Everybody in the world is jumping on the Palin prediction bandwagon. This is not surprising. Ever since she popped onto the national scene during the 2008 Presidential campaign, predicting whether Palin would win or self-destruct has become a national sport. So...what's up with her surprise resignation as governor? Is the roof about to fall on her with another ethics investigation? Did she resign to have time for writing her book? Can she still engineer herself to a 2012 President nomination? Or is her political career over?
On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan stared into his crystal ball and mentioned a number of politicians who made an abrupt exit from politics, but managed to get elected President anyway -- including Richard Nixon. He's optimistic that Sarah Palin will pull off a similar feat.
But there's one avenue for Palin that only a few observers have mentioned as yet. Palin herself gave us a clue, in a post-resignation statement on her Facebook page. And it wasn't her comment that she's "not a quitter." She mentioned a "higher calling." "Higher" usually means that God is calling...or what a candidate alleges to be God.
During the Presidential election campaign, a handful of independent reporters and observers -- notably Bruce Wilson, who co-founded the investigating-religion blog Talk2Action and also writes for Huffington Post -- were curious to learn what religious company Palin was keeping.
Wilson's sleuthing revealed that Palin is a long-time icon for a fringy but formidable extremist pentecostal movement called the New Apostolic Reformation. This movement believes that the world has entered a "second apostolic era," and aims to put "new apostles" like Palin in control of the U.S. government, in the name of a redefined Jesus. After that, the NAR intends to "reform" our government and our national life in their own image. Unlike many conservative Protestant movements, which teach that women should be submissive and stay in the home, this one fishes for the female vote by allowing women to take leadership positions.
Alaska has long been the home of fringy movements of one sort or another. Palin's church in Wasilla is an Alaskan node of this movement.
My Own Predictions
While writing about the Presidential campaign for Bilerico Project, I found Wilson's investigative thread and it stood my hair on end. Not surprisingly, most of the mainstream media -- especially the conservative media like Fox and CNN -- wouldn't touch Wilson's story, so it stayed closeted in the indie media. I was in touch with Wilson by email as I wrote several pieces for Bilerico on this subject.
So now I'm laying out my own Tarot cards, figuratively speaking. They're all coming up swords -- meaning that I think Palin will take a shot at the Presidency. And she will re-package herself as a combined "religious leader/Presidential candidate."
Let's face it -- if ongoing investigation reveals ethics lapses by Palin, religion is how Palin can do the best damage control for her Presidential run. Indeed, religion is the only American venue where -- politically speaking -- you can commit almost any crime and still be forgiven by voters or donors or supporters. You can get caught in ethics violations, or adultery, or whatever. All you have to do is repent publicly, convince everybody that you're back on God's side, and voila... you will be invited back into the magic circle of power.
Incidentally, it's mostly Republicans who try this gambit, since their party and their base are so heavily invested into the God thing.
This "godly" path to power is already visibly trodden through the thickets of American politics. Look at Charles "Chuck" Colson. Once Nixon's special counsel, Colson did his prison time as a Watergate-era felon, then launched a prison ministry when he got out... and is back in politics now, riding high as a right-wing political counsel and commentator.
Among the many televangelists who fell from grace, not all of them recovered from their scandal, for sure. But enough have recouped to show how well this strategy can work -- even when "sex sins" are involved. In 1987, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart was outed for his motel trysts with a woman not his wife, yet today his Jimmy Swaggart Ministries is one of the biggest and most successful in the world. Even Ted Haggard, who has admitted to gay attractions, and to homosexual acts with a male sex worker, is on the return-to-power path, and made some TV appearances this year. Interestingly enough, the New Life Ministry that Haggard once headed appears to be associated with the NAR movement.
The gambit works for politicians who commit "sex sins" too. Republican Senator John Ensign is the latest to try it, with his statement the other day that he plans to repair his relationship with God. The Bible, if properly used in politics, can cover a multitude of sins.
What Will Palin's M.O. Be?
So -- for Palin, the road to the White House may now be a more winding one, but one that might get her there with a skillful and cynical use of reformist religion.
How will she proceed? She'll probably try to go low profile for a while, ride out any investigation storm that's coming -- entrench herself solidly among her NAR cohorts, and start building her new political organization and her new war chest. No matter what ethics investigation might be heading at her now -- whether it's the alleged shenanigans around a construction-company contract, or lying about seeing Russia from her house -- she can always confess her sin in public and be forgiven. If she does that, her fanatical base (which is sizeable, and seems to love her no matter what she does) will support her effort to get back into national politics.
The enormous fund-raising power of American churchism will help Palin and her family to choke the legal bills of further investigation. In an ABC interview after her resignation announcement, Palin boo-hooed about the $500,000 in legal expenses "for her family." But it turns out that these lawyer bills will be paid not by her family, but by a legal-defense fund set up for her, according to the Wall Street Journal. And if more investigation is coming, how will she pay for it? Answer: her new political action committee, called SarahPac, will do the job, by getting donations from followers.
The same goes for churchism's power to defray the costs of running for President. The price tag of politics is now so astronomical that only corporations and churches can cover the gap between what's needed and what smaller donors can afford. Churches are just beginning to use their unparalleled power to turn out political support for favored candidates, as we're seen from the way they swung the vote on Prop 8 in California. Which explains why religion and big business are getting such a strangle-hold on American political life today. Obama's run for President raised an unprecedented $745 million; but the price tag for the Presidency in 2012 may soar closer to $1 billion.
If Palin and her political machine really succeed in milking the church cow, they may well equal Obama's power to raise money for campaigning.
More Clues From Palin
Palin dropped another hint in her resignation speech, as she talked about whom she'd "work for" in future. She said: "I'll work for and campaign for those PROUD to be American, and those who are INSPIRED by our ideals and won't deride them." A future President doesn't talk about "working for" anybody, or answering to them in any way... except possibly a President who will be taking orders from faith-based authorities that are higher than she in the movement hierarchy, and are pulling her strings behind the scenes.
As if these hints weren't enough, Palin went from her resignation speech to a family salmon-fishing trip, and let herself be photographed as she hauled nets into the boat and picked fish. I'm convinced that this stagy event was designed to send a religious message, and conservative church-goers will know how to read it. The NAR believes that it is launching the "second apostolic age." The original apostles were called "fishers of men." So new apostles will see themselves as fishers too. The idea of a woman fisher will be enormously appealing to some.
The Palin-watchers agree. In a new Huffington blog, Bruce Wilson opines that Palin's move to re-invent herself through religion, and make herself invincible that way, is picking up speed.
In a recent interview with Bill Berkowitz at Religious Dispatches, Wilson lays out his own current definition of the movement that Palin is involved with,
"The NAR is bent on radically reinventing Christianity, and is fast becoming the vanguard of the global Christian Right. Its leaders have openly declared... their aim of achieving worldwide biblical government. Palin is directly, personally linked to not one but two major NAR leaders, Windwalkers Ministry International founder Mary Glazier and Thomas Muthee.... Through Glazier, Palin appears to be under the authority of the man who founded the NAR and has announced the advent of a second Reformation, C. Peter Wagner.... Third Wave and NAR theology is militantly anti-pluralistic and anti-democratic, the quintessence of Christian religious supremacy."
How might Palin overcome Obama at the polls in 2012?
Obama has three-and-a-half years left to rescue the country -- as he assures us he's trying to do -- or to wreck the country, as some think he's doing. I'm certainly concerned about his slowness to keep promises on LGBT issues.
But I'm way more concerned about the slowness of economic recovery. Despite the outpouring of countless billions in bailouts, ten states are teetering on the cusp of bankruptcy. The job-loss rate isn't recovering -- indeed, the figures that we're given are lower than reality, since they don't include thousands who have given up looking for jobs. The numbers of people going homeless are spiking, especially younger women with children.
I question how effective Obama's loan-modification programs for homeowners are being, since we're not seeing any glowing news interviews with numbers of people whose homes have been saved from foreclosure. Indeed, a recent Boston Globe story suggests that, for the most part, lenders are refusing to grant most requests for loan modifications. This explains why foreclosure rates are still soaring -- meaning that uncounted numbers of more Americans are headed for reduced living circumstances -- possibly even homelessness.
Last but not least, I'm concerned about Democratic faint-heartedness about doing the radical healthcare reform that most voters said they want.
As a sign that he's heading into political trouble, Obama's ratings are down.
If the Democrats don't dig deep and do what needs to be done, and horse-feathers are hitting the fan by the time 2012 rolls around, Sarah Palin and her "apostolic" cohorts will be there to pick up the pieces. By then, many voters may be way more angry than they were in November 2008. They might even be ready to agree with a re-invented, re-cycled, re-whitewashed Sarah Palin that it will take God, not Obama, to fix the country.
Note: As I publish this, Sarah Palin keeps herself in the "surprise" headlines by announcing that she will actually stump for Democratic as well as Republican candidates. I think this is her gambit for trying to pick up support among Democrats who become disillusioned with the Obama administration. Does it mean that she's abandoning any of her reformist church agenda? I wouldn't bet on it.
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