Yes, we have had a lot of Palinology here in the last few days. You may ask, why? I can only speak for myself, but:

  1. Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates tend to wear a palimpsest of narrative fact and fiction, so the challenge of understanding them is one of close reading and educated guessing; Palin is different—the challenge she presents is one that historians like: get the story! Nobody had it, and we wouldn’t either if not for awc helping us to do some ordinary history work.
  2. The story that emerged is, from a historical perspective, a fascinating one: much as Alaska advertises itself as the last frontier, so Palin looks like a throwback to those old frontier days. When the West was opening to settlement, and the federal government and multinational investors played such an outsized role, when politicians tended to autocracy and corruption, both petty and grand, while clothing themselves in (an often genuinely felt, I’m sure) self-righteousness—why, it was a time when, it appears, she would have been right at home. So when we find her focusing on personal loyalty and local morality-through-censorship, it probably reminds us of that frontier culture—the frontier that was home to moralists and revivalists as well as big corporate agents and those who would have resisted them.

In short there’s something about Palin that really cements the image of the modern Republican Party as the party of bringing back the Gilded Age (thank you, silbey).