Monday, March 21, 2011

Presidential Candidate Baggage 1980 and 2012

A common direct or implied criticism of a Palin presidential campaign is that she already has drawn too much controversy. Kathryn Jean Lopez, says something similar today when she intimates that Palin will probably not be the 2012 Republican candidate. Rather it will be:
". . . someone who doesn’t evoke the passions of a wounded culture in quite the same way."
That's complementary to Charles Krauthammer's call for an "absence of charisma" candidate.

Governor Palin does not have an absence of charisma. She does arouse passion. But think of it, so did Ronald Reagan. And the main hit in the wider culture on both of them has been the same.

Though Reagan was intensely criticized the main sticking point was not so much about his policies or political philosophy. He was criticized for being, well, dumb and second rate. An "amiable dunce". A "B" grade actor (Bedtime for Bonzo). Not up to handling details or even staying awake in staff meetings. An aging dotard. Because most Americans were (and continue to be) conservative, it was difficult to gin up resentment on the basis of Reagan's views.

The main recurring criticism of Palin is also about her competence and intelligence. Her policies like the well-known "drill, baby, drill" or government healthcare bureaucracy as "death panels" are more popular than not. President Obama has the opposite problem.

No one has been able to paint Palin as cold or mean-spirited--just as no one was able to paint Reagan that way. That's a huge political plus of not having to prove basic character. It's also not a bad starting place for a 2012 presidential campaign where the economic environment is likely to force attention to policy issues and philosophy of government as happened when a sitting president was challenged in 1980.

Note: Thanks to whoever did the great photoshop version of Reagan and Palin on horseback.

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