To College of Charleston communications professor and author Chris Lamb, Sarah Palin is worse than crab grass.
Lamb's new book "The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin" takes a look at the conservative response to Palin since she burst onto the national stage as John McCain's running mate in 2008.
"I'm trying to approach Sarah Palin, not as one of her devote followers, and not as a liberal who hates everything about her, but as a moderate who hates everything about her," Lamb said.
"I'm trying to take the point of view of a conservative looking at Sarah Palin, and that the idea is that she represents, not a danger toward the United States as we tend to know it, but as a danger toward Conservatism."
Throughout the book Lamb examines Palin's own writings, interviews she has given and things people, mostly conservatives, have written about her. The book also includes 30 editorial cartoons penned by 10 Pulitzer Award-winning cartoonists.
Lamb says Palin is the latest in a long line of American demagogues, the successor to Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare of the 1950s and the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s.
"I judge her based on her writings, and her interviews, and her speeches," Lamb said. "And I don't think there's any fairer way to judge someone."
He said the Republican Party needs to look to the example of William F. Buckley and reject the extreme right, again.
"There's a quote from William F. Buckley, who founded modern conservatism," Lamb said. "He used to say that 'All my life I've tried to separate the right from the kooks.' And I think Palin's greatest contribution has been that all the kooks have lined up behind her, and sort of separated the best part of conservatism from the kooks."
Buckley was able to revive a floundering Republican Party in the 1960s by calling on its leadership to reject the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, Lamb said. He said the current GOP needs to reject Palin and her followers if it wants to remain relevant.
"When we accept demagoguery into our homes, we're never the same again," Lamb said. "These people don't stand for freedom, and they don't stand for democracy, and they don't stand for any of the values that being American means, regardless of whether they're conservative or liberal. They stand for themselves, and they are for censorship, and they're for government taking over our lives."
Lamb concedes that for a demagogue to have an impact on a society there has to be an existing undercurrent of what he calls hysteria for that person to exploit.
"I just take someone like that, I guess it's kind of like crab grass or something like that, if you don't put the stuff on them the crab grass will keep growing, and I just think she's, actually she's worse than crab grass," Lamb said. "McCain would not have brought that on. And I just think it was a lot of things. It was the idea that the economy fell apart, it was the idea of Obama, a black man running for president, I think brought out some of the deep-seated feelings, but I think she coalesced that mob and brought them together. I'm not sure anyone else could have created this hysteria that she did."
Though he identifies himself as a left-leaning moderate, Lamb said many of his conservative friends with which he discusses politics have declared their own independence from the Republican Party largely due to disappointment with the George W. Bush Presidency and the growing anti-intellectualism of the GOP that he said came to the fore with Palin's emergence.
Lamb says Palin had a direct influence the way this year's Republican Presidential Primary contests have played out.
"I think the chaos of the Republican Primaries, this absolute dysfunction of the Republican Primaries, this food fight, whatever metaphors you want to use are a direct result of Sarah Palin," he said. "I'm not sure there would have been a Tea Party without Sarah Palin. This idea somehow that screaming awful things and ruining lives and attacking people for being Muslims when it's clearly they're not, and then sicking us on the Muslims, that's Sarah Palin.
"I just think that this madness is a direct result of what Palin brought to the campaign trail in 2008," he continued. "What you have with Palin is this idea of accusing Obama of being unpatriotic and yet you have Palin embracing the Alaska Independence Party, which wants to secede from the Union, you have all these incredible contradictions, and she doesn't seem to make any attempt to reconcile this."
Lamb's book is an alarm bell for the GOP, he said, to expel the "kooks" from its midst.
"Just as William F. Buckley was able to take the Republican Party, which was in absolute turmoil during the 60s, and it had all the McCarthites and all the John Birchites, and all these random cast of kooks, and what Buckley did was, in a famous column he called for the party to reject the founder of the John Birch Society, and to reject extremists," Lamb said. "And what Buckley did by doing that was to basically eradicate the crab grass. He was able to kill off all this sort of evil that had paralyzed the party, and in doing so he was able to create a party that elected Ronald Reagan twice.
"Reagan would not have been elected if the party had continued in the direction they were going."
He said if the party fails to purge itself again it will likely lose, and lose badly, in November, which may not be a bad thing for the party long-term.
"I think a lot of people in the Republican Party, a lot of conservatives are real anxious about the Tea Party," he said. "While it seemed like a great idea when it got them elected, I think the longer they're around them, I think they realize how dangerous they are. So I think the best thing for the Republican Party would be for them to suffer a tremendous loss in November, at which point the leaders of the party will be shaken and they can realize what caused this disaster and chase off the far right and rebuild the party."
"I think the Republicans can save themselves, whether they want to or not, I don't know."