Many were shocked when John McCain selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin while others were excited. I was perked up by the selection and even spent half an hour considering voting for Mac after all. That dissipated after I threw a bucket of cold water on my face: Sarah Palin might be a real conservative, but she has been condemned to the McCain agenda, and there lies her own destruction.
Much attention has been heaped on Mrs. Palin’s dismal showings in national interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. The national media’s apoplectic hatred of the governor is the reason the interviews received so much attention in the first place. If she had been quick and articulate, no one would have ever heard of the interviews. Instead, the muddy answers had to be put on a loop because otherwise, only about a dozen senior citizens would have known about it. That doesn’t excuse the governor’s ambiguous responses, but it is something one should expect when a literal outsider gets dropped into a national campaign and is expected to shine. Providing vague answers does not mean someone is clueless but is still becoming acquainted with the agenda. It is an indicator that the McCain platform of eternal war and unlimited government was not in her DNA.
Critics wailed that she was not qualified for the office of vice president, especially since the man at the top of the ticket was hooked up to a breathing machine and feeding tube. But that brings up an interesting question: just who is qualified to be president? What job in either the public or private sector actually qualifies someone for the current job description of president, especially with all the powers which are not delegated to them in the constitution? Being a community organizer? Being a politician in Alaska? Flying missions over North Vietnam 40 years ago? I don’t think so.
Despite all that, there were soon catcalls for Mrs. Palin to be dumped, obviously from the Left, but even from the Right. Writing at Bush administration organ National Review Online, Kathleen Parker suggested that she be thrown overboard, and one can only assume it is because the governor was not parroting the Bush-McCain forever war message clearly enough, since that is the issue which most concerns them. It’s not about social issues, cutting spending, or doing anything about obtaining energy independence - it’s about the war, stupid. John McCain’s main issue is the war and she doesn’t do it well enough for them.
What really condemns the McCain-Palin ticket is the McCain message itself. This cacophony about the terrible candidacy of Sarah Palin is a ruse. This election was never really about the issues. If it was, then both Barack Obama and John McCain would have been defeated long ago. Mr. McCain won the nomination because he was a war hero. Mr. Obama won his nomination because the voters thought they wanted change but mostly wanted to elect a black man out of white guilt.
The problem is that Sarah Palin IS a conservative. Despite public denials, she probably was a Buchanan Brigader, she cut wasteful spending, lives out her pro-life views, and actually addressed the pro-secessionist Alaska First Independence Party. Imagine any southern politician addressing a League of the South or Sons of the Confederacy gathering. While pro-secessionist tendencies and admiration for the old American South were common among conservatives, the southern cause is not appreciated by the neoconservatives who turned conservatism into something diametrically opposed, but I digress.
The problem is not that Sarah Palin has some political deficiency. The problem is that she is a conservative who is running on a liberal’s ticket and thus has to defend a liberal’s record. That she struggles and stumbles should give authentic conservatives some hope. It means that when she is giving the McCain campaign stock answer, she is probably racking her brain to make sure she doesn’t let her conservatism slip out. After all, Mrs. Palin expressed support for Mitt Romney and admiration for Ron Paul. One acted like a conservative while the other is the closest there is to an outsider who is actually in Washington. A McCain or Establishment Republican she is not.
Contrary to popular regurgitation, Sarah Palin is not a hindrance to the McCain campaign. She did not tell her running mate to say, “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” She did not force Mr. McCain to suspend his campaign, feign interest in the financial debacle, and then vote for the bailout. The McCain campaign is self-destructing but Sarah Palin is not the culprit, John McCain is. The only remaining enthusiasm for the failing campaign is because of Mrs. Palin. John McCain has never been a big crowd-grabber. Now he cannot be seen without her. She is the one drawing crowds for the Republican ticket, not the donkey in elephant’s clothing. After months of struggling to get the religious vote, John McCain finally secured it with the selection of Sarah Palin. His support in the election is stronger because of his running mate, not weaker. If the McCain campaign is weaker now than it was in mid-August, it is because of McCain himself.
This fuss over Sarah Palin and her conservatism is noteworthy because many traditional conservatives have sold their souls during the Bush administration. They latched on to the Bush administration like it was the second coming of Ronald Reagan. When President Bush became discredited, the conservatives who attached themselves to him became discredited as well. When people see conservatives defend someone who expanded the welfare state as well as the warfare state, they are apt to think that conservatives stand for all those things too.
Conservatives who bellowed against President Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo have defended the Iraq war to the bitter end of the Bush years. Conservatives screamed in defiance of Bill Clinton’s spending but looked the other way when George W. Bush and the Republican congress spent in ways that made Mr. Clinton look like the conservative. And once the presidential race became a contest between John McCain and Barack Obama, most of these same conservatives on the radio and in print, threw their lot in with Mr. McCain, a worthless and liberal candidate. Better a Republican than a Democrat, even if both are liberal.
Let us hope, even if it is just for her sake, that the Republican ticket loses. So perhaps one conservative can keep her soul.