Saturday, November 27, 2010

Catch of the Day

Andrew Sullivan, on the Sage of Wasilla:
But sadly, like so many now purporting to represent conservatism, there is, behind the faux awe before the constitution, a contempt for the restraint and dignity a polity's institutions require from its leaders.

There is no maturity here; no self-reflection; no capacity even to think how to appeal to the half of Americans who are already so appalled by her trashy behavior and cheap publicity stunts. There is a meanness, a disrespect, a vicious partisanship that, if allowed to gain more power, would split this country more deeply and more rancorously than at any time in recent years. And that's saying something.
My emphasis on the best two bits (if you want the context, click the link.

"Faux awe before the Constitution": if you're only a believer in your own, clearly false, version of American history, a version designed in order to make contemporary political points, then you don't really respect the Constitution.  If you only believe in One True interpretation, you don't really respect the Constitution.  And one should add: if you support half a dozen or more Constitutional amendments, odds are you don't really respect the Constitution.

"No capacity even to think how to appeal to the half of Americans": Rovism is a horrible political strategy for lots of reasons, but fundamentally it just can't work.  Oh, one can get elected anyway; political strategy isn't important enough that it can sink all that many candidates.  But it is a reason, maybe the reason, that Republicans have been, for a long time, the natural minority party in the United States: they are willing to dismiss large chunks of the population -- of American citizens -- as not real Americans.  Not all Republicans, not all the time, but plenty of them, including their leaders, enough of the time. 

Sarah Palin is the candidate of those Republicans, the Republicans who either believe in "real America" or are willing to exploit those who do.

21 comments:

  1. The constitutional fetish baffles me, especially since the Tea Party is also the group that has talked about repealing the utterly innocuous 17th amendment. That's part of the Constitution too!

    I wouldn't be surprised if Sarah Palin has never even read the Constitution.

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  2. @TN, I'm sure that because it's am amendment, they think it's not part of the constitution. Only the 2nd really counts, far as I can tell.

    Let's not tell her about the 19th, ehh?

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  3. >if you support half a dozen or more Constitutional amendments, odds are you don't really respect the Constitution.

    I'm not sure I totally agree. There are a number of things in the Constitution I'd like to see changed, particularly with regard to the electoral process. I don't know whether or not my complaints would add up to half a dozen new amendments, but I certainly respect the Constitution, which allows for such changes.

    I imagine the Tea Party answer would be that they're not changing the original Constitution, just aiming to repeal amendments that have perverted its original intent. This is not a bad argument in the abstract. Few people today would dispute that Prohibition was a terrible mistake that deserved to be repealed.

    The problem is the incredible difficulty of passing even a single new amendment, let alone repealing a previous one, something that's only been successfully done once in our history. An overwhelming national consensus is absolutely necessary, if not always sufficient. Even something as widely supported as abolition of the Electoral College faces huge barriers. But the right always picks the most contentious issues, things that don't have a prayer of being ratified. If anything, Tea Party proposals such as abolishing the graduated income tax have even less of a chance than the culture-war stuff of previous years aimed at banning abortion, gay marriage, and flag burning, where you could argue that the proposals were supported by a majority of Americans.

    Republican politicians sign on to this kind of thing for purely cynical reasons: it's a way of pandering to particular voters without having to worry that the proposals will ever become law. This strategy can backfire in the long run, as we saw in the aftermath of the 2004 election when many evangelical voters started to wake up to the fact that they'd been had.

    But I get the feeling that most tea-partiers are under the collective delusion that their proposed amendments really do stand a chance of ratification. They operate heavily under "silent majority" thinking. It's part of their whole mythology, starting with the election of Ronald Reagan who (so we're told) was once written off as too conservative to win the presidency. And public opinion polls (products of the lamestream media) mean nothing to them.

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  4. And yet, perhaps Andrew, along with the rest of the zeitgeist, missed the most troubling implication of the bizarro facebook rant:

    First, Andrew's argument is entirely correct - you can totally see such an error being made. I'm the extremely proud father of two small daughters, who mean the world to me, and yet hardly a day passes where I don't address one as the other. There's a pretty good chance I'd do so if for some reason I were a guest on a radio show.

    Though, every time I make such a mistake, I immediately correct myself, usually somewhat nervously, in large part because it sounds so stupid to call the one daughter by the other's name. Stupid to me, stupid to the kid. I'm not alone in this, the scene has been parodied in dozens of movies and hundreds of comedy bits. If I referred incorrectly to my kids on Fox News, I'd instantly correct myself, given the obvious stupidity of the statement.

    Which Korea is which is not quite as familiar as my kids' identities, though its been at least since I was my toddlers' age that I wasn't perfectly certain which Korea was in the axis of Evil and which had thousands of US troops stationed on their soil. I trust that substantially every person reading this feels the same way, so that if you made such an error in public you would retract it instantly, or at least betray some nervousness, thinking WTF did I just say?

    In the Palin clip, she blurts out the uber-stupid "North Korean allies" meme, and - hard to say for certain, because it is radio, but - there's no pause, no stammer, she just plows on forward, UNTIL THE HOST CORRECTS HER.

    Which leads to two possible conclusions:

    1) Either Sarah P. is extremely smooth in tense situations, able to hide her consternation that she might have just said something hideously stupid, or

    2) She's way way way more ignorant than even her worst detractors think.

    If your answer is #1, does that bizarro facebook rant fit with your worldview of Sarah P. being preternaturally smooth under stress?

    Frightening, folks.

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  5. After the recent elections I am so mad that I could just scream. I really hope she runs in 2012 and WINS!.......with huge republican majorities in the congress! Maybe then the amurcun people will get what they deserve for such totally stupid behavior.......but I'm not holding my breath.

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  6. "Which leads to two possible conclusions:

    1) Either Sarah P. is extremely smooth in tense situations, able to hide her consternation that she might have just said something hideously stupid, or

    2) She's way way way more ignorant than even her worst detractors think."

    Eh, maybe. Or maybe she was so busy trying to make a point that she didn't realize she mixed up North and South. I've not heard the clip so I couldn't say. But I'm sure that, as willfully and piggishly ignorant as Palin is, she's at least technically aware of which Korea is which.

    I mean, haven't you ever been in a conversation where someone interrupts you and says "didn't you mean X?" and you say, "yeah, isn't that what I said?" And yet you had actually said the wrong thing and didn't realize it.

    Of course like I said I haven't heard the Palin clip, so I don't really have a clear basis here. And none of it changes her infantile rant about other peoples' miscues.

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  7. That's a pretty good point, ResumeMan, I hadn't considered the possibility that, in concocting one of her patented word salads, Sarah P. was simply not paying attention to what she said. I do that too, sometimes, though when called out on it (usually by my wife) I typically object that I didn't say the thing of which I am accused. No objection from Sarah P. in the radio clip, no consternation at all. YMMV.

    It's helpful to remember that Sarah P. is not merely auditioning for President; she also wishes to be Commander-in-Chief of the world's greatest military. 'Which Korea is which' is a crucial object lesson for such a commander.

    I'm sure this educated audience is aware that the US/UN forces blitzkrieged their way up the Korean peninsula in 1950, using the type of 'light footprint' of which Rummy would approve. McArthur wanted to keep going into China; duly worried, Mao sent 1 million regulars pouring out of Manchuria to push us back. Those Chinese troops were outgunned but not outmanned, and they pushed our heels back into the South China Sea before we fought back to the stalemate that exists today.

    So 'North v. South' Korea is a crucial distinction for a commander of the US military in that the north is the side that Mao held after his troops pushed our overextended forces back from the border of China. North v. South Korea matters a lot in identifying what can - and can't - be accomplished by the world's greatest military.

    All of which I'm sure Sarah P. understands intimately. She just misspoke, is all.

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  8. What is it about Sarah Palin that produces so much horrified fascination on this side of the spectrum? Much of her appeal to her own side seems to be the perception that she aggravates liberals. Mention Mitt or Huck and the liberal blogosphere hits the snooze button.

    It makes her media gold because she pulls eyeballs from both sides. Sully, who is in part a media whore, was merely pandering, but I feel like Plain Blog just got suckered in.

    Palin sure isn't afraid to be crass, but what does that have to do with respect for the Constitution?

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  9. @Rick

    I would think the answer should be obvious. You yourself describe her as "crass." She's the most obnoxious of the major contenders with the exception of Gingrich, and she's also astonishingly ignorant, yet despite her low poll numbers both in and out of her party, she's the GOP's biggest star in a long time, a skillful campaigner and fundraiser who makes candidates like Mitt and Huck seem boring by comparison.

    From what I've seen, liberals are divided on how they assess her political future. I've repeatedly been in arguments with people who reassure me she's got no serious chance at the nomination. I think such reassurances are amazingly premature. She may yet flame out, but she's got at least as good a chance as any of the others. And if she's nominated, there is a chance, however remote, that she could win. That possibility, I suspect, is what horrifies most liberals, even if they won't admit it openly. It may be a long shot, but it shouldn't even be on the table.

    What most liberals will tell you, though, is that they relish her presence because she's a laughingstock who will bring down the party in 2012. (Reportedly, David Plouffe's reaction to the prospect of Palin as the GOP nominee was, "Something tells me we won't get that lucky.") That may indeed end up being the case, and I admit there is a certain part of me that relishes the thought of the train wreck the GOP is likely to experience if she's nominated. Frankly, I think she's the type of candidate who could cause Obama to defy all the usual political-science models and win reelection even if the economy tanks. (We got a taste of that possibility this year with Sharron Angle.) Still, even the remote chance that she could win gives me the creeps, and even increasing the chances of a President Huck or President Romney is a price I'd pay to see her fail before the nomination.

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  10. Kylopod,

    Yeah, that might be a bit of hyperbole on my part. I could probably come up with a half dozen amendments I'd want to see, and I consider myself about as big a supporter of the Constitution that you'll find. No, the truth is it's the style of Constitution-worship (along with supporting lots of amendments) that really gets to me. I'll mostly stick with my other two sentences in that paragraph, but there, too, style is probably the thing getting to me.

    On one of the other points raised,

    Yeah, I'm with ResumeMan on this: people do stupid verbal stuff all the time, and shouldn't be held accountable for it. I'll confess I haven't watched the original clip (didn't think I needed to, since it isn't really relevant to the point Sullivan made), but people mix up stuff all the time, and if they're also on camera a lot they're going to wind up producing a large clip reel. Of course, with Palin, there's not an even longer reel of her saying smart, unrehearsed, off-the-cuff things.

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  11. Kylopod:

    I think such reassurances are amazingly premature. She may yet flame out, but she's got at least as good a chance as any of the others.

    I'd be interesting in seeing you lay out the argument for that.

    At this point in the last cycle, Giuliani was polling much better among Republicans than Palin is now. It wasn't premature then to say he wasn't a serious contender, and I don't think it's premature now to say that Palin isn't.

    I don't think Huckabee is serious either. It will be Romney or a dark horse.

    Polls show conservatives and Tea Partiers about evenly divided on whether she is even qualified. She's not doing anything to improve that.

    Check out this Bill O'Reilly interview from last July, which seems to be last time Palin took any semi-tough questions.

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  12. Giuliani's views on abortion kept him from being a serious contender, despite his good poll numbers. Palin has no such views that make her unacceptable.

    She has significant negatives, no doubt about it, and her (lack of) electability is the biggest one. Her supporters are some of the most delusional people I've ever met, and it's not clear to me how much of the leadership actually believes the BS they spout about her. I've long assumed that she's most likely to get the nomination if Obama looks like a shoe-in for reelection. She'd be a sacrificial lamb. In that sense, the bad economic forecasts right now make it less likely she'll be nominated. Obama will probably look beatable at least in the next few months, giving stronger candidates an impetus to enter the race.

    The problem is that all the other major contenders right now--Romney, Huck, and Gingrich--each have significant weaknesses. I'd ordinarily think Romney was a shoe-in, but Romneycare is an albatross around his neck. His rivals won't hesitate to air ads calling attention to it.

    Since there are so many contenders, and no clearly strongest one, it's really up in the air who will win. Even someone as controversial as Palin could squeak through, despite her high unfavorables among Republicans, if the others cancel each other out. Something similar happened with McCain in 2008. And unlike McCain, she has a huge fan base who will eagerly flock to the polls. Republicans who dread the prospect of Palin as nominee will also flock to the polls, but they'll be divided on which candidate should be selected in her place.

    My gut tells me the nominee will be either Palin or Romney. The GOP hasn't nominated a dark horse anytime in recent history. The winner-take-all contests heavily favor front-runners. But 2008 marked the first GOP contest in a long time with no clearly favored candidate, and 2012 is turning out the same way. So it really is up in the air.

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  13. Kylopod:

    Giuliani's views on abortion kept him from being a serious contender, despite his good poll numbers. Palin has no such views that make her unacceptable.

    I think lack of gravitas can be as great a barrier as any policy position. I haven't seen a convincing argument to the contrary, or indeed any argument that I recall.


    The problem is that all the other major contenders right now--Romney, Huck, and Gingrich--each have significant weaknesses.

    What strikes me about this list is that none of them can appeal to the anti-Palin Tea Partiers. I expect a candidate who can do that will emerge from the pack, splitting the conservative vote with Palin and giving Romney the victory.

    A moderate/establishment alternative to Romney may also emerge, making a four-way contest. In that case Romney is still the favorite, either dark horse might win, and Palin is still hopeless.

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  14. >I think lack of gravitas can be as great a barrier as any policy position.

    Bush in 2000 didn't have gravitas. The idea that that would pose as great a barrier as a pro-choice position is, frankly, laughable.

    >What strikes me about this list is that none of them can appeal to the anti-Palin Tea Partiers. I expect a candidate who can do that will emerge from the pack, splitting the conservative vote with Palin and giving Romney the victory.

    You expect it to happen even though you can't name who that candidate will be or why there's any reason to believe more than one such candidate won't emerge, splitting the vote once again. That's an awful lot of ifs on which to rest a theory you're so confident about.

    >A moderate/establishment alternative to Romney may also emerge, making a four-way contest. In that case Romney is still the favorite, either dark horse might win, and Palin is still hopeless.

    May, may, may. A lot of things may happen, but that's not what we're arguing about. You stated that Palin is not a serious candidate, yet all you've been able to come up with to support this claim is alternative scenarios that may happen, involving a hypothetical candidate you can't identify rushing to the front lines to become the GOP's first dark horse in over 70 years. It's not implausible, but it's far from inevitable.

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  15. Kyolopod, thanks for the responses. This is a fascinating discussion.

    I'm thinking that the core of your argument is that the field is likely to stay crowded until the end, instead of being winnowed by the early primaries. Has that happened in the past?

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  16. I wasn't actually suggesting that the field is likely to stay wide open after the early primaries. Even the year-long period before the primaries will be crucial, because it will determine who will enter the race, who will drop out before primary season begins, who will do the most effective campaigning, and who will have the most money and institutional support.

    Even if there are only a few candidates left in the race after the early contests, those early contests can make a big difference. For example, you might think Fred Thompson was inconsequential in 2008. But talk radio heavily promoted both him and Romney as the Real Conservatives of the bunch, and that would suggest they represented more or less the same bloc. What if they had been a single candidate? If you add Thompson's total in the Iowa Caucus to Romney's, Huck wouldn't have won. Huck's victory in Iowa was widely regarded as having impeded Romney, enabling McCain to emerge from the wreckage in later contests. If Romney and Thompson had been a single candidate (Romson?), McCain might not have won the nomination.

    There are indeed candidates with the potential to split some of Palin's support, and Huck is the most obvious one. But Palin's chief rivals face the same risk. And it's not yet clear which candidates represent which blocs. There are so many unknown factors at this point that I hesitate to make anything close to a definitive prediction. (I'll make just one: Palin will announce a presidential run sometime in the next few months and will stay in the race at least until the primaries. The theory floated around by some pundits that she won't run, I simply don't find credible. It seems obvious to me that she is intending to run, and has been ever since the end of 2008.)

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  17. Yet Rove came out against her right before the midterms.
    Do you know why?
    she cannot win the general.
    ALL the conservative pundocracy is pilin’ on Palin now.
    they wrung every last drop of populist jism out of Palin right up to the midterms, but Rove started early.
    now they are ALL going to try to wean the teabaggers off her tits.
    Frum Forum has 6 anti-palin posts on their front page.
    they know she cant win.
    and this is likely their last chance at the WH for a half century, because of economic recovery and the demographic timer.
    its just like 2008. they used Palin as an attack dog and a populist icon on Sick Grandpas doomed campaign. Afters, McCain gets invited to the WH, and Palin never does.
    why? Michelle wont let O invite her. because of the “palling around with terrorists” remark.
    After Palin’s infamous Weimar rally, Michelle ax Valerie Jarrett “why do they want to make people hate us?”
    Palin threatened Michelles husband and children. now there is a real mama grizzly.
    that is why im positive Palin is runnin. she is a Mean Girl that got shut down for the WH prom.
    so now, its 2010. the TP/GOP has three options.
    1. wean the base off her. (apparently what they are doing)
    2. offer her the VP slot on Romneys ticket
    3. let her rip the party apart with a third party run.
    she aint going away.
    #2 is the gamer solution-- sacrifice play. Build populist ressentiment when a Romney/Palin ticket gets crushed, clear the way for Rubio in 2016(hes too smart to run now, they already ax him), when there may be just barely enough old white christian males to pull off one more win.
    but im hopin for door numbah three. thats the one with the tiger in it.

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  18. @Anonymous

    If you're trying to argue that the entire GOP establishment is now going to throw Palin to the dogs, citing Frum Forum as your first example doesn't exactly help your case. Rove is a little more pertinent, but the Bushies haven't been known to shower her with love. She got by without their support before, so I don't see why it should stop her now.

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  19. they are collectively trying to suppress palinism just like they suppressed birtherism in the base last year.
    see, Krauthammer, McKinnon in daily beast, even her fanboi Douthat doesnt think she can win. watch. i tried linking all the recent posts, but failed.
    i predict even NRO and Rush will turn on her.
    they ALL know she cant win.
    heh.
    i hope they fail, lol.
    like i said, door numbah will provide the most entertainment.

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  20. door numbah three.
    the tiger.
    :)

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  21. >see, Krauthammer, McKinnon in daily beast, even her fanboi Douthat doesnt think she can win

    McKinnon is a Bushie who was singularly unimpressed by Palin when he helped her with debate prep in 2008, Krauthammer has been skeptical of Palin from the moment she appeared on the national scene, and Douthat promoted her in mid-2008 but after the Couric interviews admitted he had made a mistake. None of these people were ever exactly her #1 fans.

    More significant is the recent attack on her in Weekly Standard, which was previously one of her strongest promoters. We should be on the lookout for how NRO and talk radio (not to mention Fox) treat her in the coming months.

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