year of the Obama Presidency, the Jack Kennedy period seems to have successfully completed the three goals of Lincoln and Grant. Those goals were prevention of the secession of the South, freeing the slaves and equality between white and black. The Kennedy period and the Obama Presidency fulfilled the last of those three which were unattainable to Lincoln and Grant. It completes that historic period. History moves on.
The Reagan period began to open up America to see and experience itself internally and Goldwater was avatar to that movement as well. We can see an age receding with the Obama Presidency and one beginning its ascent with Palin as its folk hero trickster which will begin now to find future history or historical destiny ahead.
As Dylan called back to Woody Gunthrie at his first Newport appearances, Palin thus called back to Reagan as her historic ancestor. In this regard, Reagan Presidency should be considered as the opening of the western states as an original and determining political force in American destiny and Palin’s talk to the plain folk in Nashville on Saturday night suggested that nascent movement to be finding its true beginnings. As the Super bowl between New Orleans and Indianapolis suggests, America’s “center” is moving west.