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Do Palin-hating conservatives understand the grassroots?

The Jewish Athena (Jennifer Rubin) just penned, er, pixeled (?) a most excellent post on Sarah Palin, looking at the divisions within conservative circles over the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.  Rubin divides us into “Players”and “Kibitzers,” with the players (political activists) loving the Alaska Governor while the kibitzers (intellectuals) revile her.

It’s an interesting breakdown which makes sense even if it isn’t perfect.  I mean, I see myself as more a kibitzer than a player and I’m pretty enthusiastic about the Alaska Governor.  The distinction makes a lot more sense when Rubin fleshes it out, so make sure to read the whole thing.

What really struck me about the post was Rubin’s critique of the “kibitzers,” those

. . . who don’t hold office or run campaigns or much bother with real voters. They write books, tell us what is wrong with conservatism, and scold the poor slobs who run campaigns. They lack any visceral sense of actual conservative voters. Their bent is decidedly academic and their approach to politics is sterile.

That pretty much nails it. They don’t understand the imperative to inspire voters. When they see Reagan, they see primarily his intellectual bent. They miss the importance of Hollywood to his success, his understanding of appealing to an audience. And they forget the years he spent traveling the country working for General Electric, meeting with, talking to, listening to the company’s employees.

Reagan knew he had to reach out to these people. Having spent sixteen years in politics in a state where personal contact 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 education.

And then she might sway some of her conservative skeptics, with another Athena likely becoming the first to admit her error in underestimating Palin’s promise.



  1. Novak has a good piece, too. To avoid offending the filter, I’ll put the pull-quote in the next comment.

    Comment by V the K — October 30, 2008 @ 1:14 pm - October 30, 2008

  2. Here is the quote I liked from the Novak piece …

    Sarah’s goal is not to make America into another Western Europe. Her goal is to reform America on the model of the original American vision, which where she comes from is still so close you can almost touch it.

    Novak goes on to contrast Palin’s vision with Obama’s vision of remaking America in the model of a European social democracy… a model even the Europeans are beginning to sour on.

    Comment by V the K — October 30, 2008 @ 1:15 pm - October 30, 2008

  3. While I am not a fan of Obama’s vision, quite frightened of it actually….I have to disagree about Palin’s “vision.” Her only vision is to promote herself as the next leader of the party, and the easiest way to do that is to appeal to the lowest common denominator, scare people about fags, terrorists and socialism (though she does have a point there.) McCain could have steered the party back to where it should be, a centrist party of small government and individual freedom, and that message alone could have trumped Obama. Palin brings her Annie Oakley schtick to the national stage, and as entertaining as it is, we come right back to the Bush years..(actually, Palin make Bush look like a centrist.)

    The only saving grace about loosing the election is that Palin will have years to show that while she might be a fun side show, to poke the hot air out of the Democrats, she doesn’t have the depth to be anything more then a good speech at the convention.

    Comment by Mitch — October 30, 2008 @ 2:17 pm - October 30, 2008

  4. The “kibitzers” also often don’t quite grasp the rock that was Reagan’s Christian upbringing (e.g., he taught Sunday school when he was a youth), how that formed and informed the rest of his life, including his public life. (See Paul Kengor’s God and Ronald Reagan.)

    If Sarah Palin is “Reaganesque,” it has a lot to do with her being a “Bible-believing Christian” (her words).

    Comment by Jeremayakovka — October 30, 2008 @ 2:45 pm - October 30, 2008

  5. I wouldn’t describe Brooks, Noonan, etc. as “Palin-hating conservatives”. I doubt they hate her, but they have worked very, very hard to uphold the image of the conservative intellectual. I agree Palin shatters the notion that conservatism is a mere mental pursuit; while intellectuals have no problem with the commoner as beneficiary, they cannot bear her as standard bearer. It’s part turf war, part envy, part elitism, elitism in particular because it is by definition exclusive and since winning an election means appealing to a majority, exclusion to any great degree works against victory. Being out of power is, in a twisted way, a comfortable position for the intellectual because a supposed superiority is preferable to being right and intellectual superiority depends upon others’ lack of understanding. What Brooks, Noonan, et al. are missing is that truth is simple and the profound seek the truth. Those who make their living merely appearing to be profound try to obscure the truth because to be understood is to no longer exclude. Palin’s rise to prominence is on its own profound and in order to remain relevant, the intellectual’s disdain is necessary. Thus, endorsing a candidate whose positions (such as they are) have been debunked years ago is easy.

    Comment by Ignatius — October 30, 2008 @ 2:48 pm - October 30, 2008

  6. I guess the Palin-haters are as hard for me to understand as the folks who effuse the passionate, near-worshipfulness of “All Things Considered Palin”. I get that Palin’s #1 role is to energize a portion of the GOP base that continues to cast a scornful eye on McCain the Maverick, McCain the RINO, McCain the Moderate… she’s clearly, wildly done that task with an equal passion and, for the most part, delivered the sceptical social conservatives into the fold once again. Bravo.

    Rather than players vs kibitzers, the conservative Palin-haters seem more intent and united in preserving their version of conservatism for the ages –maybe it’s because they’ve observed/worked with Reagan and know that parallels drawn between him and Gov Palin are far, far too premature. I’m sure it’s not about guns (although that animates some). I’m sure it’s not about religion (in the GOP of today, that’s never been a demerit) . I’m sure it’s not about Gov Palin’s shorthanded skills and lack of seasoning (which, as you note Dan, can be addressed over time).

    Rubin’s piece considered, I’m not convinced this is a battle between inside Party players/workers and academic intellectuals… more, it’s a battle between those who see promise and question the potential versus those who need a queen crowned in these dark moments of conservatism when the flame seems nearly extinguished. Latching onto any glimmer of hope while it appears the conservative movement flounders after a decade of corruption, ineffective leadership, fear mongering and selling unchecked greed and pathological self-interest as a replacement for the good public policy of limited govt, lower taxes, sacrafice and service, entrepreneurship and keeping America strong at home and abroad.

    Conservatives of all stripes should note that Palin as McCain’s veep will likely not be the kind of veep that Dick Cheney has been to Bush 43. Nor Bush 41 to Reagan. My hunch is that, if they win, it’ll be more like Bush 41 and Quayle. And it doesn’t take a player or kibitzer, as Rubin would define it, to appreciate that reality.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — October 30, 2008 @ 4:27 pm - October 30, 2008

  7. Well, I don’t know how to break this to you, but McCain is going to lose. So, the question of Palin’s role as a VP is moot.

    John McCain is going back to the senate in January 2009, where he will “work with” the Obama Regime to enact most of Chairman Obama’s agenda… in the name of unity and bi-partisanship.

    The elites who run the Republican party don’t have the first clue how out of touch they are with the real America. They treat conservatism as a marketing strategy, not a governing philosophy. Eight years of Bush’s faux-conservatism have immense damage to the Republican brand and the name of conservatism.

    Sarah Palin connects with the grassroots because they share a belief that America is a great country; a belief that seems to embarrass the panjandrums that run the party. That’s why she gets the crowds. That’s why she gets the love.

    Comment by V the K — October 30, 2008 @ 6:56 pm - October 30, 2008

  8. Mitch–I find it laughable that you seem to consider Bush somewhere on the far right. Bush is, and always has been, a centrist, just like his Dad. The power brokers in the GOP anointed Bush back in 1996, to be sure that the primary season in 2000 resulted in an early frontrunner. At the time, I had read a great deal about how Bush functioned as the governor of Texas where he also spent a ton of money. He had a reputation of working “across the aisles” there too. It’s a fabrication of the major media to consider him a conservative. (If you repeat a lie often enough…)

    He never has been a conservative, and he had marginally more excitement going for him in 1996 than did Bob Dole, ie. not so much. However, he fit the party’s formula for winning. He was a governor in a southern state with a ton of electoral college votes. Governors win more than Senators. The GOP party base is now in the South. Bingo. He has not done very much that didn’t disgust the conservative voting public. Of course, you would never know this from reading the MSM. It seems to me he is despised by the left just because he’s not a Democrat.

    Moderate, centrist Republicans are all the GOP has had for the past 15 years. I don’t think we need more of them. They don’t stand for anything, don’t have a real sense for what makes a country strong, free, or economically well-off, can’t make a case for small government, and don’t even try. It’s always been just about appeasement and winning elections.

    Most people these days don’t even know what conservatism stands for, they just “know” it’s evil, mean, against the little guy, and lives in the Republican party.

    Moderate Republicans couldn’t win a high school debate contest, or sell a vacuum cleaner! If any of them were true conservatives, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now. If McCain were actually a conservative, he’d have been much more able to campaign successfully against Obamabiden. He spent most of his career befriending his political enemies. I’m supporting him since he’s the last man standing. The authors of this blog would all run better campaigns than McCain’s in their sleep.

    Comment by Vivian — October 30, 2008 @ 7:30 pm - October 30, 2008

  9. Her only vision is to promote herself as the next leader of the party

    Where is the evidence for this? I see her campaigning very hard for John McCain

    and the easiest way to do that is to appeal to the lowest common denominator, scare people about fags

    Again, evididence? The only things shes said about gays is that she respects them, has a gay best friend, that its certainly not her role to judge them, and that she supports traditional marriage.


    In other words addressing the realities of the world

    and socialism (though she does have a point there.)

    and the realities of the opposing ticket.

    Comment by American Elephant — October 30, 2008 @ 7:43 pm - October 30, 2008

  10. Ignatius is right. Above all else, Brooks, Noonan, etc consider themselves intellectuals. Membership in the right circles, being invited to the right parties comes before even conservatism.

    They oppose Palin because they are tired of conservatives being portrayed as stupid. First Bush, and now Palin, make that portrayal all too easy because of their speaking styles. Bush is easily portrayed as stupid because he occasionally trips over his own tongue. Palin because she is new to the national stage, just learning how to respond to the type of leading, booby-trapped questions the press sets to trip her up, and simply doesnt have the practice speaking at length on national issues that the other candidates do.

    But these are not indicators of intelligence, they are skills that must be learned. Noonan, Brooks, Buckley and others should know this. They wrongly confuse unfamiliarity with policy detail, with the inability to understand the issues. This is not only wrong, it is, dare I say, stupid. Then there is always the possibility that they do understand it, but are just unwilling to defend it, which is cowardly.

    Charlie Gibson, in his infamous interview (the unedited version), tried to play “gotcha” with Palin on the debt she left as mayor of Wasilla — she decimated him. Needless to say, he moved quickly to foreign policy.

    Its understandable that Palin isn’t familiar with the intracacies of many national issues — she has a very big job that doesnt address many of them. I couldn’t address a great many local issues with depth of knowledge, I admittedly don’t follow local politics very closely. That doesn’t mean i couldnt become informed in fairly short order.

    But Brooks and the rest do conservatism a great disservice by legitimizing the ignorant charicature of Palin and Bush as anti-intellectual.

    Comment by American Elephant — October 30, 2008 @ 8:33 pm - October 30, 2008

  11. Heh.

    I also love the way she enrages all the right people. Not just the misogynists, of course. But the rest of them:

    The surprised Columbia J-School grads forced to drop their fa̤ades of weary, worldly cynicism and scramble like fourth graders at the bell, pens in hand to Alaska РAlaska, of all places! Рin order to grub through trash cans and gin joints in search of dirt, any dirt at all. Who, in an ugly and self-reinforcing frenzy, dropped their treasured (if battered) mask of impartiality to reveal themselves as hateful, naked partisans.

    The women’s rights advocates – … – who were suddenly forced to explain why they were only in favor of improving the lot of certain kinds of women … That “pro choice” really was only a code for “abortion”, because choosing life – especially the life of a handicapped child – wasn’t really a valid choice.

    I love the angst engendered in those of fawning, second class minds convinced that only first class minds had the right to govern… that ruling class class defined exclusively to those children that had done well enough by age 18 – or who had been born into fortunate circumstances, or both – to get into Harvard or Yale. … Who looked down their noses, these masters of the universe and their cherished sycophants, at the rest of America. …

    As a conservative, but no Republican, I’m also thrilled to death that she faced down a GOP old boy’s network that was enshrined in power either for its own sake or for the opportunities it gave them to skim from the public till and beat them into a cocked hat.

    Comment by V the K — October 30, 2008 @ 10:02 pm - October 30, 2008

  12. GPW, you hit a grand slam out of the ballpark! While I am a faithful reader of National Review, The Weekly Standard and The American Spectator, bottom line is that they are where we go for the ideas. We have to go to people like Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, some smart senators like Jim DeMint from South Carolina. Governors like Mark Sanford also from SC. What does the GOP hierarchy tells us wins. Governor Benedict Arnold Schwarzenneger! PLEASE! All I know is that I will be very happy when Sarah Palin is Vice-President elect this time next week. And the conservative intellectual trolls will smarting over their arrogance. BTW, I am linking this over at my blog!

    Comment by Mark J. Goluskin — October 30, 2008 @ 11:43 pm - October 30, 2008

  13. The conservative grassroots are in such denial over Palin. Another Former Secretary of State under a Republican President, Lawrence Eagleburger, a McCain advisor and someone often cited after Powell’s defection, slammed Palin in a very candid interview with NPR.

    The remarks took place during an interview on National Public Radio that was, ironically, billed as “making the case” for a McCain presidency. Asked by the host whether Palin could step in during a time of crisis, Eagleburger reverted to sarcasm before leveling the harsh blow.

    “It is a very good question,” he said, pausing a few seconds, then adding with a chuckle: “I’m being facetious here. Look, of course not.”

    After saying she simply wasn’t ready, he added this blow:

    “Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be [pause] adequate. I can’t say that she would be a genius in the job. But I think she would be enough to get us through a four year… well I hope not… get us through whatever period of time was necessary. And I devoutly hope that it would never be tested.”

    Adequate? OK.

    How many former Secretaries of State have to slam her abilities before the conservative grassroots will believe the indictment against Palin? Because I imagine that, should the Republican ticket lose on Tuesday as expected, the circular firing squad will aim squarely at Palin and you will see a lot more of this from the “Kibitzers” in the party. Even from members who previously were not critical of Palin. With the election over, they’ll be free to speak their mind and they will.

    Comment by Erik — October 31, 2008 @ 5:03 am - October 31, 2008

  14. How many former secretaries of state can draw enthusiastic crowds of 25,000? 60,000? The whole argument here is that elitist bureaucrats in their ivory towers have no clue about the concerns of real Americans in the heartland, and that’s why the GOP is out of touch and losing.

    Besides which, Erik hates conservatives anyway. And he is rooting for Sarah Palin to go away. That should tell you everything. She’s a threat to the left, and they know it. That’s why they are out to destroy her.

    Comment by V the K — October 31, 2008 @ 8:10 am - October 31, 2008

  15. There is a group out there called the Young Centurions. They focus on teaching young conservatives two things- how to be an educated conservative and fluent in the classics, and how to be an educationed politician fluent in the game of politics. I try to be both- check out my blog for my intellectual posts, and also for my practical posts about being active politically. It’s tough, and right now Palin isn’t pulling it off, but I think she will soon. And if you want to be trained, check out the Young Centurions, sponsored by the Americans for Progress.

    Comment by aconservativeteacher — October 31, 2008 @ 1:18 pm - October 31, 2008

  16. Larry Eagleburger eats his words. I guess Erik will have to go back to posting phony YouTube videos about phony racists at Sarah Palin rallies.

    Comment by V the K — October 31, 2008 @ 5:35 pm - October 31, 2008

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