The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘The Weekly Sarah Palin Segment . . .’

Posted on | November 28, 2010 | 31 Comments

“. . . in which the impression is given that the whole of conservatism is encapsulated in this one glorious woman.”

Instead, he would perhaps have us believe, the whole of conservatism is encapsulated in Charles Krauthammer’s brain.

It is not Krauthammer’s fault that the media are obsessed with presidential politics. It is not Krauthammer’s fault that, when Palin’s choice as running mate in 2008 suddenly made the GOP ticket competitive with Obama (see the poll numbers cited here), the media embarked on a search-and-destroy mission against Palin. And it is not Krauthammer’s fault that the media have continued to use Palin as a scarecrow, a Republican demon-figure presented as the too-horrifying-to-contemplate alternative to supporting Obama.

However, it is Krauthammer’s fault that he can’t speak of Palin except to dismiss her with a sneer. (Am I the only one who noticed his significant pause between “glorious” and “woman”?)

Allahpundit isn’t as openly sneering as Krauthammer: “While no one would claim that conservatism begins and ends with Palin, some of her more devoted supporters do seem to regard her as an avatar of the movement.”

Here’s my problem with such dismissive attitudes toward Palin from conservatives: It sets up the 2012 primary contest as a battle between Smart Republicans (who are presumed to oppose Palin) and Dumb Republicans (who presumably support Palin). This message — which is being shouted from the rooftops by Krauthammer, Rove and many others — will tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Which is to say, most of the Smart Republicans who take their political cues from the conservative intelligentsia will in fact oppose Palin. But the influence of Rove, Krauthammer et al. is not so great as they wish and, in a multi-candidate field, the irreducible hard core of Palin supporters among GOP primary voters is still large enough to win pluralities in every state where the primary electorate is limited to registered Republicans. (Seriously: Comparing the average Romney supporter to the average Palin supporter, which is more likely to trudge through the snow to attend an Iowa caucus meeting?)

There is therefore a very real possibility of Palin winning the 2012 presidential nomination, at which point all the sneering condescension of the Krauthammer/Rove class will justify the MSM in declaring, “The Dumb Republicans have won!”

And that’s not going to help beat Barack Obama, is it?

At least for the sake of argument, let Palin’s supporters stipulate that, as a candidate, she has very real liabilities. Let them grant that Palin’s detractors are sincere in their criticisms. Rule out of bounds any ad hominem attacks on the “Beltway elite” or any accusation that the anti-Palin conservatives are expressing mere snobbery toward someone they perceive as a provincial rube.

Still, from a standpoint of pure political strategy, Palin’s conservative critics are at risk of wrecking the GOP’s chances in 2012 by their constant reiteration of anti-Palin memes. If Republicans are to defeat Obama in 2012, they absolutely must have the enthusiastic support of the Palinistas, whether or not Palin wins the nomination.

If Palin’s supporters believe that she has been cheated out of the GOP nomination because a cabal of elitists conspired against her, they’re unlikely to volunteer to man phone-banks and canvass precincts and do the other kinds of grassroots activism necessary for some other Republican nominee to beat Obama.

And what if Palin is the nominee?

Elections are about choices, and I presume that Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer — and even David Frum –would prefer to see Sarah Palin take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2013, rather than to see Obama win a second term. If I am correct in that presumption, I would hope to see the conservative intelligentsia start acting as if a Palin presidency were both possible and preferable to Obama’s re-election. 

Because it is possible, even if Palin is not your ideal candidate for job.

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