22 September 2010

Responding to Sullivan, cont.

Here, we addressed Andrew Sullivan's contention that Sarah Palin was not only a serious contender for the 2012 nomination, but the near-unstoppable frontrunner.

To his credit, Sullivan routinely links those columnists who disagree with him, namely on the issue of Palin's prospects for the presidency. Today, he addresses the contentions of a favorite of this site, Ross Douthat. Douthat's remarks here.

Sullivan's comments in italics, mine in regular type:

Ross may be right, but I think he ignores just how much more radical the GOP base has become since 1994 (snip)

Maybe. We've noted ourselves that the popularity of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin among some corners of the conservative movement is based, at least in part, on either cultural horror at Barack Obama or a fundamental, deep-seated hatred for the other party. I'd also stipulate that GOP has become more radical in the foreign policy realm since 1994, as the Bush administration adopted the neoconservative obsessions with Iraq and torture, put many of the Wolfowitz/Kristol ideas into practice and thereby made them mainstream Republican thought. However, the GOP still stands on a tax-reduction, pro-business, pro-life platform. It's been anti-Don't Ask, Don't Tell forever. The message of fiscal responsibility -- and again, when it gets to the business of governing, things admittedly always seem to change -- rises above all else, regardless of the basis for the opposition to the other party. Everything else is secondary to that.

Therefore, that said, this has two consequences in the primaries. First, everyone -- not just Palin -- will be gleefully slamming the Obama administration for its fiscal irresponsibility. Every Republican believes this -- Palin is simply the one out front right now at tea parties and campaign rallies. By November 2011, the entire field of candidates will be climbing over one another to make this point. Second, Palin's record as a small-government deficit hawk is shockingly thin (some would argue it's non-existent), and not surprisingly, doesn't quote comport with her rhetoric. To the contrary, both Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels managed to balance their respective states' budgets by lowering taxes. Palin's record as governor is no more impressive than, say, Huckabee's or Barbour's. If her entire message is fiscal responsibility, she'll get swallowed up. And truth be told, that's been her entire message thus far.

In addition, the opposition to Barack Obama is approached only by the seething hatred conservatives had toward Bill Clinton. Clinton was viewed among mainstream conservatives as a draft-dodging, tax-raising secular liberal who was, at his very core, a horrible person. Does no one remember the Clinton presidency? Does no one remember the awful things that were said about him? The personal attacks on Obama are simply par for the course.

... how enraged they have become over the years by what they see as condescension and betrayal by their own elites (snip)

Again, maybe. But Daniels, Pawlenty and Huckabee hardly qualify as elites. And as Peggy Noonan has pointed out, Palin is an elite confection "who may as well be a bon-bon." So if conservatives are truly enraged over elite condescension in the party, why in the world would they fall in line behind Palin? To me, this logic suggests that Palin will actually lose support to, say, Mike Huckabee. Virtually every conservative has talked about the party losing touch with its ideological roots.

... and the rise of Fox News and the Malkin/Reynolds blogosphere and Levin-style talk radio.

This logic assumes that all talk radio listeners/Fox News viewers are a bovine herd. Yes, it's a big problem that so many conservatives refuse to read or listen to anything that isn't run through the Fox filter first. But if the big-microphone elites were so powerful, wouldn't Mitt Romney have won the 2008 nomination in a cakewalk? Rush Limbaugh has spent his entire career criticizing John McCain. In slamming the Senior Senator, Glenn Beck actually said Hillary Clinton would be a better president, and Ann Coulter said HIllary was "more conservative." Levin, Malkin, Hannity and virtually every other major talking head on the right spent the better part of a year trying to convince their readers and listeners that McCain was a closet socialist and the most fundamentally un-conservative guy in the field. Romney was endorsed by virtually every major conservative outlet. McCain cruised to the nomination anyway, and the noisemakers' favorite son, Romney, finished a distant third, never really mounting a serious challenge (remember, Romney outspent Huckabee 15-to-1 in Iowa and still finished second). Sullivan and others imply that there is some sort of powerful Fox-Limbaugh-Palin conspiracy at work, when in reality, this conspiracy is either impotent or doesn't exist at all.

I also think that the people to whom Palin appeals will be as economically distressed in 2012 as they are now, since their jobs are overwhelmingly the ones that are gone for ever.

Sullivan doesn't offer any evidence of this, in part, because I don't think any exists. To the contrary -- based on my conversations with various members of my own family, and friends whose families support the tea party movement -- I'd wager that despite the heated rhetoric, the vast majority of tea partiers are actually middle-class. Palin isn't holding rallies in, for instance, Detroit, because those are places unserious folks such as her dare not go.

In this corner of the blogosphere, we fully expect Palin to run -- she very obviously considers herself presidential material -- but again, fully expect her to get crowded out by the adults.

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