I'd have compared her to Edward Gibbon, but then again I'm prone to wild and ignorant exaggeration...

>> Sunday, November 22, 2009

Americaneoclown is seeing starbursts through the pages of his book:

I should add that I'm reading the book now, and I'm finding it as an extremely satisfying account of the everywoman's tale of American exceptionalism. That is, Sarah Palin is our 21st century Frederick Jackson Turner, who was the author of the seminal account of the American political culture, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." With Palin we have our modern-day political scribe of the frontier existence, the rugged pioneer of traditionalism who rejoices in the Alaskan harvest of the great remaining bounty of the nation's magnificent destiny.
Wow. That's a mighty chain of prepositions there. But has Donald even read the Turner essays? I have no idea what a phrase like "the pioneer of traditionalism" is supposed to mean, but Turner's argument -- which historians and political scientists have pretty much rejected for the past half century -- is that "the frontier" destroyed tradition, particularly the cultural inheritances that European settlers brought with them to the perimeter of settlement (e.g., western Massachusetts, the Ohio Valley, the Mississippi Valley, etc.)

In any event, Turner's argument is that the social life of the frontier produces a laboratory of sorts in which democratic ideals can be rejuvenated and then retained as the frontier becomes progressively more "civilized." For the frontier thesis to work, in other words, the frontier in question needs to produce democratic modes of life that are actually worth emulating. Given that Alaska's entire political and social order depends upon gobbling up more federal resources than the state can deliver in tax revenues, I doubt there are altogether that many Americans who would find this an agreeable model. Palin's notion that the state can wean itself from the federal teat by drilling from now until the End of Days is also a decidedly non-Turnerian fantasy, unless I missed the parts in which he celebrated the massive transfer of real estate and political power into the hands of corporate speculators.


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