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.