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From Jester to Esther

Sarah Palin sees self as a religious legend, not a political football
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  July 15, 2009

$arah™, Inc.: The biggest brand name in conservative politics is about to enter the burgeoning right-wing marketplace — and she's perfect for it. Ka-ching! By David S. Bernstein.
During the presidential campaign last fall, the Phoenix took note of a curious undercurrent in the annals of Sarah Palin fandom: the notion of Palin as a modern-day Queen Esther. Esther, an obscure Old Testament beauty queen who became a real one, bravely spoke up to save her people. Palin's followers believe that God has a similar plan for their heroine. That conceit has gained renewed circulation since her resignation announcement earlier this month — and it certainly can't hurt her appeal among religious conservatives.

Governor Palin reportedly began fashioning herself after Esther a few years ago, upon the advice of an Alaska pastor. Many in the conservative Christian blogosphere picked up on the connection even before she became the Republican vice-presidential nominee, but especially after — invoking a famous line from the Biblical tale in proclaiming that Palin was chosen "for such a time as this." That line has been picked up by her followers and greets her on signs at rallies.

Palin tossed another Esther quotation to her followers the day after her resignation speech, telling interviewers that, politically, "if I die, I die." That's what Esther says before speaking out of turn with her husband the king, in her effort to save her fellow Jews from slaughter. (Most Bibles have it as "if I perish, I perish," but modern translations popular among evangelicals, such as the God's Word translation, use Palin's wording.)

The line caused a buzz on certain chat boards, and then hit mainstream media — or close to it, anyway. Frequent Palin-basher Andrew Sullivan, at his Atlantic blog, made quick reference to it, leading to discussions by USA Today's religion columnist and others.

As it happens, Palin is not the first Republican politician to fancy herself this way. Katherine Harris, the mascara-encrusted Florida secretary of state during the Bush-Gore recount fiasco, has been there and done that. The New Republic's Jonathan Chait reported in 2006 on:

". . . Harris's oft-stated belief that she was the modern-day incarnation of the biblical heroine Queen Esther. ("If I perish, I perish," she would proclaim dramatically, perhaps confusing Esther with Jesus.) During the recount, Harris made this analogy to her staff so frequently that, as the Post reported, her underlings finally begged, 'No more Esther stories!' "

Actually, the Christian blogosphere may be getting a little loose with the Esther comparisons. Several commentators, for example, laid Esther's metaphorical crown atop the platinum-blonde head of Carrie Prejean — the California beauty queen whose response to a gay-marriage query briefly made her a conservative icon.

And Palin is not the only prominent Republican with pretensions to Old Testament royalty. Mark Sanford, in explaining why he will not resign after admitting an extramarital affair, compared himself to King David. Sanford's got an uphill battle if he hopes to convince the Bible-thumpers to back him, but Palin is another story.

In the Bible, Esther asks her people to fast for her for three days. All Palin wants from them is $100, payable to SarahPAC.

Related: Travels with Sarah, Palin's appeal, Reading is fundamentalist, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Elections and Voting, Politics, U.S. Politics,  More more >
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