One Conservative’s Take on Sarah Palin: Her Political Significance and the Insincerity of her Supporters and Detractors

–Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.

Governor Sarah Palin, as you non-cave-dwellers know, is publicizing her new book, Going Rogue: An American Life. The title is reminiscent of — and consistent with — the self-obsessed “maverick” self-anointing of which Sen. John McCain and she were so embarrassingly proud. Could you imagine President Ronald Reagan, widely touted as an unusually sincere politician, having labeled himself as “Mr. Sincerity?” You let others bestow flattering images on you; you don’t do it yourself.

Gov. Palin has been all over the media, with the expected debates over how she is treated (including Newsweek’s use on its cover of Palin’s Runner’s World fetching photo) and treated relative to her sex and ideological and party opposition.

The seemingly permanent Palin drama is rife with insincerity, insincerity from strong supporters, strong detractors and media of all stripes. I detest insincerity, largely because when it is not recognized, it appears to be stupidity or ignorance or both. Insincerity is political strategy, bad political strategy..

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No intelligent person believes that Gov. Palin should or could become president of the United States. Lots of intelligent people believe that Gov. Palin has generally good ostensible values, even if her behavior does not always comport with those values. To leave the governorship of Alaska 18 months before her first term was over violated the conservative values of responsibility and dependability and crippled permanently whatever chance she had to be a Republican nominee, much less winner, for president or vice-president of the United States.

Many Democrats are trying to keep hope alive for her future candidacy because they think that such rhetorical efforts make such a candidacy possible, but that Gov. Palin would not win. This is not only insincere strategy, it is irresponsible citizenship.

Palin kerfuffles are mostly little casino. There is the fight over what McCain’s handlers let her do, said to her, and how they dealt with her generally. There are the fights about whether Katie Couric ambushed her in the famous “gotcha” interview. There is the irritatingly self-concerned father of Gov. Palin’s daughter’s child. Gov. Palin is the Entertainment Tonight Personality of the Year.

But most troubling is her lack of gravitas — clichéd, but true. Some Republicans try to argue that Gov. Palin’s ineptitude in answering substantive political questions appears as such only because the media go after her more than they do, say, Joe “I’m Proud of My Gaffes” Biden.

It is indisputable that the media do not meticulously examine Joe Biden’s error-prone rhetoric, or even President Barack Obama’s. This does not gainsay the fact that Gov. Palin’s substantiveness is simply insufficient in serious political debate. More disqualifying: she has the guts, but lacks the judgment.

John McCain whisked Gov. Palin from obscurity and made her a salient figure. What a predictable act by a man who takes such inexplicable pride in sticking it to his Republican supporters and opposition. He could have won – yes, he could have — if he had picked Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Governor Mitt Romney or any number of other vice presidential possibilities. Add Gov. Palin’s beauty, mystery and unpredictability – not a good quality in a chief executive, but a perfect match to Sen. McCain – and you have a national star, a continuing star, the rhetorical well that keeps on giving.

Yet, despite all of this, Gov. Sarah Palin is a genuinely conservative politician with consistently good values, even, again, if they are not always followed punctiliously. She is not a bad person, but an individual who tries to be honorably conservative in her family choices.

She will not be a presidential or vice presidential candidate for the Republican party. Let go of that idea, insincere Democrats and insincere Republicans. Sometimes bad candidates are also treated poorly and unfairly by their opponents and mainstream media. That is also indisputably true in the case of Gov. Sarah Palin.

11/19/09 addendum

I request of critics of this post, and you are more legion than I anticipated, not to infer that I prefer Barack Obama as president. Anyone who has read my posts or seen or heard me on radio or television knows that I believe President Obama to be an utterly dangerous failure as president in both domestic and foreign policy, as well as being consistently dishonest in his representation of issues to the American people.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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