I recently picked up a book titled: Rule and Ruin:
The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. You don’t need to read it, as the title pretty much tells the whole story, leading to the sharp right turn of the Republican party of late. It’s a curious right turn, mixing fundamentalists with libertarians, who disagree on a number of things – e.g. both want less government, except fundamentalists want more when it comes to controlling our sex lives and a few other liberties that aren’t in God’s plan. As long as most of them can agree on “NO” to additional government spending and “YES” to less government in general, they can hold together.
But that coalition leaves no room for the moderates in the Republican party, who at times must feel like they’ve been kicked out into the streets, become intellectually homeless. So, I’m inviting them to Centerville, my imagined community of people who realize the nature of politics, short of dictatorships and the like, is a matter of compromise. Other qualifications are to cherish honest expression of opinions and the legitimate use of facts as well as the belief that presidential candidates must have a discernible degree of intellectual development to handle the vastly complicated issues they will constantly face.
In other words, not you Sarah Palin. Even compared with the recent fun house road show called the Republican primaries, Sarah becoming a national political figure is the strangest political event in my life time, at least since Joe McCarthy. I’m not denying she has ability, just saying she was a big fish in a small pond who thought God was opening the channel to an ocean of opportunity when it was actually Steve Schmidt, a McCain adviser who initiated her rise to fame and regrets it to this day.
It was only after her dazzling speech at the nominating convention that Schmidt realized how ignorant she was of the world outside of Alaska. If she were honest with herself, and didn’t have the ego of Donald the Hairdo, she would have known she was not ready for prime time. One of her aids later made a point that when she was asked the fatal question by Katie Couric: “What do you read?” And she came up with nothing, she actually did read magazines and newspapers, but they were all about Alaska. The implication is she instinctively resisted revealing that limitation, and instead wound up looking dumb. And blaming Couric ever since for the “ambush interview.”
Anyway, my main point about Sarah is that she’s a useful litmus test for determining who on the right haven’t lost their senses through the rise of the far right. Near the end of Rule and Ruin, the author lists several conservative thinkers such as David Brooks, David Frum, Reihan Salam, Andrew Sullivan and Sam Tanenhaus (*1). I Googled each along with ‘Sarah” and just as I suspected, their opinions are similar to my own. (click their names and see for yourself). I could add others to the list like former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel or conservative columnists Kathleen Parker and Peggy Noonan.
All of the above – except maybe Noonan – are probably thought to be RINOs – Republican in Name Only – by the Republican right. That’s reason enough for me to welcome them to Centerville, even though some might reject the invitation, especially Noonan. But that’s OK, she has come up with a couple of the best Palin zingers. One, when Palin was originally the VP candidate – she said: “Sarah Palin doesn’t think, she just opens her mouth and words come out.” And more recently when Sarah tried to compare herself to Ronald Reagan, Peggy essentially summed her up as a “nincompoop”.
My point isn’t to trash Sarah, but I don’t mind if Peggy and other Republicans do. Had it not been for Steve Schmidt’s mistake, Sarah would have no credentials to be a national figure and the (fading?) de facto queen of the Tea Party, but I’m sure she sees it all as a matter of her God and her grit and her subsequent money a well deserved blessing.
(*1) Ross Douththat was also listed in the book, but he was an initialPalin backer who ….well, CLICK and see. Sam Tanehaus is more subtle in his critcisms, but if you look hard, you’ll find them.