She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain?
George Will, in a post-election review, makes a corrective worth considering:
Some conservatives who are gluttons for punishment are getting a head start on ensuring a 2012 drubbing by prescribing peculiar medication for a misdiagnosed illness. They are monomaniacal about media bias, which is real but rarely decisive, and unhinged by their anger about the loathing of Sarah Palin by similarly deranged liberals. These conservatives, confusing pugnacity with a political philosophy, are hot to anoint Palin, an emblem of rural and small-town sensibilities, as the party’s presumptive 2012 nominee.
These conservatives preen as especially respectful of regular — or as Palin says, “real” — Americans, whose tribune Palin purports to be. But note the argument that the manipulation of Americans by “the mainstream media” explains the fact that the more Palin campaigned, the less Americans thought of her qualifications. This argument portrays Americans as a bovine herd — or as inert clay in the hands of wily media, which only Palin’s conservative celebrators can decipher and resist.
These conservatives, smitten by a vice presidential choice based on chromosomes, seem eager to compete on the Democrats’ terrain of identity politics, entering the “diversity” sweepstakes they have hitherto rightly deplored. We have seen this movie before. Immediately after the 1972 election, some conservatives laid down the law — the 1976 Republican nominee must be Vice President Spiro Agnew.
We conservatives are standing before an open field, right now, with all sorts of variables hidden in the high, wild grass. How and how well will Obama govern? The Democratic Congress? What will our enemies do? Our allies? What might social and technological innovations wreak? Or not. And perhaps more important, as an internal matter: Who will emerge from among our ranks making compelling arguments that apply our worldview to those unknowables?
Will seems to go too far toward rejecting Palin for 2012, but he is without doubt correct that it is too early to hand her the crown. Before all else, let’s see what she does. If she spends whatever free time her job as governor allows reading the arguments of conservative intellectuals past and present, if she is deliberate about learning the ins and outs of the national and international minefields, it may be that she’s precisely the right woman at the right time in four years. She could step forward in the waning months of 2011 and challenge the hostile media to shake her, wink intact and an answer for every gotcha.
Or she could decide to remain a regional phenomenon, and that would be fine, too.
Whatever the case, it would most definitely be advisable all around to nurture as much internal competition as possible. If Governor Palin or any other conservative wants the mantle, let her or him work for it — with help from the rest of us, to be sure.