Assessing Sarah Palin

She’s cool, I suppose. Despite some exaggeration, her reformist credentials are actually fairly impressive, although pork-busting has never really inflamed my political passions. I also like her unorthodox biography and odd political quirks. Her charisma has managed to sway a number of reformist/dissident conservatives whom I respect and enjoy reading. Then again, her candidacy has also prompted Pat Buchanan to declare cultural jihad . . .

The political virtues of the Palin pick are well-known and appear to be paying dividends, but why would she persuade an otherwise undecided voter (particularly a disgruntled conservative) to vote for McCain? Her biography is certainly remarkable, but given her relative inexperience and unfamiliarity with national politics, I doubt she’ll exert much influence on McCain’s legislative priorities. Her speech to the convention was rhetorically powerful but otherwise straightforward small government-national defense boilerplate.

Here’s Palin on war and civil liberties:

This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word “victory” except when he’s talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed … when the roar of the crowd fades away … when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot – what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger … take more of your money … give you more orders from Washington … and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy … our opponent is against producing it.

Victory in Iraq is finally in sight … he wants to forfeit.

Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay … he wants to meet them without preconditions.

Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America … he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? Government is too big … he wants to grow it.

Pretty standard stuff, despite the effective delivery. Hardly something meant to instill hope in those of us disillusioned by the Bush Administration’s national security over-reach. And here’s Palin on the economy:

Taxes are too high … he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan, and let me be specific.

The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes … raise payroll taxes … raise investment income taxes … raise the death tax … raise business taxes … and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars. My sister Heather and her husband have just built a service station that’s now opened for business – like millions of others who run small businesses.

Less disagreeable, perhaps, than her commitment to the national security state, but nothing to write home about. What’s more, she doesn’t spend time laying out a specific economic platform or promoting a reformist approach to middle and working-class families. And while the conservative reaction has been euphoric, her talking points haven’t deviated much since the convention. The core of her appeal seems rooted in the same type of identity politics Republicans so often decry.

Over at the American Conservative, Daniel Larison compared Palin to the Harriet Miers nomination. I’d go a step further and suggest that Palin could become the female equivalent of George W. Bush. Her cultural resonance with the conservative base will allow her to sell McCain’s alarmist worldview much more effectively than McCain ever could, and four years as McCain’s understudy may well remove any trace of her unorthodox political upbringing. So while there’s a lot to like about Sarah Palin, I fear that four years in the national spotlight will completely ruin her.

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3 Comments

Filed under Conservatism, Presidential Politics

3 responses to “Assessing Sarah Palin

  1. Pingback: Blog-o-Rama « Best Election Ever

  2. Pingback: The Trouble With Sarah Palin « Dispatches

  3. Pingback: The Decline and Fall of Andrew Sullivan « Dispatches

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