Rogue Remnants: Sarah Palin continued


Jacksonville, AL.  My combination Review of Sarah Palin’s book-and-Essay about American populism is found in the new issue of The American Conservative: senior editor Dan McCarthy was kind enough to give me plenty of space to explain my conflicted thoughts and feelings about Governor Palin.  Still, being a writer, and trying to beat a deadline—and not knowing what might end up being good and useable—my original, unabridged version was much longer than what ended up in print.

I didn’t bother to submit over half of what I wrote and what I submitted was still over the suggested word limit.  I’m pleased with how the published piece turned out, and I was honored to be asked to write it in the first place, but for anyone who isn’t tired of Palin analysis, I’ll give you some extra helpings, taken from outtakes of my article.  I realize my approach makes me few friends, since I’m too positive for Palin haters and too negative for Palin lovers.

My original, academic-sounding title was “Sarah Palin and the Contradiction of American Populism.”  I identified the paradox near the end: “The contradiction of populism is that the sincere champion of the common people must be better informed, more astute, and more steadfast than the people themselves in order to serve them effectively in politics.”

Considering the intended audience, I deleted most of my analysis of specific liberal criticisms of Palin, concentrating instead on conservative criticisms.  I also deleted portions dealing with sexism, libertarianism, and the Religious Right.  What was left in the published article—which focuses mainly on Palin’s populism, reputed stupidity or ignorance, and neoconservative foreign policy—was sometimes trimmed for the sake of space and fluidity.  I’ll give you a little more here, including a portion about childbearing and abortion that did not make the editorial cut.  Palin’s personal story in that regard is one of the things that drew me, on an emotional level, to the candidate as soon as I heard her story in August 2008.  The draw wasn’t strong enough to lead me to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket two months later, but I have retained respect and admiration for that part of her life.

Here are the remnants.  I warn you up front that they add up to a lengthy essay, so please don’t complain that I’m wordy if you take the time to read them all.

Sarah Palin is no Bill Clinton.  She does not revel in position papers and bureaucratic details.  She is not intimately familiar with the alphabet-soup-ology of laws, agencies, and treaties.  But then we, as Americans, are choosing a president, not a professor-in-chief or dictator of the world.  If only omniscient Ivy League grads are acceptable to meet the high demands of the Oval Office, perhaps the position needs to be scaled back to something befitting a more humble republic.  In theory, we do have three branches and a bureaucracy to co-govern the nation.

Questions arise: What good are endless details on the campaign trail when candidates have little intention of following through?  What good did Clinton’s encyclopedic knowledge do while he was pursuing wrongheaded policies and sexual affairs?  Is there any reason to think Joe Biden is any smarter than Palin?  He strikes many of us as a glib dunce yet he’s “one heartbeat away from the presidency.”  Should we be scared?  Biden would pursue the same policies as Obama if he were to fill in so what difference does it make?  Brilliant or dim, informed or disengaged, we’ve seen all kinds of presidents and things pretty much continue on the same course.  It’s the naive overeducated who take such matters too seriously.  IQ scores come and go but the bipartisan consensus in favor of statism and imperialism continues.

When comparing Sarah Palin to Geraldine Ferraro, the first Democratic woman to be put on a presidential ticket, both “came out of nowhere” to face the glare of the national spotlight.  Of the two, Palin had more executive and political experience.  Yet, Ferraro did not face the incredulity of the mainstream media in the same way Palin has.

A related criticism is that her emphasis on “real Americans” such as herself and the good folks of Peoria, Scranton, small-town Ohio, and rural Kansas is divisive.  It leaves out equally real Americans in the big cities and those with alternate orientations, skin colors, and religions (or lack thereof).

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