There are a lot of things I like about Sarah Palin. She’s pro-Second Amendment. Deservedly or not, she’s got a reputation for fighting wasteful government spending and corruption. Deservedly or not, she’s got a reputation as a tax-cutter. She’s pro-life. (By the way, I think the hypocrisy of the left is on full display on that issue. The liberals, who mindlessly “celebrate diversity” and pride themselves on being the defenders of the weak and downtrodden, stammer in stunned disbelief that Palin knowingly birthed a Down syndrome child who would be “different,” rather than killing him in the womb. O. compassionate liberals!) I like Palin‘s stance on many, but not all, issues.
Besides mere policy preferences, there seems to be other, elemental reasons why Palin is causing many disaffected voters, myself included, to take a second look at the GOP. Since she has a well-armed husband, I’ll stick with the political ones.
Steven F. Hayward hypothesizes in The Weekly Standard that the alternate elation and revulsion to Palin’s nomination is part of a larger civic debate going back to the very founding of the republic. “Lurking just below the surface of the second-guessing about Sarah Palin’s fitness to be president,” he writes, “is the serious question of whether we still believe in the American people’s capacity for self-government, what we mean when we affirm that all American citizens are equal, and whether we tacitly believe there are distinct classes of citizens and that American government at the highest levels is an elite occupation.” Essentially, the debate is: Should ours be a government “of the people, for the people, by the people,” or should it be an oligarchy ruled by an elite minority? Libertarians like myself obviously prefer the former.
This debate was on full display when the idea was floated to crown General Washington king after the revolution. The framers of the Constitution struck a balance between the two opposing viewpoints by giving us the “people‘s house” (the House of Representatives) and the Senate, supposedly populated by sage old gentlemen. The debate is still alive today. Sometimes it is ridiculously obvious, such as when the panting press refers to the Kennedys as “America’s Royal Family,” but usually it’s couched in rhetoric about “experience” or “qualification.” It is behind the visceral dislike of Sarah Palin, as well as the visceral fondness for her.
The three other principals in this race- Obama, Biden and McCain- have not experienced the same questioning of whether or not they’re “qualified” to be president as has Palin. (Although, with only two years in the Senate, Obama has had his “experience” questioned somewhat.) That’s probably because the three men rose through “proper” channels to attain their societal rank. Although our ideas about our ruling elite are somewhat more egalitarian than the royal houses of Europe, there are still rules and velvet ropes controlling entry into that class.
Barack Obama attained his stature in the ruling class through a common avenue: Ivy League education. Obama attended Harvard Law School and Columbia University. In Ivy League schools, students are not only instilled with a sense of elitism, they are given the social networking to back it up. A self-described underperforming student, Obama’s vice president nominee Joe Biden didn’t go to an Ivy League school but Syracuse University College of Law, still none too shabby.
Family tradition charted a much tougher route into elite circles for John McCain, via the U.S. military. Although the military is mostly comprised of working-class heroes, McCain served in the Navy not as a common sailor but as a third generation Naval officer with an admiral daddy and a legacy ticket into the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. (This is not to denigrate McCain’s military service. Even when you’re a legacy, wartime service is no walk in the park, as McCain’s four and a half years of torment at the hands of the enemy demonstrates.)
Despite their varied paths into the ruling class, all three men ended up in the ultimate repository of the cultural elite, the U.S. Senate. Only the Presidency itself is more coveted by the elitists, which explains why so many Senators chase that office like ravenous dogs every four years.
Sarah Palin’s resume stands in stark contrast with the princely pedigrees of the three “distinguished gentlemen” of the Senate. The daughter of a teacher and a secretary, Palin received her college education in small, financially manageable bites at places like North Idaho College and the University of Idaho, far from the ivory towers of the Ivy League. She has never been married to a U.S. President (unlike certain other lady members of the ruling elite) but is married to an oilfield roughneck and commercial fisherman. Being rolled-up sleeves jobs like small town mayor, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner, and Governor of Alaska, the political positions she’s held were important but are not highly regarded by the national elite.
Although I like Palin, there is no v.p. pick in the world who could make this libertarian vote for the authoritarian McCain. But I do find myself drawn to the idea of Sarah Palin, because the “common man” in this election is the woman.