Those pesky negatives
By Daniel M. Ryan
So far, Sarah Palin hasn't announced on whether she'll run for the Republican Presidential nomination. Given the mudslinging she's had to endure over the last three years, she demurring because of her family is certainly understandable. Politically, though, what could be holding her back are her present high negatives. She's one candidate, according to recent polls, who would be beaten by Obama next year. I'm sure she's already being compared to Barry Goldwater, who got floored in the 1964 election.
Political junkies, caught up in the electoral process, forget that calling Sarah Palin the next Barry Goldwater is a compliment. Until Ronald Reagan's Presidencies, there was no argument about who was "Mr. Conservative." Barry Goldwater's campaign was not successful, but it carried the same electricity that Sarah Palin transmits. If your library has it, and you have the time, you can pick up this electricity by thumbing through the 1964 issues of National Review. You'll see the same excitement, the same yearning, the same hope.
Goldwater was not known as "Mr. Conservative" for nothing. In his day, the RINOs were known as "country-club Republicans." They were in charge of the Republican Party. Their standard policy stance was: "We'll enact much the same things as the Democrats, only we'll do it more cheaply and balance the budget." Not for nothing were they known as "Me-Too Republicans." The Goldwater campaign ousted the country-club Republicans, most of which took revenge by staying home and not voting in the '64 election. Goldwater did lose, but he was always remembered for breaking the RINO monopoly. Although he objected to it in his 1988 autobiography, there's a lot to be said for casting him as Reagan's forerunner. Had there been no Goldwater, there would have been no Reagan.
So, being the next Goldwater is not a bad thing to be – at all. In fact, it's a real tribute to Sarah Palin's reach and principles.
That said, polls and parallels are not the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. They're merely snapshots in time; they're not determinative. They're not written on the wall by the Hand from the Sky. The election will be held in November 2012, not November of this year. There's more than enough time for the Palin team to improve her standing.
Admittedly, her negatives are high and they seem to be sticky. Take, for example, the notion that Sarah Palin's a "quitter." Had it been merely a misapprehension, it could be laid to rest by pointing out how she was harassed out of office by frivolous ethics complaints. Once it's explained that staying would have meant courting personal bankruptcy, that notion should have faded away.
But, it hasn't – suggesting there's a little bit of stubborn behind it. For whatever reason, a large group of people want to believe that Gov. Palin is a "quitter."
In my opinion, the best way to handle this negative is to let Palin be Palin. She has a great talent in reaching out to people, as her Facebook statement rebuking James Hoffa Jr. shows. She's at her best when relating to people, as a human being to her fellow human beings.
There's a large group of people she can reach out to who have not yet been spoken for: victims, like her, of frivolous legal actions. The obstetrician who sadly retired because his liability-insurance payments were killing him. The city councillors who had to shut down a favourite public playground for precisely the same reason. The small businessperson who had to tearfully declare bankruptcy because a trial lawyer saw her as a money-bag. People like these, Sarah Palin can relate to because she's been there herself. She too has had to stare bankruptcy in the face because of abusive legalities.
It's true that Rick Perry has implemented tort reform in Texas, but that initiative does not mean he owns the issue – any more than Gov. Palin's Alaska experience implies she owns the issue of energy policy. As with border security, there is room for more than one voice. There's certainly room for a voice that can empathize – not sympathize, empathize – with the victims of legal bullies.
Should she speak up for those people, she will be at the head of a group of victims who know what she's been through. It'll be harder to say she's a "quitter" when she's the spokesperson of people like her who've been bullied through the legal system.
The next negative is one that Palin supporters will find hard to swallow, because it's proof that general elections are not the place to seek justice or vindication. That's the notion that Gov. Palin is too polarizing a candidate.
Unfortunately, there's a wide swath of voters who don't care that she's "polarizing" as a result of the unprecedented amount of mud thrown at her.
"I know she's had it tough, but she's too hated. She won't be able to get anything done."
"Yes, I know it's unfair, but someone that hated will attract a lot of turmoil. I don't want to live through another 1968."
"If she's hated now, she'll be even more hated once she's in the White House. She'll be more hated than Bush was. You know that that led to in '06 and '08."
"Sorry, but polarizing candidates make for bloody shirts. I'd love to see her vindicated, but not at the expense of another Obama in the White House. You do know that Bush-hatred put him in the White House, don't you?"
"Kid, there's idealism and there's real life. In your idealistic world, Sarah Palin gets vindicated by winning. People who hate her shamefacedly admit that they're wrong. In the real world, she'll be even more hated and we have a fustercluck worse than the one we had under President Bush. You do remember how the Bush years turned out, don't you?"
Sad to say, responses like these are from people who have already made up their minds on the issue. No matter how rebuttable those opinions are, they're hung on closed doors.
With this negative, the best solution again is let Palin be Palin. After her September 3rd speech in Indianola, in which she criticized crony capitalism, the Palin-haters came up with a new dig. As the comments for this New York Times blog entry show, they're accusing her of being "ideologically incoherent."
This is a "good" smear – and a dumb one on the part of the smearers. People who think "ideologically incoherent" is a smackdown are ideologues at heart. They may cover it up by cultivating a moderate image and opinions, but anyone who sees "ideologically incoherent" as something other than "moderate" places people into ideological categories. That's a closet ideologue, or at least someone who think like one.
The bat-back? "Sarah Palin offends ideologues, including closet ideologues. That's why they see 'ideologically incoherent' as a putdown. For some reason I can't fathom, they're credible right now. That's who she ticks off; they're the people who insult her intelligence. It's funny how someone who builds her platform by listening to people, rather than spinning one from ideological categories, would be so hated – but there you go. We must be living in an age of ideologues. For whatever reason, a people person like her is a lightning rod for the age. Can't say I know why, but there it is."
To this end, it's high time that the Sarah Palin E-mails be used for more than vindicating her from false charges. They show her record; they show a Governor that's far from being an extremist. Outside of a President in a time of war, there's only one way an Executive-level politician can garner an approval rating of 90%: by reaching across the aisle and satisfying both sides.
"If you want to believe that Sarah Palin has some sort of mysterious power over people's minds, it's your prerogative. But common sense says that the only way to get an across-the-board approval rating like she did is to govern with both sides in mind."
Note how this speaks to the related accusation of her being an "extremist." So does the fact that more than one candidate is sidling over onto turf she blazed out. Not only Rick Santorum but also Mitt Romney has moved onto territory occupied by Gov. Palin. In last Wednesday's debate, Santorum said he could get a 0% corporate tax rate passed by appealing to Democrats as well – and Romney sounded almost Palinesque when he talked about border security. If a known RINO sees her positions as worth echoing, she can't be that extreme.
Then, there's the charge that she's only in it for the money. This can be put to rest by noting the frugality of her PACs. That frugality is consistent with a soul that never expected to become rich. If she's so money-hungry, why doesn't she act like she's come into her own? Where are the spending sprees, the "yippees" with the platinum card? Why is she not painting the town green with Franklins? Why does she act like she's still in the middle income bracket? Why hasn't she splurged? If she's money-hungry, she's hidden it awfully well: her actions shows nothing of the sort. She did buy that place in Arizona, but land is a common purchase for people who think they've gotten a windfall. People who are money-hungry prefer expensive cars, designer clothes, and the other paraphernalia you see on those celebutate shows. Relying on Occam's razor, instead of mind-reading, shows she's not money-hungry at all – that she is not a dollar-chaser at heart.
Finally, I want to deal with the most stubborn negative of all - especially amongst women. That's the notion which claims there's something "false" about Gov. Palin.
Thankfully, this negative can be turned into a positive. Just think of all the pain she's had to endure. Not only has she had to put up with an incredible amount of mudslinging, but also she's faced some personal tragedies along the way. I need not recount them, as they are too well-known.
Sarah Palin was a champion athlete. Like all match-tough athletes, she knew that she had to overcome her pain and buckle down in order to win. Like the athlete that she still is, she's doing the same: forging ahead while keeping her pain to herself. As the mudslinging and personal tragedies have shown, she's had to endure a lot of pain. Some of that pain, she's dealt with by love – but some of it she had to hide. Remember when she began sobbing when discussing Trig's Down's Syndrome on Sarah Palin's Alaska?
When these facts are brought into light, it's no mystery why she appears 'false'. For the sake of the team, for the sake of the country, she's concealing her pain. She looks 'false' because she's covering up her tears, just as any match player is expected to do. Just like any other 'dumb athlete' is expected to do for the sake of the team, and for excellence.
A Short Note On A New Trope: Lately, some Republicans commentators, like Eric Erickson, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, have been pushing the trope that Sarah's worst enemies are her supporters. This charge is a little unfair, because she isn't formally running yet and hasn't assembled a team of professionals. The kinds of questions they raised earlier are best sent to Gov. Palin's campaign team. It's not fair to expect the fans to get on the field and play the game for the team, nor is it fair to measure the fans by the standards that should be used for the team (or the coach.) Should Gov. Palin run, she'll have a team of campaign professionals who would be glad to address the concerns that those three or any other pundits have about her. Erickson, Coulter and Ingraham seem to have spent too much time on the inside to realize this.
My own effort can be seen in the same light, as being actionable for "Team Sarah" as well as being a defense of her.