And, by “Support of Sarah”, I mean of course, “In Support of Sarah Supporters”. And by that, I mean of course, that I’d like to convey a gentle reminder to our lovable cadre of Palin-political skeptics (of which I count myself one) regarding the way we treat and interact with our lovable, sizeable, group of silent and not so silent Palin-supporters (of which I am also one of).
Let me preface this by saying: it’s not 2011. I don’t want to talk about Sarah Palin — the devil made me do it (or was it Achance?).
Also, before I begin, I’d like to make a promise which I believe should be standard of any pro-Palin diaries: I will not invoke the name of Ronaldus Magnus to make any of my points (perhaps we could nominate this for the title of the “Palin Rule”, if that isn’t already taken).
This diary is directly, or indirectly, addressing the Sarah Palin might as well be Ron Paul meme which has been percolating beneath the surface in various forms for some time now on RedState; but it applies generally for how we (as a community) have been dealing with a phenomenon which is, it seems to me, a totally new and alien experience to many of us within the conservative movement: a popular candidate.
At the risk of belabouring the obvious, popular candidates (by their very definition) appeal to a broader class of individuals; including those who are not quite as adept at playing logic games, interpreting legislative legalese, researching budgetary constraints, telling the ad hominem from the ad nauseum (and so on) as our regular sparring buddies are.
Now, if I weren’t talking about a group to which I belong, I’d point out that what I just said was an example of a perfectly snobbish and elitist thing to say; perhaps befitting of a Democrat or a beltway RINO, but certainly not a lifelong conservative such as myself. We — as both a party and as an incredibly diverse group of people bound by little more than our common notion of religious freedoms, love of country and of our personal liberty and its inherent responsibilities — have probably never felt the need to say such a thing; nor have we likely even thought it. Yet, I feel the need to point it out now because these are precisely the types of defects that I see being typified by the catch-all “Palin-Bot” criticism of a large class of exuberant new/young/naive/whatever supporters of the conservative movement in general and of Sarah Palin in particular.
Are we becoming an elitist movement? I’ll spare you the extra 3000 words of rhetorical fluff that I could have queued up to explore this C- grade conjecture (the answer is no). We seem to be, however, surprised by the development of Palin (though we shouldn’t be, for reasons I can’t delve into without risking breaking my aforementioned “Palin Rule”) and perhaps ill-equipped to deal with it.
Conservatives, as a whole, are not an outwardly superstitious lot. We do not worship at the altar of Government in order to force others to solve our problems; some of us pray, any of us set about to solve them (along with those of our neighbor’s) ourselves. We do not willingly subjugate ourselves to any cult of personality; precisely because it is our subjugation which we struggle against more than anything else in this mortal world. It is, therefore, an anathema to us when we perceive such types of behavior amongst citizens in general (such as leading up to the Coronation of Barack Obama) and particularly within our own political camp (as is believed — by some — to be happening in the groundswell of support for Palin).
For those of you with that concern, let me try to put your mind at ease (hopefully) with a bit of humor: it’s called “widespread enthusiasm for one of our candidates”; and though it’s not something we’ve grown terribly accustomed to in recent years, it’s important to remember that true conservatism is always popular when properly articulated because conservatism has individual freedom and liberty as its core tenets.
OK: so, there are new people coming to appreciate the notions of conservatism. With all respect to Barack Obama’s contributions, Palin did bring a good chunk of them in. To be perfectly frank, Palin kept them breathing during the most absurdly incompetent Presidential campaign in recent memory. Those people that she brought in are still here. That’s not just good; it’s flat-out spectacular.
The job for us, I believe, is to temper (in the metallurgic sense) and refine the undirected enthusiasms of these new people, and not to stamp that enthusiasm out. To draw out the analogy; tempering steel (by applying precise and measured amounts of heat) hardens it for sharpness and to protect it against wear. In our case, it takes the forged thing (be it either the crackling excitement of a new RedStater or the candidate, eg., Palin) and improves it if it is fundamentally solid and destroys it (usually with a spectacular CRACK!) if it is defective.
I believe that we can agree on many of the characteristics which make a conservative leader defective: dishonesty, incompetence, hypocrisy, and weakness; just to name a few. In 2008 and 2009, we saw many of Palin’s faults revealed (both real and imagined); and while stuck in the crucible at a temperature far above that which any politician is expected to endure, love her or hate her, she didn’t crack.
Now, given that faults exist in one of our candidates (and of course no candidate will ever be perfect), our primary goal should not be to teach them, for goodness sakes!
To draw a quick (and embarrassing) parallel, I was once (briefly) excited about the prospects of Colin Powell running for President some day (yes, I know; and yes, I do ritualistically hang my head in shame over that misguided, momentary though it may be — roughly 5 minutes — lapse of all semblance of judgement and reasoning skills; in my meager defense, it was 2002). Regardless, had someone jumped all over my brief delusion and told me that I was being stupid, illogical, or (gasp) a ‘Colon-Hat’ for entertaining that line of thought (and please, save your insults, it just wouldn’t have the same effect now); it would have served not only to damper my political enthusiasm at the time, but probably really irritated me. Besides that; General Powell, distinguished though he may be; would’ve rapidly imploded as a politician and lost my support anyway (probably because he can’t help but be a self-serving panty-waste; with all due respect).
Back to Sarah Palin and her faults. Maybe it’s my Colin Powell moment all over again, but I don’t think she’s a terrible candidate. I think her selection was a tiny, little, island of lucidity for the McCain campaign (not that the stubborn old b******’s ego would allow her to be properly used once she was in the fold) and I think she will one day again be a brilliant candidate for the Republican party. If she runs, and if I’m wrong; then, like the hypothetical Powell campaign, she’ll crumble in her own due course (and in that case, if you’re very lucky, you might even catch me hanging my head in shame).
As for Palin’s (more eager) supporters whom we’ve noticed may have a bit more vinegar than facts (so far)…
We should keep in mind that these people are seeds of conservative thought. Though they come talking about Palin, many of them are enthusiastic about politics for the first time, are espousing their conservative beliefs (and in some cases, other forms of hockey-mommery; which is fine too); and hardly ever bona fide Palin-worship beliefs (it is up to us to be disciplined and realize that someone stumbling into a contentious thread might pop off if they don’t really understand the debates within the debates).
Whether we like the fact that they have chosen Sarah Palin to inspire them or not; and (perhaps more importantly), whether you find that they are lacking the tools needed to properly debate (for example) the details of a questionable pipeline dealing or two; we are the ones who are, ultimately, best able to help them along the way to obtaining those tools.
This is why communities like RedState should exist and should be supported by obsessively politically minded people like us (I mean, beyond the valiant cause of padding Neil’s paypal account, of course).
Now, all of the previous word-vomit buffet aside, let me be perfectly clear: I do not believe that we should let support of any politician in our camp run amok. To the contrary, intense scrutiny from those of us who have taken the time to research and understand these politicians is necessary and desired (although Palin has already met that requirement to my satisfaction, I’ve been fooled before). We must never for a moment forget that these are people who — for some reason or another — desire power over and/or from us, and we should strive to convey the importance of that to anyone who will listen.
Still, I believe that some are going beyond the call of duty to temper (and thereby improve) these enthusiasms amongst our like-minded (though potentially still naive) friends, to the point of seeking to squash them entirely from existence. Is it really necessary to launch into a battle over the nature a bridge funding deal with someone who affirmatively states that Sarah Palin is a good conservative? Or, to cite her brutal treatment of the Murkowsky
regime administration (since my intent may not translate well in print: I’d classify that statement as ‘well intentioned ribbing’) as proof of her anti-Republicanism, in response to someone who blithely believes that she’d be a good Republican nominee based on little more than her autobiographical accounts and a personal good feeling about the candidate?
What the Republican party has been lacking for a long time is a charismatic leader who people can rally around and identify with — and it appears that Palin may be that type of person. Now that we actually have one, let’s try to redirect any weird Palin-worship type of energy we see into constructive conservative activism energy.
This involves teaching the flaws of Sarah Palin the human being; but also the promise of Sarah Palin the potential candidate who, to my view, seems to understand and be willing to espouse and govern according to the principles of conservatism (all bridge pork, pipe deals, yahoo accounts, and plane tickets aside).
All clear? Great! Now, let’s go win one for the Gipper in 2010 and stop worrying about whether Sarah Palin would audit the fed, for goodness sakes!