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  1. Politics
24 June 2015updated 07 Sep 2021 10:23am

My Sarah Palin badge said, “Read my lipstick. Drill now.” I wondered if David Axelrod’s plan would work

Pictures of Palin were everywhere. Sexily posing with animals she’d killed. Her appeal, people kept telling us, was that she was “normal”.

By Suzanne Moore

Is anyone surprised that Sarah Palin has re-emerged saying something stupid in support of Donald Trump? I don’t find Trump funny. The term “fascist” is used about anyone these days, from traffic wardens to Labour members to the right of Jeremy Corbyn – but he does behave like one. Authoritarian populism may be the polite way to put it but there’s no need to be polite.

It’s no surprise to me that Palin is back, perhaps because, just before Obama was first elected, I spent time hanging out with Republicans.

America still remains incredibly mysterious in ways that don’t change. What’s with the loony guns stuff? What is all this out-and-out racism? We keep it bicoastal, almost hoping that the bits we fly over don’t really exist.

But those bits are more foreign and often more interesting than any European country. In Louisville, Kentucky, for instance, where Hunter S Thompson was born, you can stay in the hippest hotels and eat the most fashionable food knowing that when Muhammad Ali was growing up there he wasn’t allowed in the same restaurants as white people.

When I talked to the cool young waiters in Louisville about Obama, they would say, “It’s a trust issue,” which I soon learned was code. The shock jocks didn’t bother with code. Michelle was a n***** bitch. GOP bumper stickers were a confusion of hammer and sickle and the Pakistani flag.

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But pictures of Palin were everywhere. Sexily posing with animals she’d killed. Her appeal, people kept telling us, was that she was “normal”. I was with my mate the writer David Matthews, who happens to be black – which meant that, everywhere we went together, black women looked disgusted and white women tried to get off with him. White men in bars would helpfully inform me: “We don’t do interracial.” As if it was on the menu.

We were freaked out by meeting people who live completely off the radar. They don’t pay tax and they don’t get social security. They didn’t, they repeatedly told us, “give a shit” about any election.

We drove to Virginia to a McCain rally. As we were going in, a Sarah Palin lookalike draped herself over David. Then a tall, Nordic-looking man in a sports jacket and shorts like someone out of Twin Peaks sidled up.

“You would like to meet the senator, wouldn’t you?”

We were whisked into special seats full of pretty girls, Vietnam vets and “people of colour”. We were the backdrop to McCain. How diverse. The Palin banners were everywhere and when McCain mentioned her name the crowd went mad, screaming, “America!”

I texted my old friend working for the Democrats, saying I was scared. Palin’s college circle had involved David Axelrod, who, she said, had been plotting a Democrat president in the canteen at 19.

I hoped she was right, as there I was, in the middle of a crowd on the TV news, waving a flag and wearing a Palin badge that said, “Read my lipstick. Drill now.” 

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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