Needless to say, there have been many more important things this weekend to think about than 2012 politics: the reality of the fact that God has blessed America, the sacrifices many (including the Frenches) have made to keep us free, North Korea, the lousiness of the 99-cent pack of hot dogs I fell for at the grocery store, and so on. But I find I keep ruminating about Gov. Palin’s resignation, which Nancy noted while I was out of pocket on Friday.
And if I’m going to share my thoughts on Gov. Palin here, I should make a confession: I gave a lot of consideration to being an Evangelical for Sarah this time around. More, I am sure, than any other EFM-er. David already had all his pro-Romney-part-deux arguments cold, but I like to let myself think I gave him a chance to practice them as I vacillated between the two governors with large families. The reason I was tempted is not that I’m sure Gov. Palin could out-shoot our man in Massachusetts, though it helps.
Rather, it’s my increasing conviction that the way nerds (yes, I said it) like us pick presidential candidates is nothing like what normal people do. I get major weirdness points for reading policy papers and such; David actually writes the things, even geekier; and as we all know, Nancy is a one-woman political machine. And we oddballs start all of this years in advance. Normal people, by contrast, think about elections a few weeks or months before they are held — not now. And normal people do not cast their vote based on whose health-care plan has the approval of their think tank of choice. They evaluate the candidates much less on ideology and blather than on personality and perceived trustworthiness.
If you ask me, that’s one clear lesson of 2008. Look at the polling — most people do not agree with what President Obama wants to do. But they voted for him, and they continue to support him personally, because he is appealing. Say what else you want about her, but Gov. Palin has that magnetism, and conservatives need more of it.
Obviously, I decided Gov. Palin was not the ticket-top tonic the GOP needs in the next campaign. But I make this “confession” to underscore the fact that I don’t view her recent decision simply as a Romney partisan — but also as a big fan of hers. With that said, permit me a few observations:
1. I am so sick of all the talk about “experience” (and not just for Palin-centric reasons). To hear some tell the tale, including many Republicans, Gov. Palin is now manifestly unqualified for the presidency because she has only served as governor of a state for three years. Excuse me? Perhaps this train has already left the station, but does anyone remember that the President himself had only two years as a U.S. Senator under his belt when he started campaigning? I’m not sure Gov. Palin made the right decision, but I am sure it’s inappropriate to paint this as the kiss of death. Not to mention hypocritical, if you didn’t say the same thing with regard to then-Senator Obama.
2. Even more irritating is the related idea (raised in some stories this weekend) that one main reason Gov. Romney did not secure the Republican nomination last time was that he only served one term as governor. At least one commentator raised this in the context of the flip-flop meme, saying that if he had stuck around longer he might have laid it to rest. Maybe so; I don’t know; that’s a good-faith argument. What I’m after here, though, is the idea that only a huge number of years in elective office will prepare someone for the White House. This is only an argument someone whose living depends on campaigns would make. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad our man was a governor. But I don’t think for a minute it was the most important job he’s had in terms of giving him the “experience” needed to be president. I’d pick (and I suspect he would too) his private-sector positions, not to mention his role as a father.
3. I don’t think Gov. Palin is getting enough credit for the good effect her resignation will have in Alaska. If she had served out her term, it would have been a free-for-all for the Republican nomination. And as you may recall, the Alaska Republican Party has not been too friendly to sound conservatism as opposed to pay-to-play. But by quitting early, she will install her lieutenant governor, the reform-minded Sean Parnell, and give him a huge leg up.
4. I still just can’t believe the vitriol this woman inspires — from left and (in part) right. It is appalling. She is our sister and we should pray for her and her family. ‘Nuff said.
5. Now that I’ve stated my pro-Palin creds and argued that she’s getting a bum rap in important respects, I have to say: Stuff like this is much of why in the end, I came home to the Romney camp. Even if Gov. Palin’s decision was the right one (and I haven’t decided either way) it is clear that many of the problems that have ensued are of her own making. The announcement was obviously impromptu, and her remarks didn’t inspire great confidence. It all gave the impression that she was relying almost exclusively on the charisma and guts she has in spades, and not enough on a clear strategy. It seems to me an excellent conservative leader must be able to marshal both. I still think she’s great and that she has a real role to play, and more than anything else, I’m outraged by the way she’s being treated. But part of me is still saddened by the unforced errors here — and feeling increasingly good about going with a guy who is more ready for prime time.