Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Case Against the Case Against Palin

From The New Republic:

At the end of 2005, a close friend called to say that he begun writing speeches and talking points for a certain gubernatorial candidate.

"Remind me," I asked. "Who is Sarah Palin?"

I was dismayed at my friend’s choice of political entree. Why was he wasting his time on a relative nobody, trying to beat an incumbent governor (and former three term senator) in the Republican primary? It was utter folly. "Wait until the big money starts coming in for Murkowski," I said. "Wait until the party machinery goes to work on Palin. They will eat her for lunch."

Murkowski, for his part, expressed a similar view. "If I decide to," he said, "I will run and I will win. It's that simple."

The folly, of course, turned out to be my own (and Murkowski's), as Palin slaughtered the incumbent in the primary--posting a 30 point margin of victory--and went on to win the general (over a former Democratic governor) without seeming to break a sweat. She then quickly fulfilled an implicit campaign promise by slapping down ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips in negotiations over a proposed Alaska natural gas pipeline, even though they, too, by all accounts, were well prepared to dine on her tender little frame. Not bad for a lightweight.

Listening to the Democratic leadership respond to John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, one hears echoes of the Alaska Republican leadership from just a few years ago. Barack Obama’s spokesman, Bill Burton, put it this way: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency." Former mayor? If you're going to skip over her job as governor and, before that, her job heading the commission that oversees production of the largest petroleum reserves in America, why not "former high school student"? Bah, what does it matter: She's just a small town mayor, just a hockey mom, just a beauty pageant queen. Palin has never shunned these belittling monikers, in part, I imagine, because the camouflage has served her so well. Soothed by the litany, her opponents tend to sleep too late, sneer too much, and forget who it is that hires them.

Watching Palin operate over the past few years has been like witnessing a dramatic reading of All the King’s Men. In 2002, Murkowski had interviewed but passed over Palin in selecting a replacement for the senate seat he vacated to become governor. In a grand act of nepotism, he chose his own daughter instead. Palin was tossed a bone: She chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the production of petroleum in Alaska. When she reported conflicts of interest and other ethical violations by another commissioner, she was ignored by Murkowski’s chief of staff and ultimately resigned in frustration. One can imagine how the quick double dose of corruption--insiders having their way with the polity and its resources--sickened the young Palin. It also fired a savage competitiveness that is not, perhaps, apparent at first glance.

What the Republicans missed about Sarah Palin then - and what the Democrats seem poised to miss now - is that she is a true political savant; a candidate with a knack for identifying the key gripes of the populace and packaging herself as the solution. That keen political nose has enabled her to routinely outperform her resume. Nearly two years into her administration, she still racks up approval ratings of 80 per cent or better.

One might reasonably ask to what extent her local popularity is buoyed by the high price of oil (and thus, a budget surplus, and thus, the ability to carry a stick into meetings with big oil). One might speculate about the durability of her anti-corruption stance in light of her conflict of interest in the dismissal of her director of public safety. And only the truly feckless would not concern themselves about her dearth of foreign policy experience. But in probing this candidate, it would behoove the Democrats and the pundits to shed the notion that they are dealing with some dimwitted bumpkin (Dan Quayle seems to come up a lot lately) who’s going to start crying when they ask her to name the president of Azerbaijan; or that Palin is the townie who was brought into the Skull & Bones initiation night for the amusement of all; or that somehow the prom queen ballots got mixed up with the Alaska gubernatorial poll. Trivialize her at your own peril.

Sarah Palin is a living reminder that the ultimate source of political power in this country is not the Kennedy School or the Davos Summit or an Ariana Huffington salon; even now, power emanates from the electorate itself. More precisely, power in 2008 emanates from the working class electorates of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Sooner or later, the Obama camp will realize that the beauty pageant queen is an enormously talented populist in a year that is ripe for populism. For their own sake, it had better be sooner.

Why do I post a pro-Palin article?

There have been two women in this presidential campaign, and both have been hounded to quit. Enough is enough. In addition, every news outlet and blog in the world is preoccupied with salacious Palin gossip today. It's time to get back to the issues.



Molly said...

The biggest disappointment for me is from N.O.W. (national organization for women). That they would sit back and happily let these misogynistic attacks go without fight or comment is AMAZING.

I'm an African American female and I'm telling you, what NOW is doing is akin to the NAACP choosing to ignore racist attacks to an African American Republican. That would NEVER happen. African American groups defend their own against racism in the media regardless of party affiliation. Why can't our feminist groups do the same? Women need to work together to ensure fair play for all women….. then once that is achieved we can choose our sides and continue on.

Geez.....someone just stole the woman's social security number. Stole it. What's next? And is no feminist group going to speak out against this insanity?

I'm not even a Republican and I'm disgusted! Why can't we stick to the issues?

Yappa said...

Hi Molly -

I'm with you 100%. Is nobody seeing the pattern here? - that there have been two women in this race and both of them have been hounded to quit? AFAICT, the only person who publicly denounced the sexist treatment of Hillary was John McCain. I'm embarrassed to be a Democrat.

You're right about NOW... I just checked their site and it's full of outrage about Hillary but doesn't mention Palin at all. Shameful. WomenCount.org\blog has a good article denouncing the treatment of Palin (they're a recently formed group of ex-Hillary supporteres). It's pretty awful to have to see the jackals gang up on another woman and denounce her for being a woman.