Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Do You Think?

Every once in a while I'm going to be posing a question or thought to some fellow bloggers and see what their opinions are.

I hope to generate some conversation, get some of the other blogs out there some credit for what they do (these people are much smarter than I am) and get a general pulse on a certain topic at a given time.

Today my question was the following:

Sarah Palin, in my opinion, is a "throwback" type of politician.

It's my belief that in this country's infancy the politicians were
people that led working, middle/middle-upper class lives. They saw a
way to serve their country in some capacity (be it a president, a
mayor, a governor, senator etc) and then they returned to their normal
lives as American citizens.

Today, we seem have nothing but career politicians. People born into
political families who seem to know nothing about how the average
American lives on a day to day basis.

Palin reminds me of those politicians of old. She's your next door
neighbor, the other mom at your kid's karate class etc - but with a
keen political view.

So here is my question:

Why did Palin stir up so much emotion? Do you think the reason she is
so despised by some is that she threatens "The Elite's" control on
politics?

Is it that the middle class is so disgusting to these people they
couldn't imagine a member of the unwashed mass leading people? Or is
she really just stupid? Or is it something else entirely?


Here are the replies I got from some of the best bloggers out there right now.

Paul from mean ol' meany -

I have read and re-read your e-mail a few times and I am trying to put together my opinion on Sarah Palin. As a quick preface, I have never had the mentality that I look to government to solve any of my problems, I simply want them to protect our population from enemies. But, Sarah is attractive. I prefer attractive females.

While Sarah Palin talks a good game, I am totally leery of anyone that runs for political office because, like you say, mainly people run for elective office because they are career politicians. Barry Obama appealed to the leftists in the primaries because he told them he was going to expand government exponentially and then in the general election, he started trying to get closer to the center. He is a prime example of the extremely dishonest shysters that we have in offices all the way down to the local level now.

In my opinion, Sarah Palin doesn't elicit any emotions from the left because they do not possess any emotion at all. Theirs is simply a philosophy that worships destruction and slavery. They attack people that do not follow the oppressive government line because the left only wants oppressive government and debate cannot ever make their ideology attractive for fiercely independent people. I certainly do not believe that someone could become governor of a state like Alaska, a productive state, while being stupid. But, it has been proven that to become president, marginal intelligence is NOT required.

The left STILL hangs on to the ideology of Communism. Until that ideology is wiped off the face of the Earth, the left will always hang on to it.


Bruce from Right Wing News, Q and O and Blackfive says:

Palin became a target for a number of reasons. 1) she was a threat to the emerging candidate of choice - Barack Obama. She had more executive and practical experience than he did (something the press attempted to marginalize or dismiss). She was also attractive (unlike her running mate) and had the ability to fire up what had been a very Dole-like lackluster campagin.

2) She represents everything the left hates. She isn't a feminist, she isn't an "elite", she's pushes family values and her social beliefs come down decidedly and unapologetically on the conservative side.

3) She wasn't intimidated by the onslaught of media attention (most of it negative). She's actually been able to maintain a high level of political visibility even while resigning as governor of Alaska. And that's primarily due to this obsession with her by the left - something she cultivates, btw, for exactly that purpose.

4) She's not "dumb", she's just not as informed or polished as she should be - something only experience will bring. The left loves to try and tie that label on her, but have, so far, been only marginally successful.

Do I want her anywhere near a national public office? No more than I wanted the present occupant of the Oval Office.


Cassandra over at Villainous Company wowed me with:

First, let's deal with the factors identified by Paul:

1. Do you think the reason she is so despised by some is that she threatens "The Elite's" control on politics?

I very much doubt the average American harbors deep affection for members of the political elite. I find it even harder to believe the average voter has any real desire to protect or preserve their interests. Voters are more interested in protecting their own interests, however perceived or defined. To the extent a politician succeeds in identifying himself with those interests or in convincing the public he can deliver what they want, he will succeed or fail. This was Obama's greatest strength as a candidate: people heard what they wanted to hear in his speeches. Rightly or wrongly, they were convinced what he was selling was what they wanted.

2. Is it that the middle class is so disgusting to these people they couldn't imagine a member of the unwashed mass leading people?

I'm not sure what class has to do with anything. When Microsoft, Intel, GM or any other large corporation hires a CEO, they're interested in experience and ability, not social class. Being an everyman or woman might help people identify with you, but it isn't any kind of qualification for high office.

Here's a better question: what qualifications is it reasonable to expect in a candidate for the highest (or second highest) office in the land? Before throwing the question out to you all, I'll be happy to proffer my own criteria:

1. Leadership experience. When trying to decide whether a candidate can lead the world's largest superpower it seems reasonable to ask, "How much executive experience do you have, and how applicable is it to the Presidency?" As I noted in an earlier post, the job most like the Presidency is governorship of a large state. By this measure Palin was unarguably the most qualified candidate on the slate. On the other hand, Alaska is not California or Texas and she didn't have the depth of experience of a Ronald Reagan, a Lyndon Johnson, or a George Bush. The question here is, "What have you done in your lifetime that demonstrates you have the ability and experience to lead a country of this size?"

2. Experience on Capitol Hill or a suitable substitute. Many a politician has seen his hopes of reforming Washington sink in the La Brea tar pit of partisan rancor. Therefore, it seems reasonable to ask whether the candidate can demonstrate the ability to build consensus for his platform and effect enough of a compromise to get fence straddlers on board? The question here is, "What have you done that demonstrates the ability to gain the cooperation of disparate factions behind a large scale initiative?

Though compromise has become a dirty word in politics these days, it is more necessary than ever.

3. Rhetorical ability. Preaching to the choir is fine when your choir is large enough to vote you into office, but the true test of political acumen is finding common ground with those who disagree with you: minimizing differences and emphasizing common interests. Presidents must deal with not only competing constituencies at home but with foreign nations whose interests often sharply conflict with our own. The fine art of sticking to ones' guns without arousing unneeded antipathy is rare. Often it involves not only the ability to state your case forcefully and convincingly, but also the ability to smooth the waters and provide enough political cover for at least some of your opponents to support you without alienating their own constituents.

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the President or Vice President to have more experience and more ability than your next door neighbor. I like most of my neighbors, but I wouldn't vote for any of them for President. This isn't elitism. It's common sense.

3. Or is she really just stupid? Or is it something else entirely?

The over the top rants of her detractors, though highly entertaining, aren't terribly convincing. Palin is clearly not a stupid woman. Being deep selected as the VP candidate presented her with about as difficult a task as any politician has ever faced. To her credit, she performed remarkably well. It was hard enough being catapulted onto the national stage without sufficient prep time, but Palin was further constrained by the knowledge that it wasn't her campaign. She was expected to champion a platform she had no hand in shaping.

Joe Biden, an experienced political hand who faced none of the hostility the press directed at Palin, had a hard time remembering what he was supposed to support. His job wasn't half as difficult as Palin's.

I attribute the strong emotion Palin evokes to three things:

1. Her lifestyle. Palin's image and identity provide constant reminders of divisive social issues like the role of faith in public life, abortion, traditional marriage, and women's liberation.

To traditional conservatives, Palin champions everything they hold dear: family, God, country, traditional morals. But in a society where marriage and childbearing are declining, where many women have abortions from convenience rather than necessity, where women have chosen careers over home and hearth, Palin's life represents an unspoken reproach. The very qualities that endear her to conservatives make progressives and secular voters feel bad about themselves and she hasn't yet found a way to champion traditional values without seeming smug or preachy to those who don't agree with her. In her defense, I think this is a far more formidable task for a female candidate than it would be for a male politician.

2. Her directness, self assurance, and strong beliefs. One of the greatest challenges faced by conservatives is convincing secular America that one can have strong faith and traditional morals without wishing to impose either of these things upon others.

The conviction with which she defends traditional conservative values is music to the ears of her supporters. What they don't seem to realize is that these same qualities grate harshly on the ears of those whose beliefs differ from hers. The qualities that endear her to many conservatives play differently with independents and progressives. This is something Palin will need to address if she wants a place on the national stage.

3. The perception that Palin is underprepared and inarticulate.

Given the right venue and a narrow enough message, Palin can deliver a good speech. But at the risk of stirring up the wrath of you unwashed masses, I've never heard her present a clear and convincing defense of conservative ideas. For an example of what I'm talking about, read one of Reagan's classic speeches:

We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they're going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer—and they've had almost 30 years of it—shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we're told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We're spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you'll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we'd be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.

That speech was made almost half a century ago and it remains a masterpiece. What has Sarah Palin produced that is comparable?

I say this, not to diminish her very real ability but to provide some context for my judgment that she's not ready yet. Ronald Reagan faced vigorous opposition both from within his own party and from his political opponents. But there's a reason he was called the Great Communicator. It probably didn't hurt that Reagan was a former Democrat who voted for FDR 4 times. He had an insider's understanding of liberalism and he used it to forge a concise, coherent conservative vision that attracted conservative and moderate Democrats as well as traditional Republicans and libertarians.

Perhaps some day Palin will be able to do that. She's not able to do it now, or at least she hasn't demonstrated that ability.

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