The WaPo, Sarah Palin, and Conservatism

Today’s Washington Post features an editorial which serves to underscore a fear on the left of a resurgent conservative movement and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It concerns the surprise endorsement of Brian Murphy by Governor Palin.

It shows, first of all, that the former Republican vice presidential nominee does not really care much about winning. After all, Mr. Murphy stands virtually zero chance of stealing the Republican nomination away from former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who maintained relatively high approval ratings statewide even as he was defeated in his bid for reelection four years ago. Maryland is one of the most liberal states in the nation; if any Republican stands a chance at winning statewide office, it will be a moderate like Mr. Ehrlich, not a conservative like Mr. Murphy.

It also suggests that Ms. Palin’s political worldview, if you can call it that, consists mainly of a short checklist of slogan-ready, litmus-test issues on which Mr. Murphy ranks higher in the conservative canon than Mr. Ehrlich does. Opposed to raising taxes? Check! In favor of Second Amendment gun rights? Check! Opposed to abortion? Check! Dislike illegal immigrants? Check!

To the extent that Republicans follow Ms. Palin down this path, they will find it leads to a very snug tent, just big enough for the hard-core partisans who refuse to deviate from checklist politics for the sake of character, pragmatism or victory. You could call that principled. You could also call it a political strategy so narrow that it amounts to self-marginalization.

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This type of editorial demonstrates why the Washington Post hires liberals like Dave Wiegel to explain conservatism.

First, the fact that the Washington Post wants us to believe that it actually cares about the fate of the GOP is laughable. If they really thought Gov. Palin was leading the GOP down the path to marginalization they would be first in line cheering her on. The fact that they find her endorsements troubling should be a sign that she’s on to something useful.

Second, as I said below primaries are about ideas. Whether or not the editorial board of the Washington Post likes Governor Palin’s worldview the rest of the country does. Americans, regardless of the poll you select, by large majorities favor restrtictions on abortion, favor gun rights (also the view of the Supreme Court), and favor enforcing our immigration laws. This is not a formula for marginalization, it is a formula for success. Conservatives have long been asked by clowns like Tom Davis and his RMSP to sacrifice principle to support “electable” candidates like Linc Chafee, Arlen Specter… and Tom Davis. It doesn’t work. We end up getting representatives who hold no beliefs beyond an invincible belief that they should be reelected.

Third, Governor Palin understands, as perhaps few national figures on our side of the aisle do, that it is just as easy for a conservative of principle to appeal to the middle as easily as a moderate, or as they seem to prefer a person without principle.

Far from endorsing people who are averse to “character, pragmatism or victory” she has done the exact opposite.

To caricature Governor Palin’s endorsements as some kind of a checklist speaks more about the deep bias the Post bears towards conservatives and conservatism. Governor Palin hasn’t taken the easy way on this. Yes, she has endorsed Nikki Haley in SC and Ken Buck in Colorado. But she has also endorsed the pro-choice Carly Fiorina for Senate in California when she could have avoided a lot of criticism by endorsing the conservative Chuck DeVore. The Post conveniently doesn’t address this because it doesn’t fit their editor’s ” worldview, if you can call it that.”

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