Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Palin Effect

a slightly modified version cross posted at Right Michigan

I spent Wednesday evening, September 3, greatly frustrated. There I sat, hunkered down, clinging tightly to my gun and Bible, listening to NPR (because Dish Network is a pile of crap) so I could hear Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota.

It is no secret that I have been decidedly undecided in this election. My indecision has had nothing to do with any remote possibility that I might vote for Barack Obama, but rather that there was a real possibility that I might write in someone who was not John McCain. Let me be right up front about it, I might be a gun hugging Bible clinger in theory, but I'm more conservative than most of the rest of you frustrated gun loving religionists. Certainly I am much more conservative than John McCain.

I am one of those voters that felt abandoned by much of what has happened in Republican politics in the past few years. I cheered the Contract With America, that succinct Republican promise that helped to wrest the US House of Representatives out of the firm grip of the Democrat Party, where it had belonged since before I was even old enough to cling to a sling shot or a child's Sunday School booklet, frustrated or not.

I was disappointed with the way the Republicans lost that well plotted course after winning back the House of Representatives and Senate in 1994. Most people who voted for Republicans that year did so because they were tired of Democrat rule, were disappointed in the early years of the Clinton administration, and were impressed with the lofty goals of the Contract With America.

When George W. Bush won the election in 2000, Republicans controlled both the White House and Capitol Hill. It didn't take long, however, for purely Republican rule to look less like the conservative rule I had anticipated and began to appear more like business as usual. There should have been nothing to stand in the way of badly needed reform. Nothing, that is, except meandering Republicans, the kind that take promises made more seriously than promises kept.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about weenies like Lincoln Chafee or Olympia Snowe who have never made any bones about being progressive Republicans. I expect weenies to act like weenies. My beef has been with self identified conservative Republicans that threw their principles in the gutter. Faced with what, in my opinion, was the ultimate political challenge of the day, Republicans failed to deliver and, honestly, it wasn't even that close. After the presidential election of 2000 and George W. Bush pushed compassionate conservatism onto the national stage, Congressional leaders gladly fell in line behind the President's vision. Massive new programs and initiatives were pushed by the president, written and passed by congress, and ultimately signed into law. Not to be outdone, when Congress jumped into "no earmark left behind" mode, President Bush forgot in which drawer he had hidden his mint condition veto pen. With two feet already stomping on the accelerator, there was no foot left to apply the brakes.

One of the master architects of the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives was Texan Tom DeLay who was so happy with the Republicans' management of the country's coffers that he declared in September of 2005 that there was no fat to cut in the current budget that included a $331 Billion deficit. (I like to capitalize Billion, sometimes for no apparent reason.) True conservative Jeff Flake wondered aloud "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress." Senator Trent Lott loudly voiced his displeasure with groups such as Porkbusters who had made it a point to publicize wasteful spending regardless of who proposed the legislation. "I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them."

At some point in the mid 00s, I stopped even referring to myself as a Republican, it simply was not a label that described me any longer. Perhaps I had shifted course, but it seemed to me as if I had been firmly anchored to where I had politically stood on principle for many years. I seems that I was not alone.

It was this slow drift of the Republican Party toward an inefficient, bloated, cradle to grave, gluttonous, nose into my personal business, nanny state do-all government that drove me and other conservatives away from the party and had stomped out most, if not all, of our excitement. We simply had no horse in this race.

This was my mood as I watched McCain's campaign.

Sarah Palin changed all of that. Sarah Palin was the reason that I listened to NPR so intently on that night (well that and the fact that Dish Network is a pile of crap.) I was well aware of who Sarah Palin was and what she stood for, but I also wanted to hear her voice and see if I could get excited about her candidacy. I had hope but needed to see (or rather hear) the real thing.

I thought her speech was quite good, well delivered, and full of emotion. Her voice seemed a bit forced at times, I suppose a common occurrence to someone more accustomed to lengthy tanning sessions and with only enough real life experience to drive the family mini van to hockey games or gut a moose. But, at least she didn't demand for any wheelchair bound fans to stand up like the Rev. Bob Tilton or Joe Biden for that matter.

I was also forced to listen to analysis on NPR because, and I may have mentioned this already, Dish Network is a pile of crap. Just how effective would the speech be in unifying the Republican Party and swaying undecided voters? E.J. Dionne, who has never in his life been misidentified as an objective reporter, kindly provided the objective reporting. Shockingly, E.J., who has never met a socialist program that he didn't love, objectively found the speech largely ineffective. It was too full of rhetoric and absent of substance.

I thought about his comments for a few minutes. How could Dionne or NPR ever be naive enough to believe that Dionne was capable of thinking for me, or conservatives, or undecided voters? The speech delivered by Sarah Palin was not directed at him. While he certainly had permission to hear it, he did not have the objectivity to provide analysis as to its effectiveness. Sarah Palin's speech was directed at millions of disillusioned former Republicans who had stopped identifying themselves as such because the party no longer represented much of what they believe in. These voters have no fire in their belly.

E.J. Dionne and NPR boldly stepped to the plate and told me that the speech of Palin's would not impact me.

In the two weeks since Sarah Palin's speech, the polls are showing some interesting things. For one, Blue State Michigan is in play. So is Minnesota. Aye to Colorado. McCain leads in Ohio and Pennsylvania. New Jersey, a state that has been Democrat since Vercingetorix was King of Gaul, is getting closer.

None of this is to say that McCain will win this election but, if he does win, it will be because of a tanned hockey mom from Alaska that decided to get involved. If she allows principles to guide her political career instead of allowing her career to shape her principles, Republicans might be in good hands for quite some time.

I'm excited now about the possibilities of the Republican Party. E.J., you nailed it!

Dish Network, not so much.

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