Cross posted at The Next Right
Yuval Levin has written a long (3,700 word), insightful essay on many aspects of American political life illuminated by the vice-presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin.
Levin skewers commentators on the left for telling outright lies about Palin and chastises those like David Brooks who scorned Palin as anti-intellectual, while being anti-democratic and "provincial" themselves.
"The reaction of the intellectual elite to Sarah Palin was far more provincial than Palin herself ever has been, and those who reacted so viscerally against her evinced little or no appreciation for an essential premise of democracy: that practical wisdom matters at least as much as formal education, and that leadership can emerge from utterly unexpected places. The presumption that the only road to power passes through the Ivy League and its tributaries is neither democratic nor sensible, and is, moreover, a sharp and wrongheaded break from the American tradition of citizen governance."
(One can see the same provincial intellectualism in anti-Lincoln sentiment in his day because Lincoln didn't have the formal education of other major political figures and didn't talk like them. This is echoed by many anti-Palin commentators today. Lincoln said things like "heered" instead of "heard" and talked with a folksy, backwoods cadence and used non-intellectual metaphors and anecdotes to illustrate his thinking.)
Besides raking conservative and liberal commentators over the coals, Levin gives some points of departure for future conservative success.
First, he notes the striking success of the Palin candidacy. She drew a double digit spread more than she lost (though Levin seems to have missed the meaning of the spread).
"About 60 percent of those interviewed in the exit polls said McCain’s choice of Palin had been a factor in their vote. Of these, 56 percent voted for McCain while only 43 percent voted for Obama. In other words, she appears to have helped McCain more than she hurt him, but not by much, which is as it should be; we were voting for a President, after all. In the face of unprecedented attack, Palin succeeded where almost no vice-presidential candidate ever has before in winning sustained support for the ticket."
Among 60% of presidential voters, 13% more voted for McCain than would have without Palin. As Levin notes, Palin's VP vote-gaining impact is unparalleled in US political history. No other VP candidate has had that kind of positive impact.
But, the lack in the McCain campaign was too deep to allow Palin's striking success as VP candidate to bear fruit.
"The striking thing about the last two months of the 2008 presidential race was not Palin’s inability to turn things around decisively for McCain, but her success in giving McCain a lead for even a short while. She seized the imagination of the public in a way that scared the Left, and rightly so. It is not Palin’s fault that McCain was incapable of harnessing the phenomenal response to his running mate to his own advantage."
Levin sees the path to Republican victory as a "combination of cultural populism and social conservatism" along with articulating "a broader vision for American families, American prosperity and freedom, and American security".
Levin leaves up in the air whether Palin is the candidate who can bring that all together. Certainly good governance in Alaska in trying times will help.
My state has 5 times as many people as Alaska and a state budget 4 times bigger. Yet, our state savings is equal to less than 2% of the state annual budget. In contrast, under Palin's short tenure as governor Alaska's savings have grown to equal more than 50% of Alaska's annual budget. Alaska's savings have gone from $2 billion to $6 billion in just two years. Which state is better governed? Which state is more likely to make it through 2, 3 or 4 hard economic years without major problems in funding police, education, roads, and other essential services?
Broadening the picture, has any other governor or major office holder done as well in preparing their state or the US for hard times? Certainly not California. The normal political bent is to spend surplus monies and gain present acclaim rather than save them up for your successors and future rainy days.
Alaska's fiscal discipline and wisdom under Palin is a big step towards giving a "broad vision" for future American prosperity, freedom and security.