Going Rouge takes off on the title of the former vice-presidential candidate’s own biography Going Rogue which had an advance sale of 1.5 million before it even hit the bookstore shelves. Rouge is a collection of 55 pieces from across the spectrum of the US Left including feminists like Gloria Steinem and Katha Pollitt and radical populists like Jim Hightower and Thomas Frank. It provides some amusing and insightful analysis of the way in which knee-jerk fundamentalism mixes with the celebrity sell to provide a personal narrative on which the hopes of the Republican Right have come to reside. Family values become folksy stories about ‘my five kids’. Environmentalism is reduced to the glories of hunting moose in the Alaskan wilderness. An out-of-wedlock grandchild becomes an argument against sex education in the schools. Plus there is the underlying principle of all conservative populism: ‘they put me down just like they are putting you down’. Who ‘they’ are remains a moveable feast.
Palin is a pretty easy target. Examples of lies (Obama’s ‘death panels’ as a code phrase for fighting healthcare reform) and ignorance (a climate change denier with virtually no knowledge of international issues) litter her career. But what lurks behind many of these contributions is also a fear of Palin and the kind of impulses she continues to tap in the US public. Despite defeat and derision she just won’t go away. After all it’s not much of a jump from George W Bush’s ‘aw shucks’ to Sarah Palin’s ‘you betcha’.