As I finished Sarah Palin’s book earlier this morning, I wondered if she were the right person to spearhead a Republican Renaissance in the United States. She clearly understands why our party has lost its way, but remains a controversial figure, even a divisive one. The mere mention of her name whips a huge segment of the American left into a frenzy.
But, even if she is not the right person to lead the GOP, Sarah Palin can help carry the Republican message forward; she certainly understands what has been ailing our party in recent years. Toward the end of her book, she gets at the twin failures which have plagued the GOP, losing sight of our small-government principles and failing to communicate those principles. To be sure, she recognizes the challenge of articulating them:
It’s easy to promise free medical care and a chicken in every pot. It’s more difficult to explain how we’re going to pay for it all and to explain why social programs that were supposed to help the poor have ended up hurting them, becoming unsustainable financial liabilities for all of us. Ronald Reagan was the last president to explain this to us.
Somewhere along the way, those clear principles got lost. People look at the Republican Party today–the supposedly conservative party—and say, “What happened to the Reagan legacy?”
In short, the issue is not just conservative ideas, but communicating those ideas. One reason I believe Sarah Palin matters is that she has shown a knack for communicating that vision and connecting with voters that few Republican politicians have shown in recent years.
And the Republican Party, despite it rises in most polls in recent days, still has an image problem. Many young voters still see ours as the party of backward-looking social conservatives. A Hollywood friend recently dismissed the GOP as “old-fashioned.”
No wonder some in the media wish to portray Mrs. Palin as a troglodytic social conservative. It helps maintain the party’s backward image.
T the GOP has lost favor with many suburbanites and young voters, in large part, because in becoming indistinguishable from the Democrats on fiscal issues (as we did in the pre-01/20/09 era), it allowed people to see social issues as the only distinguishing aspect of the GOP. And with confidence in our political leaders on the wane in recent years, people turned to the out party (then, the Democrats).
Today, the GOP is gaining because we are now the “out” party.
To build on those gains, however, we can’t rest content in being the “not Barack Obama” party, we need offer an optimistic vision, showing that ours is the party of choices, freedom and innovation. We need leaders like the Gipper who can communicate the optimistic message of conservatism to the next generation.
And we need politicians who adhere to Reaganite principles once in office.