Uniting, One County at a Time

Uniting, One County at a Time
We helped make rural Oregon a force for progressive change.
By Mike Edera and Marcy Westerling

The political influence of Sarah Palin continues to dismay and amaze. How could this loser Vice-Presidential candidate and failed Alaska governor reach into the current debate on healthcare reform and, by inventing Obamas death panels–surely one of the most moronic, inane charges in U.S. political history–seem to tip the struggle for a public healthcare option in favor of the private insurance industry?

Watching the re-incarnation of Palin and listening to the increasingly shrill tone of the healthcare "debate," many of us who are veterans of the 90s culture wars hear a familiar sound. The Palin phenomenon is a synthetic version of the grassroots right-wing social movements that emerged in the 80s and 90s. Those movements were political products designed in the hothouses of various then-obscure right-wing institutions. But they had an authentic gestation in rural America.

Before she was discovered by William Kristol and launched into the national limelight by the McCain campaign, Palin was mentored by wingnuts of the Alaska Independence Party, an offshoot of the U.S. Constitution Party. The movement of ideas and individuals from the right-wing fringe into mainstream politics–from grassroots to what might be termed the "small-town, rural brand"–is the reason progressives must pay attention to the politics of rural America.

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