Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarah, the Country Club Republican?

After an interview with Politico, Ron Paul is being ripped for accusing the soon-to-be former Alaska governor of being aligned with the northeastern, fat cat snobs who make up the establishment of the Republican Party.

To the grassroots Palinistas, this is a charge of treason.

Governor Palin has certainly been the recipient of some awful treatment from establishment types. These folks would have been fine with Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge on last year’s vice presidential slot, as they certainly would not have rocked the boat.

But people who fixate on the country club comment are on the wrong topic. Ron Paul did not call Palin herself a “Country Club Republican,” but regarded her followers as “more establishment, conventional, Country-Club type Republicans.”

At first, this does look like a statement at least a little divorced from reality. Surely all those hockey moms and pro-life demonstrators can’t be part of the dreaded establishment. That’s because they’re not. They are the poor folks who have been duped by the establishment into thinking that a Palin presidency would immediately benefit them. If the Palin supporters who had the influence to push the governor into the vice presidential slot are the ones we’re counting, then maybe Dr. Paul isn’t so crazy after all. He continues:

“I wonder whether she’s engaging 15-20 year olds . . . Because she doesn’t talk about the Federal Reserve. . . . She doesn’t talk too much about personal liberties, civil liberties, getting rid of drug laws, attacking the war on drugs, punishing people who torture.”

I might also add that after her rousing, war-centric convention speech last fall, coupled with an Israeli flag in her governor’s office, Sarah Palin, while exceptional at throwing red meat to the eager Republican base, at the least, does a mean impersonation an establishment lackey.

But this highlights the continuing rift in the Republicans, and if nothing else, their refusal to acknowledge the main cause for their woes: Iraq and the possibility (inevitability?) of even more foreign wars. And when the American Enterprise Institute and The Weekly Standard, a think tank and a magazine where the Iraq war germinated, think of Sarah Palin as a “project,” one conjures up memories of Texas Governor George W. Bush’s rhetoric of “no nation-building” being replaced with a “crusade to end tyranny.”

So is it possible that the appeal of Sarah Palin for the executive branch can be an odd combination of establishment appeal and grassroots rhetoric?

As I wrote recently, I’m not a Palin-aholic, but I am inclined to like her and I’ve said before that I want to like her. When I began reading about her last year, I rather liked what I learned: Lived by a pro-life creed that put other Republicans to shame, publicly questioned the “Surge” in Iraq and the lack of an exit strategy, and her husband had membership in the Alaskan Independence Party. This didn’t exactly scream George W. Bush reborn. But that someone who seemed to possess these fine qualities would hitch her wagon to John McCain was a bit odd. Perhaps it was telling.

Ask a Palin supporter what they like about her. Chances are great that what you will find is someone caught up in her personality. Yes, the story is inspiring, raising a big family while maintaining a career, and while that’s admirable, that’s not enough for me to throw support. “She’s a fighter” or “she’s a maverick” or “she’s one of us,” do not constitute solid arguments. Chances are also great that many of these same people are revolted by the cult of personality that still very much surrounds the current commander-in-chief. And a cult of personality around Palin is exactly what will be exploited by a Republican establishment that has no qualms about returning to the days of Bush.

It is this very cult of personality that makes me yet more wary if Sarah Palin chooses to re-enter elective politics (although I don’t see how). She clearly has a very devoted band of followers (I’m not sure, but I wonder if Palin had been caught in an affair like Mark Sanford, whether her supporters would have been screaming “Resign!”, not that I am making the charge) who are ready to fight for their beloved figure and what the GOP needs right now is a figure for their masses to unite around, even if it’s someone who seemingly threw her electability out the window with her resignation.

This is worthy of wariness because until very recently, George W. Bush possessed a cult-like following and one could say he still does when it comes to matters of war and the military. Because of that, President Bush got away with a lot of patently un-conservative behavior because his base would never question him. And they didn’t. So why would a base, even more in love with Palin, act any differently?

And like Bush, should Sarah Palin ever assume the presidency, she would enter with little background in foreign policy. But just as Governor Bush once sounded like a cautious interventionist, Governor Palin could just as easily be hoodwinked into the Forever War camp as well – in fact, it appears the neocons’ project worked. How else might someone who questioned the 2007 troop surge now sound like the editorial board of The Weekly Standard? And just for the record, didn’t she support McCain’s vote for TARP and his decision to bailout the banks?

Perhaps Sarah Palin is not exactly a “Country Club Republican” herself, but what she did in Alaska did little to truly unhinge the state’s establishment. That Palin is even still discussed as a presidential contender should signal to us that she is acceptable to the establishment. This is what her ardent supporters should be paying attention to. The establishment snobs we often disdain might not have such a problem with her after all. That can be because they might have already broken her and see her as the vessel that George W. Bush was: someone who can be manipulated and molded into someone quite different from the person we first saw.

Let us hope that Sarah Palin sticks to her pledge to effect positive change outside of government because she bears many of the markings that made the Bush administration possible.

And that is no good news at all.


Jeremiah Whitmoore said...

Nice Essay.

What absolutely fires up the base is war. I've been at Ron Paul rallys were 5,000 mostly college aged kids were cheering wildly at End the Fed.

However, if Dr. Paul were to deliver the same speech to the Republican National convention, something tells me he wouldn't get the same wild cheers. Palin can give her war propaganda speeches and be cheered mercilesslly with moronic U.S.A, U.S.A chants.

They don't really care about limited government, defending the unborn, or the culture wars. Their sole concern is supporting the wars - past, present,and future.

Jennifer said...

I saw your comment at Truth's and I had to come over and see the blog of the one who said it. That's a good thing by the way!

I like Palin as a person. As a potential candidate for president, not so much. I honestly don't think she had or has what it takes. Resigning sealed her fate in my opinion. I think that many have backed her simply because of the way she was attacked by the media. It was more sympathy than the honest conviction that she had the intelligence and experience to run the country. I like her pro-life views too as did most conservatives. The GOP is desperate right now and I don't see anyone that even brings hope.
Great piece and blog!!

Carl Wicklander said...

Thanks, Jeremiah.

I agree entirely that the GOP agenda is war and everything else is a footnote. Maybe you've noticed that there are quite a few Republicans today who will admit that they do like Ron Paul but just can't get behind him because of his position on war. Is it any wonder why people like Joe Lieberman and Rudy Giuliani, who have atrocious domestic records, are more acceptable to Republicans than Ron Paul?

Carl Wicklander said...


Desperate is right. I hear that Mitt Romney is now the leader in Republican polls and that makes me rather nauseous. He's just an empty suit. My personal choice for the Republicans is Ron Paul, although I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll be back.

TRUTH 101 said...

That Sarah Palin is still in the mix of possible Republican presidential contenders shows the paucity of Republican presidential contenders.

But if Sarah made you her running mate I would reconsider my opposition to her Carl. Having someone around that actually thinks rationally and deeper than the usual "dead or alive" mentality of the recent Republican thought process would do her and her party good.

The Keeper Of Odd Knowledge (KOOK) said...

While I agree with many things in your essay, most in fact, I do have issue with a couple points.

The republican party has always been divided between the Big Business side and the "leave us alone" side. It always will be.

War is not a republican phenomenon. Before you rip me to shreds ask yourself who was president when we entered Mexican American? (Dem); Spanish American? (Rep, progressive); WWI? (Dem,P); WWII? (Dem, P); Vietnam? (Dem); Gulf War (Rep); Bosnia, Serbia,(Dem); Iraq, Afghanistan (Rep)

Law and Order Teacher said...

I tried to post a reply yesterday, but my blog was in cyber hell. First, I want to congratulate you on your well thought out reply to the Time guy over at Truth. When I read his assassination post I about jumped out of my chair. Then I saw that you had done a fine job with it, therefore I posted a "what he said post."

As for Sarah, she does have a talent for connecting with regular folks, however, I need more from her before I would support her. I share the basics with her, but she needs to become more informed in order to viable.

As for Ron Paul, I agree with his call for shining light in the dark corners of the Fed. How is that controversial? Oh, you might want to hide something, I get it.

Carl Wicklander said...

Thank you for the kind words both here and on your blog, Truth. The other day's debate, while it lasted, was a pleasure.

Carl Wicklander said...


I've seen you over on LCR. Thanks for visiting.

It's funny you should bring up that war is not a Republican phenomenon. I made a long point about that on Truth101's blog just a few days ago on that very subject. Click on his link and go to the "Only Republicans are allowed to be Proud" entry of July 20. One liberal commenter (who goes by "Time" and is far more combative than Truth101) made an asinine comment about conservatives being more predisposed to engage in acts of violence than liberals and proceeded to include blatantly false information to prove the point. I made the point that not only were a number of the people he named not actually right-wingers, but that America's involvement in all of the wars of the 20th century were while Democrats were in the White House.

I don't know how to embed links in this comment section but I hope you go to Truth's blog and read my answer.

Thanks again for the visit. I hope you'll be back.

Carl Wicklander said...

Law and Order Teacher,

Thanks for the compliment. There were so many inaccuracies in that entry that I just had to say something.

I actually rathered liked Sarah Palin when she was introduced by McCain last year, and in many ways I still do like her. She's just been so erratic since then and the people within the party that say they want her to run are the very ones I don't trust, ergo, Ron Paul's comment begins to make sense.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll be back.

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