She overwhelmed the country as vice presidential candidate in 2008. The Left found plenty of reason to resent her and while initially hailed by Republicans as the hockey-mom voice of folksy America, conservatives soon found that underneath the no-nonsense layer of toughness that Palin exhaled, the then-governor of Alaska really had no intellectual depth at all. Combined with a candidate who failed to salvage anything but catch phrases from his heydays as a staunch and sincere conservative representative and senator, it was little surprise to anyone that the Democrats swept the nation and won both Congress and the White House.
Part of the right hasn’t given up on Sarah Palin however. Her 2009 autobiography Going Rogue: An American Life became a bestseller and whatever she writes at her Facebook page is quick to become a matter of national concern. Indeed, Palin has reinvented herself as speaking for the small-government tea party movement, warning of socialized medicine, death panels, and the Obama Administration delivering the country into the hands of terrorists — whom, she complains, are treated as criminals who have rights by this government. Outrageous!
As we previously argued though, another “I’m-just-like-you” president is hardly what the United States need. Not only is the country involved in two overseas wars; it is faced with the possibility of armed conflict in a third; it is still struggling with the effects of the greatest economic downtown in decades; and it will reform health care on the federal level which, in all likelihood, will bring about an enormous expansion of government responsibility and spending. All in all, one would think that there is plenty for the party of small government and free markets to talk about.
Unfortunately, much of the GOP is brain dead and conservatives tune in to listen to the likes of Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh who, rather than providing intelligent criticism of an administration that far from favors small government and free markets, warn that the president is pouring the country down the drain of socialism.
As strong and united as the Republican Party may seem, Republican voters are in fact extraordinarily divided. Not even half of the people who identify as a “Republican” approve of the direction in which the party’s leadership is taking them — whoever those “leaders” are supposed to be. No more than two out ten people favor Sarah Palin while just 1 percent said former President Bush embodied “the best reflection of the party’s principles.”
Conservatives are united in their opposition to the spending frenziness of the current Congress and White House but they are disappointed that the Republican Party opposes it so little. Sadly, the reason for this is that Republicans too have stopped defending free-market capitalism while more and more they agree that government is the answer to problems, not its cause.
Unsurprisingly, right-wing intellectuals long for the days of Ronald Reagan when there were plenty of political philosophers and economists to back up the party’s agenda. In his first inaugural address, President Reagan could say that the “freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured” in the United States “than in any other place on earth” because individualism was at its peak. Compare that with the religiously inspired Republican leadership of today. Reagan could boldly declare that “government is the problem” because his era’s generation of economists had amply proved it. Compare that with the endeavors of the last administration.
As Reagan assured a Moscow audience in 1988 though, “Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things,” adding, in defense of capitalism, that freedom also implied “the continuous revolution of the marketplace.” Let us hope that as we continue to question and demand a different sort of change, somewhere in the party that once produced one of the finest of American leaders, there is still a voice of reason and pride. Until that happens, it would appear that we are stuck with Sarah Palin.