Palin is a right wing populist in the tradition of the Ku Klux Klan of 1915 - 1920 and of the militia movements of the 1990's. One of those movements what the Alaska Independence Party which supported Palin for Governor the first time she ran. The AIP and the militia movements of the 1990's were fringe movements, but the KKK of the early 20th century was a powerful force in American politics in many states for the first half of the century. So why isn't Palin just another fringe right-winger? Here is
Dave Niewert's description of that right-wing fronge movement in the twentieth century:
This Klan crumbled in the late 1920s under the weight of internal political warfare and corruption; many of its field organizers later turned up in William Dudley Pelley’s overtly fascist Silver Shirts organization of the 1930s. After World War II, most of these groups – as well as the renowned anti-Semite radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin, and lingering American fascist groups like George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party – were fully relegated to fringe status. So, too, were subsequent attempts at reviving right-wing populism, embodied by Willis Carto and his Populist Party, as well as other forms of right-wing populism that cropped up in the latter half of the century, from Robert DePugh’s vigilante/domestic terrorist organization The Minutemen in the 1960s, to the Posse Comitatus and “constitutionalist” tax protesters in the 1970s and ‘80s, to the “militia”/Patriot movement of the 1990s. As it had been since at least the 1920s, this brand of populism was riddled with conspiracist paranoia, xenophobic white tribalism, and a propensity for extreme violence.So Niewert points to George W. Bush, to Rep. Ron Paul, and to John McCain as the culprits for creating Sarah Palin as the new face of the modern Republican Party. The Republicans have flirted with the the fringe right-wingers, but they didn't invite them in to take over. But then came the collapse of mainstream and Wall Street Republicanism in the wake of the disaster of the Bush years. Ron Paul had run for President on the mildly sanitized right-wing fringe ideas and had introduced those ideas to mainstream Republicans in 2008 even as those Republicans recognized the disaster that mainstream Republicanism was facing in the next election. When John McCain ran for President he was rather soundly rejected by even most of the Republicans. So he reached out and pulled in the right-wing fringe cult figure from Alaska, Sarah Palin.
Yet beginning in the 1990s, as mainstream conservatives built more and more ideological bridges with this sector – reflected in the increasing adoption of far-right rhetoric within the mainstream – the strands of populism became more and more imbedded in mainstream-conservative dogma, particularly the deep, visceral, and often irrational hatred of the federal government. One of the more popular "mainstream" figure among this bloc in the 1990s was Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. And so when he created something of a sensation with is campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008, it meant that these ideas and agendas started receiving widespread circulation among the mainstream Right -- and with it, an increasing number of conservatives who called themselves "libertarians", when what they really meant was "populists."
Palin probably saved the Republican national campaign from a Goldwater-level disaster. She didn't win the campaign, but she helped it avoid total electoral ignominy. In the process, she became the right-wing celebrity superstar of the moment. She did nothing, however, for mainstream Republicanism or for John McCain. They are down the tubes because the entire Republican - Wall Street message has been discredited. So Sarah Palin has stepped in to fill the vacuum.
The actual takeover of the Republican Party occurred on April 15th, 2009 with the beginning of the tea-Bagger mob actions. Since that time, as though by magic, the mainstream Republican politicians have been dancing to the tune called by the spokespeople for the tea-baggers, and Sarah Palin is the celebrity face of the tea-baggers.
What Niewert has not discussed in this article is the association/alliance of the Dominionists with the right-wing extremist groups. These are the extremist fundamentalist christians who are behind the political effort to teach creationism in the public schools. This is one step in their effort to change America into a nation that is governed under their understanding of Biblical law.
A few of the better known Dominionists are "James Dobson and Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, Louis Sheldon and the Traditional Values Coalition, Don Wildmon and the American Family Association." Pat Robertson is another. There are a number of others, especially TV evangelists.
The Dominionist anti-science anti-Gay religious extremists appear to me to be a separate thread of right-wing fringe group. But it appears that Sarah Palin represents them also, as did Florida's Katherine Harris. Theocracy Watch keeps track of the Dominionists.
The connection of these groups to The Family AKA the Fellowship is also not clear to me. The Fellowship is the secretive fundamentalist organization currently led by Douglas Coe, the owners and sponsor of the C Street house for "Christian" politicians and the reputedly most politically powerful evangelical group in America. This connection is another question that needs to be answered. Sen. Ensign, Sen. Coburn, Sen. Inhofe, Rep. Pitts, Rep. Stupak, and Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford are all members of The Fellowship. There are others.