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Sarah Palin’s Reaganite Potential

Russ Douthat alerts us to a great exchange between Jon Henke and Patrick Ruffini on Sarah Palin’s future.  (Both posts merit your attention.)

Jon believes Palin needs “three things” to be “substantive leader of a political movement:”

  1. A clear, but sophisticated, political philosophy
  2. A serious governing strategy to move the ball forward on her political philosophy
  3. A support base, including grassroots and elite infrastructure, that can mobilize to defend her and advance her agenda

My sense is that she could easily assemble the third, but needs work to develop the first two.

While I beileve she has many of the qualities (i.e., natural gifts) of Ronald Reagan, she has, as I’ve noted before, not yet come close to realizing her potential. Jon seems to agree:

At least, not right now. Remember, Ronald Reagan spent decades writing, speaking and working on difficult political issues, thinking deeply about what he believed and why, before he was taken seriously as a major movement leader.

That can be remedied.  In commenting on Palin’s RNC-financed campaign wardrobe, Lisa Schiffren suggests she buy some books:

I would be really happy to know that, should she find herself back in Alaska for the next four years, (or, for that matter, in D.C.) she chose to spend a little of the money that would otherwise go to her clothing budget on a personal library of conservative classics. Going upmarket intellectually will complete the transformation, and make her truly prime-time ready.

Gifts similar to the Gipper have served her well in this campaign. And she has become a better candidate, handling recently a tough CNN interview without the awkward moments of her exchange with Katie Couric.

She needs, however, a stronger command of political philosophy and public policy. The good news for her is that Ronald Reagan once lacked those things.  He gained them, not through a university curriculum, but through years of intense reading and intelligent conversation.  The Gipper was largely self-taught.

Now that the conservative movement has come to embrace her, she can more readily reach out to leading luminaries of the right to help her identify the right books to read and to serve as sounding boards as she develops her ideas.

Here’s hoping she continues her education in Washington rather than Juneau.



  1. Count me as one of those grassroots types.

    If I sell a screenplay or novel, I’ll join the elite infrastructure.

    Either way, it’s Sarah, all the way! (No pun intended — well, maybe a little.)

    Comment by Julie the Jarhead — October 24, 2008 @ 7:40 am - October 24, 2008

  2. Sarah Palin is on the campaign trail with Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Lady Forrester DeRothchild (the former a close friend of Hillary Clinton and a major fund raiser). I believe she does have the support of elite infrastructure.

    Even Lorne Michael of SNL and Alec Baldwin have admitted that after meeting Sarah Palin they see her intellect and style as impressive and that they had judged her too quickly.

    It is a shame that Colin Powell did make the effort to meet with Sarah Palin. Instead he admitted that he chose the racial path to support BHO.


    Comment by Jeb — October 24, 2008 @ 11:11 am - October 24, 2008

  3. 1. Governing Philosophy: Simple, back-to-basics, fiscal responsibility, limited government, and national security. The social issues can be finessed with a philosophy of opposition of the use of government to promote values contrary to traditional values… in other words, give people and communities the space to work out thorny social issues themselves.

    2. Governing Strategy: I am confident that there will be massive corruption in an Obama Regime, Chicago politics on a national scale, 1,000 Tony Rezko’s. Reform of government should be her centerpiece, and if anyone brings up Tasergate, just remind the voters that Democrats are angry because she wanted a corrupt and violent cop fired, that Democrats are out to protect the guilty against the innocent.

    3. Grassroots: I volunteer to be the first recruit to Sarah’s Army. I’ll be a private, a sergeant, a supply officer. Anything.

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2008 @ 11:38 am - October 24, 2008

  4. It won’t take long for Palin to get up to snuff. Granted, she’s no Ronald Reagan. But neither was Reagan at age 44. She’ll be fine and she’ll have our support.

    Comment by Right Turn — October 24, 2008 @ 12:01 pm - October 24, 2008

  5. You’re forgetting one key difference: people liked Reagan, LOL. Palin’s unfavorable rating is almost at 50% and she’s been on the national stage for 7 weeks!

    That’s pretty bad.

    Comment by Erik — October 24, 2008 @ 2:01 pm - October 24, 2008

  6. Hmmm, Erik, the only polls I’ve seen have shown her favorables higher than her unfavorables.

    Please note that in the post, I said she has the potential to be like Reagan. The Gipper wasn’t instantly a hit with the American people.

    Given the media hits she’s taken and her failure until recently to speak more to the press, it’s no wonder she’s suffered. Like Reagan, she’s generated a lot of enthusiasm with the base. Just as the Gipper did before winning the hearts of the American people.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — October 24, 2008 @ 2:14 pm - October 24, 2008

  7. If leftists like Erik weren’t afraid of Sarah Palin, they wouldn’t be out to destroy her.

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2008 @ 2:37 pm - October 24, 2008

  8. Barney Frank announces the Democrat Agenda: Gut the military and raise taxes.

    Welcome back to the Jinny Carter Era.

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2008 @ 5:30 pm - October 24, 2008

  9. I mean Jimmy Carter, of course.

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2008 @ 5:31 pm - October 24, 2008

  10. Point being, we’re going to need a Reagan after four years of Jimmy Carter 2.0

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2008 @ 6:24 pm - October 24, 2008

  11. #10: Sorry, V, I don’t think another Reagan is in our future. John Derbyshire wrote a couple of years back that RR couldn’t get elected nowadays. Given that Obama may well get elected in a couple of weeks, I tend to agree.

    GWB has made quite the mess and, after Obama and the Dems are done, it will take a miracle-worker to clean up the wreckage.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — October 24, 2008 @ 8:50 pm - October 24, 2008

  12. I doubt America in 1976 looked like a promising place for a Reagan, either. Watergate. Goldwater’s landslide defeat 8 years earlier. Huge Democrat majorities in Congress.

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2008 @ 10:20 pm - October 24, 2008

  13. […] he had when, in 1968, he launched his first bid for the White.  I believe that (as I expressed in these posts) if she applies herself, she has it within her to become his equivalent as a leader.  […]

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  14. […] matters more than uplifting rhetoric, Sarah Palin has learned the same thing. Now, as I’ve said before, she just needs to complete her conservative […]

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  15. […] Sarah Palin’s Reaganite Potential. […]

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  16. […] skills as well as her ability to connect with Americans to those of Ronald Reagan, I have also long noted that she lacks his (self-)education in the ideas of conservatism and free markets.  To achieve his […]

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