Back in 2009, I called Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue promotion the “bus tour of destruction,” noting that her “worldview is not about creation and building,” but about “destruction and dominion.” For dominion to take place, I wrote, “the current order, especially the Democrats’ version of government order, has to fail. What most liberals, Christians included, don’t understand, is that destruction paves the way for a new order ordained by God according to this belief system.” Palin’s latest bus tour has an additional twist, as it is designed to destroy her possible GOP presidential rivals’ media coverage.
Palin is putting a wet finger in the wind — or “Gideon’s fleece,” in Pentecostal parlance — to see if she can still draw media attention away from her rivals. Gideon’s fleece refers to an account in Judges 6:33-40. Gideon sets fleece on a threshing floor, using it as a way of asking God for a sign whether or not to go into battle against the Midianites. God gives Gideon the sign to smite the Midianites and to do battle with his Baal-worshiping neighbors. Setting down Gideon’s fleece, then, in contemporary Pentecostal interpretations, is a way for believers to seek God’s approval for their own ambitions or “calling,” and to claim they are carrying out God’s purposes in conquering heathens and idol-worshipers.
Like a seasoned evangelist, Palin knows how to work the tension in the air and convince the poorest folks to put their money into the collection basket. Palin’s tour reminds me of evangelists like Oral Roberts and other small time gospel preachers who used the summer to set up their tents across America, traveling in buses and spreading the “good news.”
Palin’s bus tour takes that strategy up a notch: it is the “Where’s Waldo” evangelical-political tour bus, touting the “good news” of Palin and her commitment to the “Fundamental Restoration of America.” The reward for those with the stamina to chase her down: a photo opportunity with Palin chatting it up with hoi polloi, with a bonus side of Piper sniping at her mom.
The Palin bus rolled into Philadelphia yesterday so that Palin and family could visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Predictably, there was a crazy press scrum, complete with helicopters, police escorts, random Tea Partiers, a donkey, and an elephant.
Traveling with Piper, Todd, her parents, and a media throng racing behind, Palin is on message, touting the “fundamental truths” that the Tea Party and her conservative faith stand for: the Constitution, free markets, loving the troops, and oh yes, “loving the smell of emissions.” While most families are scaling back their summer vacations, SarahPAC is paying for Palin’s homage to her version of the history of America. Her rapid-fire tours of historical sites is like the attention deficit syndrome version of American history. All photo ops and quick sound bites about energy policy, free markets, and American exceptionalism, then speeding off in an SUV.
Topping off her day was a visit to Trump Tower, a monument to the Donald, whose comb-over was perfectly coiffed as he took pictures with Palin and Piper before having a dinner at a chain pizza parlor, La Famiglia, in New York City. Palin asked for the meeting with Trump, and since he was fresh off of a meeting with pastors arranged by televangelist Paula White, one might begin to think that Trump is becoming a conservative Christian power broker.
Whether Palin runs or not, she has figured out a way to draw all of the attention without doing the hard work of boning up on policy. Mitt Romney’s forthcoming announcement making his candidacy official has been completely overshadowed by Palin’s contrived spectacle.
While the press desperately tries to discern her plans, Palin is signaling a run to her followers at every moment. Who wears a suit to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell when it is 90-plus degrees outside? Palin’s bus tour is a clever way to film all the footage she will ever need for campaign commercials showing how much she and her family love America and its history.
Between Palin’s bus tour and the forthcoming movie about her political life, The Undefeated, she is getting maximum coverage even though she pretends not to want to engage the “lamestream media.” It is a strategy that could work for her devoted follwers, even though pundits continue to scoff at her running for president. Palin may be having the last laugh, though, as her Gideon’s fleece is becoming both a political and religious brand which her cheerleaders will see as a divine directive to crush her heathen rivals.