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Defending Palin (and What She Represents)

John on November 8, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Personally, I think there’s a lot more to the string of leaks/attacks on Palin that have come out in the last week than just sour grapes from advisers on a losing team. From the moment Obama won, some conservatives have been eager to throw Palin under the bus. Consider this piece by David Frum the day after the election:

College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats – but that their values are under threat from Republicans. And there are more and more of these college-educated Americans all the time.

So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? To do so will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. And it will involve potentially even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarizing on social issues. That’s a future that leaves little room for Sarah Palin – but the only hope for a Republican recovery.

So here you have Frum suggesting that Republicans need to go after “college educated” voters and stating flatly that Palin isn’t qualified. Then, surprise, we get a bunch of stories claiming that Sarah Palin is so uneducated she didn’t know Africa was a continent, etc.

Now I’m not at all suggesting Frum is leading some kind of cabal. I am suggesting that he’s representative of a certain kind of Republican insider, one who takes a more libertarian, secular view of the world. Nothing wrong with that of course, the GOP is a big tent. But it does indicate why Frum (and those leaking these stories) might be motivated to damage Palin now, rather than see her have a hand in the 2012 ballgame. From their perspective, brutalizing Palin is for the Party’s own good.

I think the libertarians are getting a little bit ahead of themselves. First, I think it should bother them that they sound an awful lot like the nastiest MSM liberals in making these attacks. At a certain point one does legitimately ask “Whose side are you on?” Second, they’ve taken it a bit too far. Some of Palin’s advisers/handlers are now coming out to contradict the stories. But as with the “I can see Russia from my house” line, the reality will be forgotten in favor of the unkind and untrue attack.

Third, Frum and others have completely misconstrued this election. This was not the triumph of pragmatic secularism. On the contrary, Obama’s appeal was explicitly religious, and not just in the funky cultic way that earned him the nickname “The One.” Obama repeatedly talked about his Christian faith, even mentioning Jesus once or twice. By contrast, the Republican Party nominated a good man who was marginally religious, never quite willing to spell out his own understanding of his faith. Sure he was pro-life, but he seemed to be embarrassed to speak about whatever faith he had.

It’s also worth noting that traditional marriage intitiatives won in all three states where they were on the ballot, including liberal California. These were heavily favored by religious conservatives.

All in all, the Democrats didn’t win by moving left and abandoning religious voters, they won by attempting (however disingenuously) to include them. The proper response is not to cede the territory and secularize the GOP. That’s a sure way to turn power over to the Dems for decades.

No doubt there are many GOP insiders who’d love to see an end to religious influence in the party. That’s their prerogative. But those of us who want to see a resurgent party should recognize that the Palin-bashers are day-dreaming. We should not follow them, glassy-eyed, wandering ever-farther from the base of the party. Nor do we need to. There are plenty of well-educated, religious conservatives able to make the case on both counts. Unfortunately, we didn’t nominate one in this go-around, but we could in 2012.

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Category: Politics |

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