An Acculturated Exclusive Interview: Sarah Palin Talks Pop Culture, Rock, and Conservatism
There is a common trope used in movies and TV, where a character discovers that someone is in love with her and has been for years. “But you never said anything,” the stunned woman says to her long-silent suitor. “You never asked,” usually comes the reply.
That scene comes to mind when thinking about conservatives and popular culture. While liberals talk about movies, books, music, and other arts as part of their general everyday being, conservatives get asked about taxes, abortion, and immigration. We love popular culture, but no one ever asks.
Acculturated is trying to change that. Last year I briefly encountered Sarah Palin at CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Washington, and took the opportunity to ask her an important question: who’s your favorite band? The verdict: Van Halen. As you’ll see in the video, Governor Palin seemed surprised, but then a little delighted, to be asked about rock and roll. Everyone just assumes that that’s Jay-Z wingman President Obama’s turf.
I’ve always wanted to follow up with Governor Palin, and I recently sent her some questions about popular culture. She was kind enough to respond. Here are her answers, followed at the end by a couple of my own observations.
Gov. Palin, what is your general philosophy about modern popular culture?
Culture matters. As Andrew Breitbart liked to say, politics is downstream of culture. If you wonder why a civilization is in decline, you have to look at the culture first.
We were both teenagers in the 1980s. Did you have a favorite band or genre—heavy metal, pop, English bands?
My favorite bands as a teen were Van Halen, Boston, and AC/DC.
Do you think conservatives are engaging the popular culture effectively today?
Good question. No, conservatives aren’t infiltrating and influencing pop culture enough, and we’re missing the boat. That’s why I’m fine with, for instance, Bristol being on the shows she’s been on and why I preach against preaching to the choir.
For years, conservatives have glumly waved the white flag when it comes to influencing popular culture. Defeat has been declared many times. But the civic values that conservatism cherishes—like courage, honesty, integrity, hard work, patriotism, faith, fortitude, individual liberty—are values that civilization depends upon. So, if conservatives lose the culture, the culture will collapse and take civilization with it.
For years we have been focused on November election nights, and perhaps not focused enough on Oscar night, or Emmy night, or script buys, or production deals. We have been focused on sending our brightest and best to Washington. But we also need to send them to Hollywood or to the Columbia School of Journalism. We need to take back Hollywood and the mainstream news media. We need to step out of our comfort zones. We can’t allow ourselves to be pushed to the margins. We can’t allow the principles upon which this nation is founded to be ignored or undermined.
What are your “Desert Island Discs”—records you would take with you to a desert island?
I think my most recent iPod playlist is a good indication of my eclectic tastes. This is the list that I run to if I carry my iPod. It’s not necessarily my “Desert Island Discs” because I like changing my playlists quite often—as often as I can get my daughter Piper to sit down and download more stuff from iTunes for me because I’ve no patience with that stuff. In addition to lots of old Van Halen and AC/DC (too numerous to mention), my latest list includes:
-Kid Rock: All Summer Long
-Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow: I Put Your Picture Away
-Willie Nelson & Toby Keith: Beer For My Horses
-Brantley Gilbert: Kick It In the Sticks
-Brantley Gilbert: Country Must Be Country Wide
-Blake Shelton: Boys ‘Round Here
-MercyMe: I Can Only Imagine
-Miranda Lambert: Ain’t Your Mama’s Broken Heart
-Pink: Blow Me One Last Kiss
-Kelly Clarkson: What Doesn’t Kill You
-Toby Keith: Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue
-Amy Grant: El Shaddai
-Lady Gaga: You & I
-Aaron Lewis with George Jones & Charlie Daniels: Country Boy
-The Supremes: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
-Billy Currington: God is Great, Beer is Good & People are Crazy
-John Rich/Big & Rich: Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy
-Boston: More Than a Feeling
-Steve Miller Band: Jet Airliner
-Cowboy Troy: I Play Chicken With the Train
I’ve always liked Sarah Palin, and this just confirms that feeling. Any woman who loves AC/DC that much is a cool chick, period.
Furthermore, Palin is spot-on about conservatives waving the white flag when it comes to engagement in the popular culture, and that if a society loses its culture, its civilization soon follows. Palin is downright wise in this regard; it’s just sad that more conservatives don’t get it. Yes, there are bright spots for conservatives who understand how vital culture is, especially popular culture. Places like Breitbart, the Daily Caller, and, not least, Acculturated are engaged in what goes on in the clubs and bookstores and theaters.
But the larger picture still reveals people in the larger corridors of conservative power who would rather support politics than the arts. A couple weeks ago, a conservative philanthropic foundation gave a $250,000 award to Roger Ailes, the multimillionaire president of Fox News. The previous year that same award went to George Will, multimillionaire columnist. That kind of money could fund several conservative authors and filmmakers, some of whom have an eye not just on the next election but on creating worthwhile art for future generations. Unlike Governor Palin, too many conservatives in the upper reaches of power have a present-tense obsession. On that, they’re really no different from liberals: ushering in a post-cultural society that’s on a highway to hell, as Palin favorite AC/DC once put it.