Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Political Greatness of Sarah Palin

What constitutes American political greatness?

One of the measures is seeing the greatness of America itself.

With Abraham Lincoln it centered on two understandings. The first was that the nation could not "endure, permanently half slave and half free". The second was the critical importance of preserving the Union as "the last best hope of earth".

With Franklin Roosevelt it was the centrality of the United States as the "great arsenal of democracy" and her role in the "total elimination of German and Japanese war power".

With Ronald Reagan it was the truth of America's continuing greatness and the necessity of defeating, rather than just co-existing with, the Soviet empire.

Greatness is founded on seeing the central issue in dilemmas facing America when other political leaders are confused or chasing after compromises or specific issues that are symptoms rather than at the heart of the problem. Greatness is capped by effectively communicating practical answers to the dilemma.

While others supported various compromises on slavery and keeping the Union together, Lincoln understood the necessity of maintaining the Union, stopping the expansion of slavery, and finally of immediate and complete emancipation.

While others were seeking peace through compromise or isolation in letting Europe and Asia solve their own problems, FDR proclaimed the need to arm the nation and its allies and insisted on unconditional surrender in order to completely defeat the Axis powers.

While others foresaw an ongoing conflict with the Soviet Union and a balance of power or mutual assured destruction strategy as the best response, Reagan thought that complete victory and an end to the Cold War had to be the goal. He believed it was achievable through peaceful economic means and soon rather than decades away.

Sarah Palin has zeroed in on the central issue of our day: American greatness (or exceptionalism). What is it? How do we maintain it?

Her current book, America by Heart, is an extended treatment of American exceptionalism and traces major political and practical underpinnings needed to sustain American democracy.

While others point to health care, debt, immigration, energy, the war in Afghanistan or Islamic radicalism, as the major danger the United States faces, Governor Palin sees these as important issues, but not the heart of the problem.

The heart of the problem is confusion about who we are, where our strength comes from, and how we build on that strength.

Who are we? Sarah Palin comes down on the side of a "shining city on a hill" rather than just another big nation.1

Where does our strength come from? Governor Palin affirms that it comes from our national belief that individuals have God-given unalienable rights. This creates a boundary (underlined in the Bill of Rights) limiting government power over the individual and leans us as a nation toward religious belief as well as individual freedom. 2

How do we build on that strength? Palin says by protecting individual freedom, expanding economic freedom, and encouraging strong families, religious commitment and personal effort and responsibility.3

This is the key issue of our time. This is the stuff of political greatness..

1America by Heart, p. 64 ff.
2 Ibid., pp. 10-11, 37, 72 ff.
3 Ibid., pp. 72-75, 107-112, 169-177, 182-195, 211-214, 264-268.

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