March 7, 2010

Palin and Reagan: Together Again for the First Time

Hatched by Dafydd

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, who seems as conflicted as can be about the aspects and auspices of Sarah Louise Palin, ponders them deeply in a recent post, Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin? (Answer: Yes.)

Paul quotes from Steve Hayward writing in the Washington Post (I supply the missing link here); Hayward is the chap who answered Yes to the question above... then added what Paul calls a "cautionary note":

But while the parallels between them are evident, it is far from clear that Palin appreciates Reagan's discipline and substantive grand strategy. In many of her speeches and media appearances she tends to ramble on, with none of the crispness and rhetorical force of Reagan's formulas. With the partial exception of energy, she has yet to identify a set of signature issues that can carry her particular stamp, as Reagan did in the late 1970s with his relentless attacks on detente and his championing of supply-side economics.

I rise only to note a peculiar point in defense of a lady: Sarah Palin is only... well, as a gentleman, I won't bandy a woman's age; but note that when our fortieth president was the age she is now, Ronald Reagan himself had "yet to identify a "grand strategy" or "set of signature issues that can carry [his] particular stamp."

All that we knew about Reagan's politics in 1957 was that he had been a New Deal Democrat when New-Deal Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was in power; an anti-Communist Truman-Democrat when Truman was in power; and an Eisenhower Republican when (you guessed it) Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president.

He did not identify his "signature issues," as Hayward put it, until he was well into his 60s; heck, he didn't even deliver his electrifying introduction for Barry Goldwater until he was 53, significantly older than the Thrillah from Wasilla.

In '57, Reagan had just begun his stint hosting General Electric Theater. The job required him to travel the country giving speeches; that very activity induced Reagan to develop his own peculiar and wonderful political philosophy. (Note that he was still a private citizen at this time; he would not enter actual elective politics, as opposed to being elected union boss, until 1966, when he was 55 years old.)

Thus have I given the gracious lady my advice to tour the "lower 48" and speak, speak, speak -- and listen, listen, listen: Great wisdom can be found among the uncommon common American. (Advice sent but probably never delivered; Big Lizards is notoriously less reliable even than the Post Office -- though significantly cheaper.) If Palin follows the Reagan model, this is her time to introduce herself to America on her own terms, not as the perhaps ill-considered shadow of John S. McCain.

The VP run was premature, but I suspect Sarah Palin was as surprised by the invitation as were the rest of us. Kudos to McC for thinking outside the box; but there is a reason why nobody is outré all the time: "The box" is actually defined by what usually works!

And now is the moment for Sarah Palin to decide what she thinks "works" in America and why, what doesn't and why not, and to answer the most important question: How do we get there from here? She is not yet tardy, but she'd better hit the ground speaking.

By the way, I am pleased once again to be a harbinger of trends to come. Hayward had this to say about the Tea Parties:

Reagan typically described conservatism in populist terms rather than formal ones. In his "Time for Choosing" speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign, he sounded almost exactly like Glenn Beck does today. "This is the issue of this election," Reagan warned: "Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves."

This populist undercurrent is why I am certain that Reagan would have been an enthusiastic supporter of the tea party movement. While the tea partiers confuse the media and annoy the establishments of both political parties, Reagan would have seen them as reviving the embers of what he called the "prairie fire" of populist resistance against centralized big government -- resistance that helped touch off the tax revolt of the 1970s. That movement was often dismissed as a tantrum, but when The Washington Post called California's 1978 antitax Proposition 13 "a skirmish," Reagan replied that if so, then the Chicago fire was a backyard barbecue.

Now compare it to this point made by an obscure blogger and minor crank:

A popular front is an extremely broad-based coalition of political forces that normally oppose each other. In rare moments, the stars align, and so do the groups; what results is a mass movement that can wash away the status quo like a burst dam. The movement doesn't have to include all or even a majority of the citizenry; but it is large enough to push aside any countervailing coalition -- which means whatever the front wants, it gets....

The Tea Party front is the worst nightmare of the hard-core Left -- a patriotic, small-government, capitalist popular front. While Tea Partiers are not specifically Republican, leftists realize that GOP leaders (Sarah Palin) and candidates (Scott Brown) are far better positioned to appeal to Tea Partiers than are Democrats: All Republicans must do is match their words with deeds; but Democrats would have to (a) repudiate everything they have said and voted for in the past four decades, then (b) convince Tea Partiers that this time they're sincere!

I think Hayward and I are seeing the same structure but describing it in slightly different terms, he from his Reagan scholarship and I from my "forces and fractures" methodology.

Of course, I said it first...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 7, 2010, at the time of 10:12 PM

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The following hissed in response by: GW

Great post, Dafydd. Am going to submit this one to the Council. I think it clear that you and Hayward are both right. I hate to admit that I did not know of Regean's Goldwater speech until reading your post. These next few years are going to be very interesting indeed.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 8, 2010 7:46 PM

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