Grizzly Time In Mizzou

Sarah Palin may wax and wane as a significant figure in national politics. But there’s no one quite like her to rouse the passions of The Base, so it’s with interest that I read about her appearances in Missouri leading up today’s primary.

Palin’s candidate in the three-way I’m-more-conservative-than-you slugfest of a GOP Senate primary is, unsurprisingly, Sarah Steelman, the fellow-Mama-Grizzly and former State Treasurer who has been lagging a bit in late polls.

This account at WaPo from Missouri-based freelance journalist Diana Reese of an appearance by Palin over the weekend hits a lot of old familiar notes for aficionados of La Pasionaria of the Permafrost:

Palin started her speech with a comment about the Missouri’s state flag, which does indeed feature three grizzly bears, representing the strength and bravery of the state’s citizens. Whether any of the grizzly bears is female, however, is open to debate.

But when Palin talked about Steelman, at age 18, working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1976, the former Alaska governor turned to her and said, “You couldn’t have been 18, you must’ve been 2…what a hot mama grizzly you have!”….

Later, referring again to Reagan’s 1976 campaign, Palin said, “Back when Sarah and I were itty bitty babies.”

Ursine shout-outs and dubiously tasteful references to “hotness” aside, Palin’s redundant references to the spirit of 1976 was a big nod to the inside-baseball belief of movement conservative types that people who didn’t back Reagan for president until 1980 were front-runners and parvenus. ’76 was the good, pure, raw ideological campaign against a sitting Republican president. So Steelman was on board back before hard-core conservatism was cool.

Here’s more from Reese:

The tea party’s mantra of cutting spending and limiting the power of the federal government struck a chord with the audience, but never did the subject of jobs and job creation (my personal obsession) come up.

Instead, Palin reiterated Steelman’s slogan: “The status quo has got to go.”

She said Steelman was not heading to Washington to get invited to “frou-frou chi-chi D.C. cocktail parties.” Instead, she wants to “save our country’s economy and God-given freedoms” while protecting “the sanctity of human life.”

Stands to reason. People like Palin may exploit a poor economy or budgetary red-ink to make their case, but it’s never really about some ephemeral issue like job creation or the budget: it’s the Eternal Cause of getting rid of the New Deal and Great Society and such horrors as legalized abortion that makes the heart race.

You can read Reese’s full post for her less-than-positive impressions of Palin’s sartorial choices (there’s a photo which shows what she’s talking about, including the “Superwoman” t-shirt that is apparently the Steelman Campaign Uniform of the Day), but I won’t go there.

Palin’s on something of a roll with her RINO Purge campaign for a more right-wing Republican Senate Caucus (she issued timely endorsements of Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Deb Fisher in Nebraska and Ted Cruz in Texas, and was smart enough not to fish into the stillborn revolt against Orrin Hatch in Utah). So a Steelman win today would further burnish her credentials. And if Steelman loses to one of the other wingnuts running against her, it was all just a matter of Mama Grizzly solidarity.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.