Republican Politics: Palin for President 2012?
Assessing things today it appears that Governor Sarah Palin might be the most popular Republican political figure in the United States. Who woulda ever thunk it! That’s Alaskan for wow. Although there will be a thorough post mortem on the 2008 McCain fiasco and extensive political strategic planning going forward, I have to imagine that Governor Palin has only to decide if she wants to make a run at a future presidency. As it stands it looks like the nomination would be hers for the taking.
Today I watched a scene which I have seen repeated numerous times since Governor Palin was selected to be the vice presidential candidate. She was speaking in Pittsburgh to a crowd of thousands of adoring supporters. Senator McCain was addressing a far smaller crown in Ohio to a crowd of primarily High School students, most of whom were not of voting age and who had all been bussed in to the event by the school district. For the purposes of this writing, it is not significant that she is being accused by some as upstaging Senator McCain. The important thing to note is that what remains of the Republican base absolutely loves her. It seems that the true base is more aligned with her philosophies than those of Senator McCain.
There was an initial problem in the McCain campaign approach that has now been manifested in two ways. First the whole maverick image put distance between McCain and some of the citizen base on issues. More importantly, the maverick image put considerable distance between McCain and much of the Republican party leadership on issues. Some of that leadership support is disgruntled by the Palin selection as well. This is why the opposition candidate (who will remain nameless) is rolling out a star studded political cast on the campaign trail at this critical juncture, while McCain and Palin are pretty much going it alone. The territorial disadvantage is tremendous, but the unraveling of the Republican party as a whole is evident. There are lots of reports of Republicans casting votes for the opposition in this election. Let’s face facts. When you ask the President of the United States to sit out the campaign in an attempt to mask or ignore the damage that he and the party have inflicted, that’s a pretty sad commentary.
If there is any good news, it is Governor Palin and her impact on the Republican base. It is a base that has fallen off somewhat due to numerous factors, not the least of which is the economy. Right or wrong, many Americans see the economy as the fault of the current administration. So where do the Republicans go from here? They had three leading candidates: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Rudy Guilliani. All three challenged Senator McCain for the party nomination this year. Any of these Republicans may surface again in 2012, but none of them bring excitement among those in the base like Governor Palin. Interestingly, any of the big three could be a Republican positive as her vice-presidential running mate.
In four years the Republican leadership will have reunited, absent McCain, who will most probably be politically invisible for the rest of his life. The confusion over whom “The Maverick” really was, for the base, the centrists and the party leadership will be gone. The base ideals of the Republican Party will need to be repackaged somewhat and could be carried forth with Governor Palin as the party standard bearer. The problem is that many among the Republican leadership have yet to give her their nod of approval. In truth, some have openly criticized her for unpreparedness and lack of experience. Is it conceivable that the Republican party leadership might see the benefits of having a woman Governor as hugely popular with the base run the presidential gauntlet? I think it is very conceivable and I’m not even a fan.
One of the things that I viewed this campaign season was real emotion among the individual party faithful. Clearly another name may surface between now and 2012, but currently there is no Republican that I envision bringing the same emotion to the base as Governor Palin. Earlier, I mentioned that the Republican brand would have to be repackaged. This appears to be essential as under reported as it seems today. I believe that the voting public is far better informed than they have been in the past. In truth, they are faced with such massive problems that they are no doubt listening more intently rather than voting exclusively along party lines. The centrist voting blocks were given little by the McCain campaign to allow them to see clear differences from the current administration. The Republican Party must re-brand itself. The next challenge would be to determine if Palin could convincingly carry forth a message which palatable to those in the center. This is going to take some very very creative thinking as she is somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan on the issues this election.
Republican politics are not as antiquated as the many in the media would have us believe. The problem seems to be that intensely conservative, right wing ideals are appealing to a shrinking demographic, Both in terms of the age of these constituents and in terms of social development in this country. The conservative right wing of the Republican party as presented in the media seems to be the model of the party as a whole. This is a dilemma that is somewhat of an inaccurate portrayal.
Attempts to welcome the centrist voting blocks is increasingly negative. Those on the left are accused of liberalism that is extreme and in some cases this may be true. But aside from the repeated charges as reported, most Democrats are not left wing liberals. They simply have a less rigid or an expanding view of American culture. For example, regarding gay marriage and civil unions, I know many Democrats who “support” the movement from a political standpoint, but who do not have any personal stake in it. What’s more, they don’t view it as a threat to the nation’s social fabric or a religious abomination. On the other hand, most Republicans that I know take a very narrow view of this on the basis that it is morally wrong. I am not gay, but have noticed that there are lots of gay people in this country. Why should sexual preference alone deprive them of any measure of equitable treatment under the law? Why should we consider manipulating the law to deprive them of anything?
My point here is not what you believe about the issue, but rather that many Democrats and Moderates are more attuned to freedom-based judgments while Republicans are more attuned to more rigid social, moral and religious judgments. I feel compelled to point out two things. First, the social, moral and religious view of politics is often the basis for clouded judgment. The constitution does not provide for such clouded judgment. This is the cause of numerous arguments where Supreme Court Justice appointments and their opinions are concerned. Second, the nation as a whole is evolving into a more socially individualistic mindset. This seems to mean that as long as my neighbor is not encroaching on my comfort and freedom, they can live the lifestyle of their choice. Live and let live. Democrats and Moderates alike may not agree with such policies or laws, but they are not as bothered by them. This is the social trend that I am observing. Instead they care about jobs, the economy, the environment and war. They don’t care much about what their gay neighbors are doing. There is also an underlying deprivation phobia. That phobia dictates that if the government can deny one group it can deny any group.
The Republicans have to develop a more broad social appeal: a more forward-looking and welcoming political bedrock that creates a new Republican landscape. The concept of small town America is very real in small town America and that’s great if that’s where you live. However, the concept of traditional American values is great, if you think you know what that is. The rest of America is still America. Unlike the McCain/Palin rallies, the rest of America has a very different look and a completely different attitude. It just may be that Republicans will need to look no farther than the White House to confirm this.
If there can be some ideological messages carried forth that can be presented in a way that is appealing to the centrist voting blocks while firmly holding the base, the Republicans may be back in the hunt in 2012. The only remaining question is whether Governor Palin be the standard bearer. She seems to have the ambition. She will have four years to attend to the details in an effort to elevate her political game.
Maybe she’ll be ready. She’d better be ready. The next election won’t be a cake walk.
L. A. Walker, © Leon A. Walker