Posted on | July 3, 2013 | 237 Comments
Last week, a Breitbart News article highlighted Sarah Palin’s criticism of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, and on Sunday, she wrote a Facebook post excoriating this “bipartisan” sellout:
Great job, GOP establishment. You’ve just abandoned the Reagan Democrats with this amnesty bill, and we needed them to “enlarge that tent” of which you so often speak. It’s depressing to consider that the House of Representatives is threatening to pass some version of this nonsensical bill in the coming weeks.
Palin went on to say that many Americans, herself included, “are barely hanging on to our enlistment papers in any political party,” denouncing both parties as “dysfunctional political machines.”
Hear! Hear! Attagirl, Sarah! You tell ’em!
Then, in response to my friend Josh Painter, Governor Palin said she liked his suggestion of joining forces with Mark Levin to create a new “Freedom Party” if the GOP continues its drift toward abandoning a commitment to core American values. This comment was picked up by the Daily Caller’s Jeff Poor (who has always hated Sarah Palin with a blind fury) and was in turn seized on by a Red State diarist who, in order to illustrate his post, used a Photoshopped image to mock Palin.
By a strange chain of events — having missed the build-up of the brewing controversy — I learned of this via Stacy Drake, who slammed the dishonesty of the Red State attack. Quite frankly, a lot of Palin supporters have been bitter toward Red State since 2011, when Erick Erickson went out of his way to mock them. But let us lay aside these ancient quarrels to ask: Is Sarah Palin right?
Not only is she right to oppose this amnesty sellout, but the resentment toward GOP leadership she expresses touches on key aspects of a criticism that the most astute minds in the conservative movement have been making for many, many years. Readers already acquainted with this critique will excuse me for taking time here to explain to new readers the historical and philosophical background.
The perennial problem of the Republican Party is that they are a party of ideas, whereas Democrats are a party of people. That is to say, the GOP since the era of Reagan has been devoted to a philosophy of conservatism — an ideology — while by contrast, the Democrats sit around identifying specific voter groups (labor union members, women, blacks, gays, etc.), telling them that the Republicans are their mortal enemies, and then pitching them with promises: “We’re on your side. We’re your friends. Vote for us and we’ll give you X, Y and Z.”
Republicans succeed when they are led by spokesmen who can clearly articulate a conservative philosophy, and who consistently point out the Democrats’ history of dishonesty and failure: Even if you could trust Democrats to do what they say they’re going to do (which by the way, you can’t) their policies don’t work, have never worked and never will work. People who vote Democrat in the belief that Democrats will fix their problems always end up with worse problems.
Want to see what Democrats do for their “friends”? Go to Detroit.
Republicans fail when they lack confidence in their own beliefs and instead offer voters a “Me, Too” agenda of Democrat Lite. This has been a GOP problem since the era of Herbert Hoover, at least, and was a basic reason why William F. Buckley Jr. and a number of other like-minded people organized what we now know as Movement Conservatism during the 1950s. It is a sad fact that many of those who today claim to be conservatives have never really studied the development of this movement. Too much of this history has either been forgotten or twisted by liberal authors (e.g., Sam Tanenhaus) so as to be unrecognizable to those familiar with the actual facts.
Many of my friends of the libertarian or traditionalist persuasion (“Old Whigs,” so to speak) scorn Movement Conservatism as weak tea, a pragmatic compromise with electoral politics that lacks the radicalism of a fighting creed which can inspire a true revival. As one of my late acquaintances liked to say, the conservative movement is an oxymoron; it conserves nothing and doesn’t move anywhere.
Well, “steady licks kill the Devil,” as they say. We have seen in the past half-century that, if properly organized and properly led, the conservative movement can make real changes. But personnel is policy, and too often the ambitions of individuals — careerists seeking to make politics the vehicle of their own personal success — have put the wrong kind of people in key roles, enabling them to prevent success (and then, of course, to scapegoat others for the failure).
Ability and ambition are not always accompanied by virtue and wisdom. Quite commonly in political life, we encounter selfish people who cleverly present themselves as principled idealists, zealous for The Cause, while enriching themselves and enhancing their own influence behind the convenient camouflage of political purity.
Al Regnery once summarized this problem by saying that the success of conservatism had created opportunities for opportunists.
In other words, back when “conservative” was an unpopular label and a misunderstood idea, people could not get rich or build careers for themselves by parading beneath the banner of conservatism. But the success of the conservative movement during the Reagan era and beyond made it a popular thing — both for Republican office-seekers and for various sorts of political functionaries — to identify themselves as “conservatives,” to claim to speak for conservatism, and to assert that their particular ideas were True Conservatism.
This influx of opportunists has not only confused the public as to what “conservative” means, but it has erected an organizational infrastructure of the movement staffed by careerists more interested in their own advancement within this hierarchy — “The Ziggurat of Ambition,” as I’ve called it — than in conservatism itself.
Sarah Palin’s career on the national stage has involved some misfortunes, which the Red State diarist imperfectly summarizes:
I’ll admit, for a brief moment in 2008, I thought John McCain might actually have a chance at winning the White House. That moment was at the end of Sarah Palin’s RNC convention speech during which she took a mere 45 minutes to eviscerate the 18 months of image building that was Barack Obama’s campaign.
In 2008, to me, Sarah Palin was the “hope” and “change” the GOP could have used. Palin seemed to be more the ‘maverick’ than McCain ever was or could hope to be.
However, shortly after her convention speech, the McCain campaign took over, the Left attacked, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, after four years of being the quasi-professional bomb-throwing GOP outsider, Palin is tossing the idea out there that she’s open to supporting a third party.
This certainly summarizes a perception of Palin that many people might agree with, if they haven’t bothered to study Palin’s biography and to assess the fundamental problem: What happens when a successful but relatively obscure Republican with no previous exposure to high-stakes national politics is suddenly thrust into the spotlight — and finds herself surrounded by the sort of vicious backstabbing crapweasels who were running John McCain’s campaign?
Seriously: If Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace are the future of the Republican Party, we are doomed beyond all hope of redemption.
Criticize Palin however you will — say she was “not ready for primetime,” call her a “bomb thrower,” accuse her of greed or excessive vanity, impugn her temperament, whatever — but you must understand this: Sarah Palin is not what’s wrong with the Republican Party.
And while I do not mean to endorse a third-party effort in 2016, Governor Palin has put her finger directly on a key problem for conservatives, namely that such leaders of the Republican Party as have joined The Gang of Eight Liars are betraying the people who elected them with the belief that those voters have no alternative.
Controlling the party apparatus and able to hire plenty of “conservative intellectuals” to endorse their betrayal as essential to the future success of the GOP, these Republicans proceed on the assumption that conservative voters are so lacking in devotion to principle that they will always vote Republican no matter what.
Governor Palin can’t say this, but I can: F–k you, “Republican leaders.”
And while we’re at it, f–k anybody who says we should roll over and accept this kind of phony “conservative” bulls–t as inevitable.
No, by God, I say we fight these bastards with everything we’ve got.
Fight them until Hell freezes over, and then fight them on the ice.
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a fine occasion to declare our independence from these vicious backstabbing crapweasels.
If Governor Palin is willing to help lead this fight — inside the GOP so long as there is hope, but outside the GOP if we must — then I say, “Patriots! We must conquer here or die! Rally on the Alaskan!”