Friday, September 17, 2010

Can Palin Win the Republican Nomination?

Virtually everyone who muses about politics is moved occasionally to make predictions that exceed their competence.  So I hope you won’t be too hard on me for indulging in a little armchair social psychology of my own with respect to the presidential prospects of Sarah Palin. I don’t presume to have the insight into her psyche it would take to have an opinion about whether she’ll run for president. But it’s still my hunch that she won’t get very far if she does. Maybe that’s just a matter wishful thinking on the part of someone who’s still psychologically unprepared to be a member of a polity that seriously entertains the presidential candidacy of someone with Palin’s meager qualifications.

I’d like to think, however, that there's more to my doubts about the viability of Palin’s presidential candidacy than that. When it comes to armchair electoral analysis, I’m with Kevin Drum:
“[S]he's extremely polarizing, she won't get to hide behind Facebook and Twitter if she's running for president, she's never shown much patience for the kind of organization that a presidential run requires, her opponents will be able to make a powerful case that she's unelectable in November, and she seems almost certain to make at least one major gaffe in the early stages of the campaign.

“So I just don't see it.”
But such considerations aren’t foremost in my thoughts. To my mind, what distinguishes Palin from other socially conservative Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee most decisively is the extraordinary degree to which she has been disparaged, and is now being demonized, by smug elites. We’re so used to hearing the disparagement that we tend to forget how extreme it has been. Who else could have moved the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, Wendy Doniger, to say without a trace of embarrassment (in a blog post hilariously entitled “All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They’re Forced on Others”) that “[Palin’s] greatest hypocrisy is her pretense that she is a woman” (my emphasis). Who knew that chromosomes aren't enough?

It stands to reason that a lot of people who recognize something of themselves in Palin’s story and cultural sensibility are psychologically invested in her maintaining her dignity in the face of elite disdain. When they hear smug liberals deploring the fact that a woman who speaks their language would presume to run for high office, they get the message about how elites feel about them loud and clear.

For many people, then, admiring Palin and rooting for her survival and prosperity as a public figure is an expression of elemental self-respect. It shows that they think more highly of her than of most of the people running her (and, by implication, them) down. Yet it says virtually nothing about whether those people prefer Palin over other Republican presidential candidates, many of whom excite some of the same sympathies because they're the object of smaller quantities of the same elite disdain. Preferring Palin to, say, Romney isn’t a way for rank-and-file Republicans to stand up for themselves.

So I’m betting that, when it comes to nominating presidential candidates, the Republican base that reconciled itself to the candidacies of John McCain and Bob Dole hasn’t changed all that much. Time will tell.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your post asks the question: Can Palin win the Republican nomination? If the answer were clearly no, then why are the knickers of liberals so in a twist about the mere thought of it. I think you've answered your own question. The answer is a definite maybe. Remember another recent candidate with "meager qualifications" won the Democratic nomination and presidency.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps "meager qualifications," but not a blithering idiot. Palin cannot construct a coherent sentence, and doesn't know or understand public policy.

I don't think it's impossible that she could win the Republican presidential nomination, but the possibility of her winning is scary to me. Not because she's a woman, or a conservative, or because she "refused to abort her child," but because it would be a disaster for our country, and I still love it.

Anonymous said...

I believe Obama has been a disaster for our country. Could Palin do worse?

Anonymous said...

Get better drugs.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, a typical liberal comment. Don't address the merits - just offer an insult.

Anonymous said...

All due respect, "other-Anonymous," but there were no merits to your comment: just a little snark. (BTW: I'm not a liberal, much less a "typical liberal.")

So, if you want to explain yourself, fine: how has Obama been a "disaster" for the country? By objective standards, the accomplishments of his administration have been pretty substantial.

You can object to the stimulus, or TARP, or the auto bailouts; but are you prepared to accept the 14% unemployment that would have, in all likelihood, resulted?

Or perhaps his wild, "socialistic" health insurance reform (which is virtually identical to the Republican party health reform proposal of 1994, or the Massachusetts reform of 2006).

Tell me: what specific disaster has Obama wrought upon the country?

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 3:41 a.m.:

I will try to explain myself. And I will leave the stimulus package, TARP, and the auto bailouts aside, which all did more harm than good to our economy, and are only prolonging pain, not allowing us to reach an equilibrium from which we can rebuild our economy, through real growth, like job creation brought about by private investment (not public works projects).

I will also leave aside health care reform, which is not reform at all. Moving toward socialized medicine makes no sense without addressing the most important issue: cost of medical care. Obama’s blind rush to pass health care reform will do more harm than good. Unless repealed or otherwise blocked, it will only serve to cost us all more and make quality health care more expensive and less available.

No, the specific disaster I’m talking about is how the Obama administration has addressed, or not addressed as the case may be, the biggest threat to our nation, our economy and our security: the war on terror. Obama can’t bring himself to use those words – too Bush-like, right? His continued attempts to play down terrorist threats only serve to weaken us. I’m tired of hearing about the “false choice” between our security and our ideals. It is not a false choice. It is a choice our government and we as a people have to make every day. It’s hard. It takes discipline and thinking, not grandstanding about policies like closing Guantanamo and banning waterboarding, or whatever line you want to draw about what is torture. It takes a lot of thought and hard choices. It’s about having policies that are thought- through. I think the Obama administration hasn’t even thought hard about what to do with terrorists on American soil. Why have we sent so many troops to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq to fight al Qaeda, only to give terrorists lawyers and constitutional protections if they are caught on American soil, trying to blow up airplanes or Times Square, etc.? I also think his military policy is wrong-headed and seemingly clueless. I only pray that his giving deadlines for troop withdrawal is only to appease the left, and that he doesn’t really mean it. It would be nice if Obama worried more about the safety and security of our troops and our nation, and not the left wing. His foreign policy vis a vis Iran, for example, is an embarrassment to me as an American. When thousands of Iranians were in the streets, and the president of France, no less, denounced it, where was Obama? I recall it took him three days to even come out and say that we still want to dialogue with Iran. I was ashamed of my president for that.
Frankly, Obama’s hopes and dreams about transforming America scare me and I believe they are disastrous. I don’t want America transformed. I like being free and having a free market economy. I don’t want to become Greece or France or Cuba, thank you very much.

I also live in New York City, and rightly or wrongly, I think about 9/11 every day of my life.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with most of the content in Anon 12:19's comment. But its thoughtfulness presents a vivid contrast to Anon. 3:41's thoughtless condescension.

Anonymous said...

What about the people we have killed and the despot dictators we have supported over the years in other countries? Korea? Taiwan? Egypt? etc. We haven't exactly lived up to our own ideals. Some of the problems we have overseas is part of our own doing. We have been believing our own hype since WWII. Read the Revolution by Ron Paul.

Ron Replogle said...

I'd love to hear more from "Paulites" (if that's the right word--no offense if it isn't)reading this blog. I have an idea of what positions you guys take on isolated issues (the wars, the Fed, etc.), but little understanding of how you fit them together into a political worldview, and how you relate your worldview to mainstream conservatism, liberalism and Reason-magazine libertarianism. I'm probably not a candidate for conversion (isn't that what all pre-converts say?) but I'd like to know more about how you guys understand your own ideology.