Turning Palin’s family dirt into paydirt

By Neal Larson

I have to hand it to her. Sarah Palin’s Trump stumping this week has earned from me a new respect. Who else could take their own drunken son’s arrest for punching his girlfriend in the face and turn it into a Trump campaign asset? Nobody could — except for Sarah Palin.

The logic follows this way: Palin’s son Track served our country in uniform. He has PTSD. He gets drunk, punches the girl and gets arrested, and it’s all because Barack Obama hasn’t done enough for our veterans, so therefore we must elect a better Commander-in-Chief like Donald Trump. (Had The Donald been in office, I’m sure Track would be a docile volunteer at the soup kitchen.)

At no point did Sarah express sorrow for the victims of domestic violence. She didn’t utter a hint that her son should take some responsibility. She didn’t even say it’s a “private family matter” like normal people with dirty family laundry would. She didn’t just briefly address the issue separate from the Trump campaign process. Instead she saw gold. Maybe not the mother lode but a nugget at least. Did she mine it effectively? You betcha!

Fortunately, in the context of reality TV star Palin’s endorsement of reality TV star Donald Trump, their now melded and adoring audiences’ smellers have apparently been blunted to the odious stench of shameless political opportunism, using anything and everything — even relationship violence within her own family — to promote a preferred candidate. Perhaps Sarah can find a way to exploit daughter Bristol’s second out-of-wedlock baby born last month and blame Barack Obama for not doing enough to curb single motherhood (which Donald Trump I’m sure has a terrific plan to eradicate in three weeks once he’s elected).

I have a real Grizzly Mama, and if I suffered from PTSD, struggled to stay away from booze and face-punching the love of my life, I’m pretty sure my Grizzly Mama would be at my side getting me help, not out stumping for a political candidate and using my own embarrassing troubles to lock up Iowa.

Before those on the conservative side in need of a safe space with puppy YouTube videos — away from perceived microaggressions about PTSD and out-of-wedlock motherhood — lash out, I fully understand people struggle with different things. If Track Palin has PTSD, he needs our prayers and professional help. Let’s get it for him. I can’t imagine having to deal with those demons. And I’m not judging Bristol Palin. We all make regrettable choices. I don’t care that the Palins have some dirty laundry, because we all do. (I will admit their hamper is a little bigger than most, but we all need help.) This column has nothing to do with Track Palin or Bristol Palin or the family’s challenges.

What I shudder at is the departure from personal responsibility and the brazen use of unfortunate personal circumstances for public political expediency, but that’s precisely what our media culture has done to people. With the advent of reality television and social media, privacy as a concept is fading. And when those whose lives are internally kind of a mess (many of us) don’t work to keep their struggles more discreet, the public display of such unseemliness before a mass audience becomes a thing of value leveraged into professional or political gain, because we all want to see it and our attention has been monetized.

Isn’t that, after all, exactly what much of reality television is? Maximizing the sensational. Rending the veil of privacy in people’s lives, indulging our innate voyeurism. When being examined and observed has been a way of life for years now, the family dirt becomes paydirt, and Sarah Palin cashed it in.

Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is also a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 590am, 106.3 and 92.1fm, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m. His email address is neal@590kid.com.