Patricia Nell Warren

DWTS: Is the Political Fix In?

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | November 11, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Bristol Palin, Dancing With The Stars, New Apostolic Reformation, Sarah Palin, Talk2Action

Once upon a time, "Dancing With the Stars" was about competitive ballroom dancing -- and grace under pressure. But ever since the 2008 Presidential election, ABC and the show's producers can't resist playing with political fire. They started inviting Republican figures like Buzz Aldrin and Tom DeLay to compete. These old guys were clearly non-dancers, and swiftly got sent home.

Not so with cute young non-dancer Bristol Palin. She should have been sent home weeks ago. This week -- incredibly -- Bristol became the first non-dancer to reach the hallowed semi-finals, with a so-so tango and a samba that was pathetic for its display of conservative inhibition. And Kurt Warner's way-better performance got him sent home.

Are the producers aware of the monster they're created? What if Palin wins the mirror-ball? Her Tea Party voting bloc has the power to give her that win over real dancers like Jennifer Grey. After all, these voters are apparently the same people who rammed lots of Republicans into office during the mid-terms. You betcha.

To be fair, I'll say that Palin is trying. But trying isn't good enough.

At some point, her fellow competitors who had some natural dancing talent -- like Kyle Massey -- were connecting with it, and igniting the dance floor. Theoretically, one should do some igniting in order to reach the semi-finals. But Palin has never ignited. Her body language is painfully self-conscious, powered no doubt by a religious conviction that she shouldn't be out there rolling her booty in front of millions of people.

Bristol's voter peeps don't care whether she can do a funky samba or not -- they keep her "safe" every week, while better dancers are sent home.

What's going on here -- politically?

Palin Perspective

While America was convulsing over the mid-terms, longer-term strategies were being crafted by those in the ultraconservative church movement -- especially Bristol's mother, Sarah Palin.

Palin's organization is likely looking for Presidential results in 2012. And they've quietly launched a number of media gambits that aim to launder Palin's image. They want to "normalize" her -- to erase the perception that she is a "religious extremist." Especially those damaging revelations of 2008, that Palin is owned by the New Apostolic Reformation. The NAR is that powerful international evangelical movement that aims to set up totalitarian bible-based "governments for Jesus" in every country. They already did it in Uganda, where they incited and supported the anti-gay legislation proposed by the Museveni regime. Now they aim to capture government in the U.S.

So the Palin/White House strategy is quietly snaking its way along several different media routes -- and the most blatant one is right in front of America's nose every Monday and Tuesday night on DWTS.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for the high-level meetings between the network and the Palin organization, when Bristol's competition was arranged.

Bristol's costumes were evidently an issue -- requested to be modest. I wonder if it was ever discussed how a shy 20-year-old from a bible-based background was going to loosen up for the Latin dancing. It's not just the steps -- it's the spirit of the thing. Cha cha, tango, samba and rumba have to ignite at the sexual level, not just the athletic level. How was this kid going to do that? Did anybody wonder? Did Bristol (who owns her own PR firm) wonder? Or did everybody just figure that she'd get the votes no matter what she did?

Was the daughter just a pawn -- for the network to get ratings, and the politicians to get face-on-camera time that would be good for a Presidential run? Sarah has gotten more guest takes on DWTS than probably any other family member of a contestant in the show's history.

This week, for instance, Sarah got to play "loving supportive mom" visiting the studio where Bristol's partner, Mark Ballas, was trying to get her to tango. Sarah's body language revealed that she was actually uncomfortable in that "artsy secular" atmosphere, and she asked if it was going to be a "lap dance."

And how was the public vote going to work?

On reality shows involving a public vote, it would be a snap to organize tens of thousands of votes for a political favorite. Any good campaign manager could do it. Who can forget the rumors flying around "American Idol", when a quietly organized phone vote by conservative groups may have helped hetero-boy-next-door Chris Allen beat the outrageously gay Adam Lambert. It was never proven that such a thing happened. But "Idol's" policy of allowing unlimited votes from each phone would have made it easy to do this.

DWTS does limit votes to five from each phone. So organizing a dance vote would be more difficult -- it would have to involve a large number of people. But the religious right might be equal to the task. On the other hand, it's possible that Bristol's non-dancing is simply being supported with unorganized personal enthusiasm by large numbers of those same Tea Party voters who prevailed during the mid-terms.

Are the judges in on it? Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno have consistently been civil but also critical. Often they scored Palin at the bottom of the leaderboard. In my opinion, they've been sending the message that she ought to go home. But the voters weren't listening.

Other Palin Strategies

To name a couple more:

No sooner is DWTS ending, than TV viewers will be whammed by "Sarah Palin's Alaska." This new 8-part series will follow Palin and her family on various fun junkets through the Alaskan wilderness. Presumably the producers were careful not to have her shooting any moose. It's scheduled to debut on Discovery's TLC on November 14.

Why Discovery? As the most widely watched cable network in the world, Discovery is thought of as somewhat liberal and scientific. It reaches an audience of over 99 million people that Tea Partiers might dismiss as tree huggers and animal lovers -- though the brand covers science and technology, exploration, and history as well.

I've been watching the trailers. They have Palin burbling things like: "Family comes first -- this is better than being in some dumpy old political office somewhere -- I'd rather be out here being free." But despite the sugar-coating of lush Alaska outdoor photography, there's no doubt that this series is another piece of political puffery that aims to make Palin look non-extremist and harmless -- even a bit liberal-friendly.

Meanwhile, Palin doesn't miss an imaging opportunity with books.

In recent decades, a book is part of any smart pol's strategy. While the book retail market is going eerily soft, Christian books are doing well. Among them was Palin's personal self-puffery -- her autobiographical Going Rogue. It came out in 2009 and still sells -- right now it's #530 on the Amazon ranking.

A more serious political gambit is the newest book -- The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin, by Stephen Mansfield and David A. Holland (FrontLine, Strang Communications Book Group, 2010). This opus came out in September.

How do we know this new book is a crock of ultraconservative Christian disinformation? Because the publisher actually says so. On the "about" page of their website, Strang says, "We are ...a multi-media communications company focused on spreading the name and fame of Jesus throughout the world through the mass media."

Founder Stephen Strang is one of the self-styled "apostles" of the New Apostolic Reformation. He is also a Christian Zionist, serving as director for John Hagee's Christians United for Israel. Strang's book titles often hew to themes that are dear to the NAR -- like "spiritual warfare" -- a core NAR tactic of mass prayer that aims to drive out demons that supposedly infest a neighborhood or city or even a country.

So there you have it. "Dancing With the Stars" has let itself be the tool of a possible Presidential candidate who is associated with a totalitarian religious movement. Surely this is some kind of eerie benchmark in the history of politicians who leverage family members into campaigning.

If Bristol Palin wins the mirror-ball, will the show be viewed as a fraud? In fact, the comments are already piling up out there, from outraged viewers who see the political intent lurking behind Bristol's samba fringes, and say they won't watch DWTS any longer. You betcha.


Anybody who wants to read in depth about Sarah Palin's long-time association with the New Apostolic Reformation can go to Talk2Action. Here, for years now, analysts like Bill Berkowitz and Bruce Wilson have been reporting on the spine-chilling infiltration of the NAR into Congress and other national leadership spheres of influence.

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"Dancing With the Stars" has let itself be the tool of a possible Presidential candidate who is associated with a totalitarian religious movement. Surely this is some kind of eerie benchmark in the history of politicians who leverage family members into campaigning."

Well, I don't know about that - but even from my admittedly scant watching of the show, I'd have to say it's always been the tool of media hype and giant corporate interests i.e ABC. The show has never been about competitive ballroom dancing or grace under pressure - it's been about ratings and about "celebrities" exploiting it to boost their presence in public. It's widely known as a joke, the place where D-list ex-celebrities go to resurrect their flagging careers. On occasion, yes, it has a bona fide celebrity, inasmuch as we can measure celebrity as such. But, really, has it ever been more than a long, campy joke (and more power to long, campy jokes?) Bristol Palin's entrance in the show is not eerie, it's inevitable.

Besides, are we so sure that every celebrity on the show has been some kind of progressive/liberal? Marie Osmond? Who couldn't stomach her son being gay?

And I doubt anyone who is already liberal is actually going to be swayed by Sarah Palin's appearance on Discovery.

As for shows that allow phone votes, with or without limits, yes, they are subject to being swarmed by the supporters of one candidate. It's a popular and extremely populist show; phone votes are part of the game. Voters/viewers can't demand a say in the judging and then complain when the results don't go their way.

That's why this is a show on ABC; it's not judged by the National Association for Ballroom Dancing, or whatever such august body defines the rules for the style.

Or, I'm guessing, this is a joke?

Yasmin, you're missing my point. The point is the Palin political strategy, not the authenticity of ballroom dancing on the show.

It's a smart strategy, actually. Palin's organization is going for outreach to more liberal voters. What better way to make la Sarah look harmless than to have her checking into a highly hyped dance show?

The New Apostolic Reformation are finding that they don't do well in elections when their candidates are too overt with their brand of radical religion. Witness what just happened to Duke Aiona (R) in the Hawaii governor race. Like Palin, he is an "anointed" NAR candidate. He tried to disavow his membership in Hawaii's International Transformational Network (an arm of NAR), but footage of him speaking at a NAR event surfaced in the news. Hawaiians know the Network as openly saying they will crack down on native "witchcraft" in Hawaii. The NAR have boasted that "we're coming after your native idols and are going to burn them." It was the wrong message to send in Hawaii. Disgusted voters gave Aiona's Democratic opponent 58% of the vote.

But Sam Brownback (former Senator) was quieter about his apostolic aims, and he just succeeded in getting himself elected governor of Kansas. Brownback has palled around with Lou Engle, one of the spookier "apostolic" leaders, and spent time in Uganda supporting the Museveni regime, which is one of the first NAR governments to be put in place. But when Brownback campaigns, he is smart enough to keep to the routine Republican issues.

Palin's appearances on "Dancing With the Stars" would clearly have the potential to attract the more radically religious Tea Partiers into casting phone votes for Bristol.

Um, no, I'm not missing the point. There's no secret that this *is* part of Palin's political strategy - the entire *show* is part of a publicity strategy. Palin's right-wing politics are constantly on display - appearances on DWTS, with or without her daughter as a "pawn" are not going to deceive liberals. She's hardly got a chance in hell of concealing her politics at this point. Did you follow her electioneering during this past midterm? As for the publishing house you mention, well, yes, as you indicate, their politics are in full view.

And if Bristol Palin gets more votes and even, gasp, wins, this is a problem because....? I'm not missing your point - I'm just not able to make sense of it, to be honest.

Your first comment wandered so far from the subject of political strategies that it looked to me like you weren't getting the point.

We won't know whether Palin's strategy worked till after the 2012 Presidential election -- assuming that she doesn't shoot herself in the foot before then, and blow her chances to be the Red candidate for President. Will Bristol's and Sarah's stint on DWTS still be on the radar screen at that point, as something that was worth doing? Time will tell. When you're in the middle of a campaign, you don't have that kind of hindsight --you just grab at every chance that looks like it might bring in votes.

Unlike Andrew below, I don't believe that religion is dropping off in its influence. But as for wandering off the point, I was simply responding to points you made in your own post. Which, I should, looks like it could be neatly divided into half; there seem to be some entirely separate arguments going on.

At any rate, I'll just let my comments stand.

Again, "the sky is falling" and we know because of a dance competition. No kidding?

You don't have to take my word for what the NAR is up to. Go do your homework. There are quite a few websites that do political analysis of this movement. Check out Talk2Action or the Box Turtle Bulletin. Read Bill Berkowitz's reporting at AlterNet -- or Bruce Wilson's posts at Huff Post.

You will want to be well-informed about the NAR. They've already put their kind of government in place in Uganda, and have succeeded in putting their ghastly anti-gay legislation before the Uganda parliament. If you lived in Uganda, you'd be subject to this law if it passes. So you won't want to see the NAR succeeding in the U.S. You betcha.

I'd be real scared, but I know religion is going out of business in the US. The more we promote the fringe the more significant we make them appear.

The truth is conservative literalists are only one-third of all "religious" people and they are NOT taking over our government .... or our television shows.

FYI, DWTS is considering a same-sex couple for their next season.

Well, Andrew, that's where you and I disagree. You think religion is going out of business in the U.S. I don't. Let's compare notes in 10 years to see which of us is being proven correct by the ongoing trends.

After the Palin caper, DWTS will HAVE to consider a same-sex couple in order to get their liberal chops back. If the show does take that plunge (and I doubt they will), it will be interesting to see how the voters and the judges deal with it.

It's not a "disagreement," all of the data shows religion declining in America for decades. The fastest growing group is "non-religious." In fact, most people under the age of 25 don't take religion seriously.

I don't see the conspiracy that you see, but I'm looking at real data, not history.

I've seen the polls you talk about. They don't necessarily support the "facts" you claim.

First of all, look at how the question is framed. As in a BYU poll I saw, people were not asked about whether they were personally pro-religious or non-religious. Instead, they were asked if they thought that religion was declining in American life. Those who say "yes" are not necessarily non-religious. A certain percentage of "yes's" are going to be churchy people who deplore the "secular" in American life.

Second, membership in mainline churches may be declining, but there is a flow of people to more radical, energized denominations -- especially young people into the evangelical ranks.

In the mid-terms, 60 percent of eligible voters did NOT vote in the mid-terms. That is a shocking figure. Surely those voters knew this was an important election. Since they decided to stay home, they abdicated any input into the election's outcome.

The smaller the voter turnout, the better chance that a smaller but highly energized interest group can score an upset -- especially if its base is voters who vote because their pastors tell them to. And that's what many of the pro-religion voters do.

According to the Pew Research Center, reporting on the mid-terms: "The proportion of self-described conservative voters increased by nearly a third from 2006 -- from 32% to 41% -- and is the highest percentage of conservative voters in the past two decades." These conservatives are the voters who will swing the country more and more, if the non-conservatives don't get cracking.

So the polls are only part of the picture. We have to look at ALL the numbers that reveal the religious right's growing leverage over every aspect of American public life. Because it's these decision-makers in government, the judiciary, the military, law enforcement, etc. who have a lot of leverage from the top down. They can determine what laws are passed, what policies are enforced, what the outcome of key court cases are.

We have to ask these questions: How many of the nation's elected offices do the religious right control? How many appointed positions? How many sitting judges, at every level, are motivated by radical-righter thinking? How many school boards does the right control across the country? How many of the Joint Chiefs and top-level commanders have this radical-right thinking? Etc.

If "religion is waning" in America, how do we explain the fact that abortion is on the verge of being outlawed once again? How do we explain DOMA and same-sex marriage bans in so many states? How do we explain the armed forces now bullying non-Christian soldiers, and allowing evangelical ministers to proselytize our troops? I could go on and on with a list.

These are facts that you can't explain away. Which is why ABC's decision to pander DWTS to a more conservative viewing audience -- and open the door to conservative voting-- is interesting to me.

So, you say "the polls are lying" and then you offer polling data. Great.

Talk to some young people. I don't question the integrity of the polling data because there are a half dozen different organizations that have all concluded the same thing: religion is declining and it is less important in American life every year that goes by. It has been happening for decades.

The sky isn't falling, it is opening up to reason and simple common sense. That's the reality. Maybe it's fun to try to scare people and have a big bad enemy, but the facts just don't support it.

It would be much more productive to marginalize these small groups like NAR, instead of promoting them.

Read my actual wording, Andrew. I never said, "The polls are lying." I said, "They don't necessarily support the 'facts' you claim."

And, since you cite the polls, the Pews poll on the mid-terms doesn't support your assertion.

We're off-topic now, so I won't continue this discussion with you.

Another one of those polls:

"Is There a "Reformed" Movement in American Churches?"


..."the sky is falling"? How naive, I will not be watching the remainder of the season and the Palin joke has destroyed any credibility DWTS had.

Update a week later: the Tea Party vote has spoken again. As of last night, Bristol Palin is in the DWTS finals, despite being a way poorer dancer than Brandy, the dancer she bumped. You could tell from the expressions on the other dancers' faces that they are in political shock.

Meanwhile, last night, the show's cameras gave Sarah Palin more lingering face time than family members of other finalists (Jennifer, Kyle). Truly a sickening situation is developing here.