"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Is Palin an Extremist?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Palin an Extremist?

From David Talbot at Salon.com:

Sept. 15, 2008 | WASILLA, Alaska -- The Wasilla Assembly of God, the evangelical church where Sarah Palin came of age, was still charged with excitement on Sunday over Palin's sudden ascendance. Pastor Ed Kalnins warned his congregation not to talk with any journalists who might have been lurking in the pews -- and directly warned this reporter not to interview any of his flock. But Kalnins and other speakers at the service reveled in Palin's rise to global stardom.

It confirmed, they said, that God was making use of Wasilla. "She will take our message to the world!" rejoiced an Assembly of God youth ministry leader, as the church band rocked the high-vaulted wooden building with its electric gospel.

That is what scares the Rev. Howard Bess. A retired American Baptist minister who pastors a small congregation in nearby Palmer, Wasilla's twin town in Alaska's Matanuska Valley, Bess has been tangling with Palin and her fellow evangelical activists ever since she was a Wasilla City Council member in the 1990s. Recently, Bess again found himself in the spotlight with Palin, when it was reported that his 1995 book, "Pastor, I Am Gay," was among those Palin tried to have removed from the Wasilla Public Library when she was mayor.

"She scares me," said Bess. "She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.

"At this point, people in this country don't grasp what this person is all about. The key to understanding Sarah Palin is understanding her radical theology."

Bess -- a fit-looking, 80-year-old man in a gray University of Illinois sweatshirt and blue jeans – spoke with me over coffee at the Vagabond Blues, a cafe in Palmer with a stunning view of the nearby snow-capped Chugach Mountains. The retired minister moved to the Mat-Su Valley with his wife, Darlene, in 1987, after his outspoken defense of gay rights at Baptist churches in the Santa Barbara, Calif., area and Anchorage landed him in trouble with church officials. In the Mat-Su Valley, Bess plunged into community activism, helping launch an assortment of projects, from an arts council to a shelter for the mentally disabled.

Inevitably, his work brought him into conflict with Palin and other highly politicized Christian fundamentalists in the valley. "Things got very intense around here in the '90s -- the culture war was very hot here," Bess said. "The evangelicals were trying to take over the valley. They took over the school board, the community hospital board, even the local electric utility. And Sarah Palin was in the direct center of all these culture battles, along with the churches she belonged to."

Read the rest of the article here.


  1. What Sarah Palin's emergence into the national spotlight does is revive the culture wars - the opposing views in regard to abortion, gay rights (and the role of gays in the church), and all of the other cultural differences among us. That's what she signifies. Not that she's extreme, but that she's a cultural conservative. My 2 cents.

  2. I agree that the culture wars got a strong warrior in Palin, but what defines her as extreme is having views that are extreme even for "cultural conservatives."

    I think the tide is turning.

    A recent poll shows that conservatives are tiring of mixing religion and politics.


    Some Americans are having a change of heart about mixing religion and politics. A new survey finds a narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues.

    The new national survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that most of the reconsideration of the desirability of religious involvement in politics has occurred among conservatives. Four years ago, just 30% of conservatives believed that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. Today, 50% of conservatives express this view.

    As a result, conservatives' views on this issue are much more in line with the views of moderates and liberals than was previously the case. Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared.

  3. I agree that politics and religion should not be mixed, and have believed that for quite a long time. There were several reasons for this. One was when a church group which protested abortion by marching with large pictures of aborted fetuses came to our area. I listened to their radio program and understood their passion, but could not, under any circumstance, endorse or approve of such tactics, or other tactics they used against gays. Another is the 2000 elections which reached a fever pitch for conservatives. I found myself agreeing with Cal Thomas, who said the church loses its focus when it becomes involved in politics (in his book Blinded by Might). At the time I thought that our church should be much more vocal in supporting Republicans, whose plank was more in line with my values (pro-life). The church did not do that- instead it simply prayed for wisdom for our leaders, whoever they might be. I'm hearing the same thing now.

    A question - what are the extreme values that characterize Sarah Palin, in your view.

  4. Good Question Norah...

    This is not about Palin's views at all. The left should be celebrating her accomplishments as a woman as she exemplifies what feminism is about. Just as Judge Thomas's confirmation hearings years ago proved positively that the black power movement was not about blacks but about leftist ideology. Palin is proof postive that feminism as a political movement is not about women but about leftist idelology. Palin is a threat because she is a mainstream woman, smart, good speaker, has conservative values and stands by them and lastly... is happy. This really aggravates her opponents and they will frame this argument however it suits them. She is anything but extreme and it is interesting to me that the attack on her has been so vehement. Not good politics on behalf of the left.

  5. Was that a parody of O'Reilly, Stylux? You crack me up.

    Let's acknowledge that left or right, we actually care about our families and our country. This is not about "resenting" happy people -- or denying anyone's accomplishments.

    (I'm quite happy, thank you! As a leftie feminist! Amazing!)

    Just like conservative moms, I look at my kids and want the best for them. I wonder whether they will know war. I wonder about their education and economic future. I think about how best to nurture them, body and mind and character.

    Like Palin's BFF's (see the video on youtube!), it is possible to like her while disagreeing with her. Like several of her friends, I am pro-choice, meaning I don't think the government should decide for the individual.

    Most Americans agree.

    Palin doesn't. Her views are out of the mainstream on reproductive rights, contraception, stem cell research, evolution, global warming, sex education, freedom of speech, the separation of church and state, and -- as each news cycle reveals -- the quaint concept of truth-telling (got a bridge?).

    As mayor of Wasilla, Palin charged rape victims for the ensuing criminal investigations. To save taxpayers money, of course. No other crime victims were given this unique treatment, and if you can find the feminism in that, you are a better framer than Mr. Rove.

  6. aha. You watch O'Reilly, Free :-).

    "As each news cycle reveals". We need to be wary of what's reported as truth about any candidate just now.

  7. Talk about mixing religion and politics: Muslim Sharia law has been operating quietly in the UK for over a year.

  8. I love choice and it appears that Palin loves choice as well. I am in favor of giving all families the choice of where to send there kids to school. That is real choice... getting out from underneath the boot of the teacher's unions. (What are the Dems afraid of???) I love the choice of gun ownership as well... (I don't think people should own guns.. period. Obama as quoted by a fellow professor at the university.) Words like unity, choice, love etc. only apply to a leftist when everyone agrees with them. Should someone not agree and somehow become popular then love and compassion become lost values.

  9. No need to demonize Palin detractors, Stylux. I can assure you I have not misplaced my values of love and compassion (nor has David Brooks, to my knowledge).

    As for choice, I think my freedom to choose birth control and if warranted, abortion, is not quite parallel to choosing among a smorgasbord of publicly-funded schools, although that would be fine indeed.

    Your silence, regarding Palin's extremist views on the issues I named, I will take as consent. Thank you! Her views on your new issues (public education and gun laws) I do not know.

    As for me, I'm kinda entrepreneurial about schools (and would welcome private/public partnerships) and kinda Canadian about guns (no godly reason for assault weapons).

    Neither of these are deal-breakers for the prez in my view. How important are they to you?

    While I don't support Obama on all the issues (e.g. ethanol), I'm confident he is the better choice for our future. I'm not just voting my pocketbook, but if I were, he is certainly the better bet.

  10. My silence on an issue should never be interpreted as consent and I believe that you know that. However taunting sometimes has an impact so I will respond.

    As for demonizing... How come I often get the feeling that the 'psychological" transference is taking place, a common ployof the left. (This is one of the reasons that the lie that Bush lied is so prevalent... rebound from Clinton's proven lie.) The left media outlets have spent the last two weeks criticizing her for doing exactly what the "feminists" have been preaching the last four decades and what do they say... stay home and take care of your kids. This is the epitome of hypocrisy and we get silence on the left... unashamedly. And what do I hear from you... accusations of me demonizing her critics!!

    I love a good political argument and have been doing this for years with all stripes but the left has a hard time seeing its own garbage.

    As far as my views are concerned in the political spectrum, I rarely get my candidate in play because I am not in the mainstream. I do not care for bigness in either government or business or labor or schools or churches or such. So I vote for the person who promises less and this is rarely a Dem and frankly in todays world increasingly rarely a Rep. Most of the voters I observe want a nanny to take care of them or want a nanny to take care of some other guy or want a nanny to save their soul or want a nanny to take care of some other person or concept (trees, oceans, climate, children and whatver else comes to mind) that can't speak for itself or herself. So I don't plan to win nor does my well being depend on it. Politics is at best a hobby and I have no problem seeing it differently.

    As far as happiness is concerned.. studies (which cannot predict the particular) have shown that right of center people are happier than left of center people. (The science is settled on this issue... I love that phrase.)

    The part of this election that interests me is this. Should Obama win the leftists will enter an era of good feeling and will then begin to rewrite the history of their embarrassing behavior during the Bush years. The denials of all the "hate" language will begin, the targets on his head will be forgotten, the name-calling will fade into history never to be remembered, the actually serious comparisons with Hitler will seem as if they never occurred. Of course you will remember because you are objective and fair and at least are not prone to forget history.

  11. Good discussion, Stylux/Free/Norah!

    I'm pleased that we're agreeing to disagree about things, using our inside voices for a change!

    This election has me in more of a quandary than I've been in for many a year. Similar to Stylux's position that politics is more of a hobby than anything else, I really don't care all that much, in spite of my occasional timid forwarding of an opinion. Normally I carefully consider all of the candidates and their positions and then vote a more or less straight Republican ticket since that's almost always more in line with my beliefs than the other choice.

    I think we all have core beliefs that we are all strong enough to defend and hold close, because that is where our hearts and consciences are leading us. I am not ashamed to state that I am 100% anti-abortion, and if a candidate even wavers on that item, they do not get my vote. If a candidate supports a position that flag burning and other anti-American activities are acceptable as free speech or some other precept, they will not get my vote.

    I actually -- contrary to many -- will allow a candidate to change his or her mind about something, and not think less of them for it. If a person learns new information that makes them want to change their mind and they refuse to do so for fear they would lose face, then I think they are without courage and maturity, and they will not get my vote.

    So who will I vote for? Well, based on the above, the Obama/Biden ticket are out the window. I was trying to think of who else could be running that would make me vote for them, and I couldn't think of anyone. McCain meets most of my criteria, but I have personal issues with him and how he has conducted himself, and do not want to vote for him.

    I gotta admit, I like Palin for a lot of reasons. Just about everything that is brought up about her tends to be disproven when either taken in context, or when the facts come out. I find it hard to believe that people fault her for whatever action she was taking to get rid of a State Trooper who tazed his own son, among other things. I thought it was amusing -- although kind of sad -- that a t-shirt she wore in college was thrown up as an indicator of lack of character. I heard a diehard Dem carrying on the other day about how Carly Fiorina had said Palin was not fit to run a corporation, full stop. When I went looking for the rest of the story, I found that what Carly actually said was on the lines of Palin is not fit to run a corporation, nor is Obame, nor is Biden, nor is McCain. But, she said, that is not what they are running for! She also said something to the effect that she recognized that Palin was the only person who has actually made executive decisions and has executive experience in the whole bunch.

    If a discussion is to be held about action/lack of action on the candidate's parts, then we must ask why Obama voted "present" so many times when serving in the legislature. Did he not care, or did he not understand that he was supposed to be representing his constituents and making decisions?

    Maybe I will vote for McCain/Palin, and hope McCain has to resign for some reason.

    ...or maybe I will still vote my dream ticket -- Reagan and Nixon -- because even dead, I think they're better than the choices we've got. :-)

  12. Cvow, thanks for chiming in. Please note that you will not be able to vote for McCain, who would allow abortion in some cases. (You are going to have to sit this one out, friend :-)

    Also, while Palin's distortions and lies are much more than contextual misunderstandings, it is worse than futile for me to attempt to persuade you otherwise.

    According to this study, conservatives are MORE likely to cling to a view when presented with evidence that debunks it.

    Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration’s prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation: the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003. Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration’s claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse.

    A similar “backfire effect” also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.

    In a paper approaching publication, Nyhan, a PhD student at Duke University, and Reifler, at Georgia State University, suggest that Republicans might be especially prone to the backfire effect because conservatives may have more rigid views than liberals: Upon hearing a refutation, conservatives might “argue back” against the refutation in their minds, thereby strengthening their belief in the misinformation. Nyhan and Reifler did not see the same “backfire effect” when liberals were given misinformation and a refutation about the Bush administration’s stance on stem cell research.

  13. Back to the old, tired out assertion that somehow conservatives are mentally deficient and less objective. We can trace this back to the enlightenment and the desire to replace a transcendent with earthly knowledge… (Has anybody over on that side of the spectrum realized that scientific objectivity has never been able to address the question of why we are here?) The expansion (or rather explosion) of the political into all aspects of living… voting is political, eating is political, smoking is political, having sex is political, existing is political, marrying is political and lastly the pompous notion that thinking is political and the number of neurons determines politics. Over the years we have been treated to "scientific" studies that have tried to show Rep presidents to be mentally ill and conservatives to be fairly close to Neanderthals and tyrants. All of this due to the obvious crenation of nerve cells as made clear by their political views. When science is worshipped and substituted for wisdom these are the unintended consequences.
    Read Shankar Vedantam in "The Power of Political Misinformation" in the Washington Post online version who repeats the above study but adds several about Dems and their persistence in retaining false information when it concerns their currently held perceptions.
    I guess it makes one feel better if it can be shown that a higher degree of conservatives suffer from this mental disease. What interests me about this is the continued attempt to show scientifically that one’s political opponents are less worthy to be alive or to be trusted with taking out the trash. These pseudo-scientific social studies actually demonstrate the amount of leisure time that is available in this society... created one might add by individual entrepreneurship and individual initiative... (The government has never created wealth but merely takes it.) ... Initiative that leftists feel they are collectively entitled to and morally and ethically so.
    I, for one, have a hard time realizing that anybody in this country trusts the NYT or the Washington Post for that matter... quoted above. When I receive a call to participate in a poll or the like... I refuse to respond knowing that it is more than likely agenda driven and will be used to bash some viewpoint.
    Let's all go out and dredge up a few more Wasilla evangelicals to support our view that Palin lied… she isn’t even in office yet and we must start the fiction that she is a liar… You are a Rep.. Ergo you lie. And you are a Rep… ergo mentally deficient. Does it matter that an overwhelming number of these academics and journalists are in the tank for the Dems?? Objectivity?? Why not give these researchers grants to study the political leanings of fast food as opposed to asparagus… Doritos are dead material and lean right and vegetables have feelings and lean left.

  14. Stylux, Palin is in office and has a record.

    Thanks for the link to the Washington Post article. Shakar Vendantam discusses his article with the authors of the study here.

    In spite of his calling out the researchers' political leanings, Vendantam clearly trusts the objectivity of the research. I found this exchange interesting:

    Chicago: Do you have any insights as to how one would find away around this "backfire" effect? How can we point out to someone with firm beliefs that what they think is factually inaccurate without causing cognitive dissonance?

    Jason Reifler: If our speculation is correct that receiving difficult information leads one to counter-argue to protect a sense of self, than remedies probably lie in affirming one's sense of self before attempting to correct misperceptions. This approach is what Brendan and I are starting to test in a lab setting.

    Shankar Vedantam: To put it another way, is it possible that fighting misinformation might be less about the facts and more about reassuring people that they are not dumb or stupid if they change their minds? If the process by which people believe bad information is partly psychological, is it possible the solution is partly psychological, too? Of course, this is very different from the conventional view of how to fight misinformation -- which argues that the antidote to bad information is merely to provide people with good information.

    So I'll take the leap here and test the hypothesis. Friends, you are smart and honorable, and (like Cvow ), I respect someone who can change his/her mind when presented with new evidence.

  15. Free,

    I have, until recently, been a lifelong reader of the eastern media at its best (with pride, I might add) and was so because the articles happened to be well written. Over the last decade and a half, the articles changed from news to agenda journalism and the front page from information to manipulation. This new data changed my mind and caused me to reject what was once quality and now is basically leftists rags and propaganda. New information, new data, new input and voila... change of behavior and change of opinion. I guess this qualifies me as someone worthy of the label of objectivity.

    This approach to science, by the way is nauseatingly elistist and unfortunately quite typical. I know of no studies and no articles and no effort being put forth by the right to "scientifically" prove that leftists are inherently less intelligent and inherently less human. Please do not ignore the main point and that is the utter useless science being posited here regarding conservatives.

  16. "So I'll take the leap here and test the hypothesis. Friends, you are smart and honorable, and (like Cvow ), I respect someone who can change his/her mind when presented with new evidence."

    I will test this hypothesis by agreeing with this writer. People on the left are more likely to be able to change their minds. So, I think Free is on the verge of changing her mind and agreeing with conservatives! Am I right? :-)

  17. Is Palin extremist? To paraphrase Bill Clinton a little bit, it depends on what an "extremist is."

    Seriously, there are a couple of ways to define extremist. One way is to take various viewpoints (say on evolution for instance) and arrange them on a continuum from right to left, with the right extreme being "young earth" literal six-day creation, and the extreme left being some sort of atheistic evolutionary process. On that continuum, Palin's views one the subject would be pretty extreme.

    The other way to define the extremes is to take a survey of the population's views on the subject. Take a look at which views clump in the middle with the most people agreeing on them, and put the minority views on either the right side or the left side of the clump. Under this model her views on the age of the earth are not nearly so extreme, and may in fact reflect middle America.

    So in order to be convincing, I think the left has to be careful about broad allegations of extremism. While I certainly think that Palin is extreme under the first definition on more than a few issues, I'd only really skewer her on the issues where she is not only extreme (under the first definition), but out of step with most voters. For instance:

    Anti-abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest. Most Americans support these exceptions.

    Apocalyptic "end times" religious beliefs. While the numbers of Americans holding this belief seems to be growing (much to my concern), most Americans find these views extreme, and certainly don't want anyone in office who is going to act under the assumption that the imminent end of the world is inevitable. Could easily be a self-fulfilling prophecy, in my view.

    Abuse of power. A lot of people feel that Bush over-reached after 9/11. I think Palin could pretty easily be painted as someone who over-reaches and abuses the power of her office, based on the allegations regarding the firings and threats of firings both when she was mayor and when she was governor. As a salaried employee who can be fired for any or no reason, I think most people will take a dim view of firings that seem to be over-reaches, personal vendettas, or purely partisan.

  18. Free,
    I admit the abortion in some cases thing is one of the hard spots I have with McCain.

    I know that my nature is black and white -- I suppose it's partly why I was attracted to the analytical engineer field. With regard to the abortion issue, I know we have discussed this a lot before and that at least some of you ascribe to what Tomte claims as "most Americans support these exceptions", but I don't. Because my belief is that life begins at conception, I likewise do not believe we have the right to end it. On that premise, it is not possible for me to believe that even a life begun in a horrific circumstance such as rape or incest -- an innocent life, not guilty of the crime -- should be ended, even though its continuation is a different problem. Those who believe life begins at first gasp -- I think Trails referred to it as the "ensoulment" (pretty cool word by the way, even if we disagree when it happens, Trails!) obviously disagree with me.

    ...and in spite of what Tomte professes, I am not sure that I am in the minority in this country. I distrust most polls especially in "political" years because they are at best biased, mostly tainted, and in the worst case, completely misleading -- regardless of who is conducting the poll. As a statistician, I can assure you that the old joke of "What would you like the answer to be?" is really not a joke at all.

  19. Tomte, your thoughts on what is extreme remind me of grading on a curve. There is not a clear standard of what is extreme, but extreme is considered in terms of what a majority of the population considers normal. So, if a majority of the population thinks abortion is acceptable, then to be anti-abortion is extreme. Conversely then, if a majority of the population thinks abortion is an abomination, then to be pro-abortion would be considered extreme.

    Extreme would be measured by the prevailing views of the population. This does not seem logical to me.