Levin on Palin

Yuval Levin has a terrific piece about Sarah Palin up at Commentary. It’s really worth reading the whole thing, but I’ll pull out some highlights:

In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust. …

The sense of potential that accompanied Palin’s introduction, and the feeling that she might really reverse the momentum of the campaign, were not illusory. For two weeks or so, the polls moved markedly in McCain’s direction, as it seemed that his running mate was something genuinely new in American politics: a lower-middle-class woman who spoke the language of the country’s ordinary voters and had a profound personal understanding of the hopes and worries of a vast swath of the public. She really did seize the attention of swing voters, as McCain’s team had hoped she might. Her convention speech, her interviews, and her debate performance drew unprecedented audiences.

But having finally gotten voters to listen, neither Palin nor McCain could think of anything to say to them. Palin’s reformism, like McCain’s, was essentially an attitude devoid of substance. Both Republican candidates told us they hated corruption and would cut excess and waste. But separately and together, they offered no overarching vision of America, no consistent view of the role of government, no clear description of what a free society should look like, and no coherent policy ideas that might actually address the concerns of American families and offer solutions to the serious problems of the moment. Palin’s populism was not her weakness, but her strength. Her weakness was that she failed to tie her populism to anything deeper. A successful conservative reformism has to draw on cultural populism, but it has also to draw on a worldview, on ideas about society and government, and on a policy agenda. This would make it more intellectual, but not necessarily less populist.


VP Debate

We watched until it became unbearable. Then we went to bed. Sort of like the economy.

I picked up most of the rest from YouTube this morning.

I agree with Shawn Klein. I’ll call it a draw. I expect analysis to align pretty well with partisan impulses. I don’t think either Biden or Palin did much to change anyone’s perception. Palin was folksy and cute, Biden was pedantic and boring. Biden pandered to the left, Palin pandered to the right.

The biggest loser in this election is the American people.

Best line I’ve seen so far was over at Whatever, by a commenter, Shawn Deggans:

“They still sound basically the same to me though:
NATIONAL socialism or national SOCIALISM.”

Palin’s Problems

Kathleen Parker called for Sarah Palin to resign from the campaign in the National Review:

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

I have to say, I’ve had much the same experience. (Except I’ve not been so much pulling for Palin as resiting the urge to belittle her.)

Now, if I’m being charitable, I’ll say that it’s entirely possible that Palin is an intelligent, competent executive who simply underperforms in these situations. Oratorical ability and a facility for extemporaneous speaking are not actually necessary qualifications in a leader, an executive, or a president. Thomas Jefferson, for example, loathed public speaking, was known to mumble incoherently, and finally succumbed to submitting his State of the Union Address in writing: to be read to Congress by an aide. Jefferson wasn’t dumb.

Now, Sarah Palin is no Thomas Jefferson. But she’s also not a complete rube or buffoon. She’s the governor of Alaska and enjoys spectacular approval ratings for her work there. (How many times can I say that before I start to wonder about Alaska?)

Let’s just say that a lot is riding on her performance in the debate.

Suddenly Sarah

I’ve been struggling with what to say about the conventions and the VP picks….

Obama had a good convention, but not a great one. His stump speech was good, but Bill Clinton’s was better. The speeches were all good, but they had to be good to recover from the worst mistake that Obama has made in the last 18 months: Joe Biden. Biden is a career politician in the way that fungus is career mold. He represents everything that Obama was running against. It would have been hard to imagine him picking a Democrat who less represented Hope™ and Change™ or who was more Old White Guy.™

But if Biden was a bad choice two weeks ago, he’s a near disaster now.

The Sarah Palin selection was simply, utterly, fantastically, amazingly brilliant.

Unlike Biden, Palin reinforces McCain’s brands. She’s a Maverick™ and an Outsider.™ She projects the same no-nonense Straight-Talk Express™ that McCain has built his career on, and more importantly, she’s not an Old White Guy.™

Her selection as the VP gave McCain a viable shot in the general election. The early polls now show McCain with a slight lead over Obama, and I expect that trend to continue for at least the rest of this week.

Palin absolutely dominated the convention cycle. The Republican convention was the smaller of the two, was accompanied by a smaller media footprint, and the conventional wisdom leading up to the conventions was that the GOP would be swamped by the Obamathon in Denver. Palin ended up swamping Obama. (Her speech was seen by more people than Obama’s.)

Palin did everything that McCain needed and then some. She energized the Republican base in a way that McCain never could. The conservative base will come out and vote for McCain/Palin in a way that they never would have for McCain/Romney. But beyond that, her selection really does look to be the single most important moment in the general election.

And beyond this cycle, Palin will be a political force for years. If McCain loses this year, expect Palin to run again in 2012–for the top spot.

The best measure of Palin’s impact is the degree to which she has induced PDS, Palin Derangement Syndrome. Charlie Martin has a roundup of the worst examples of that syndrome here. Martin debunks most of the worst Palin rumors (book banning, affairs, hidden pregnancies, etc…)

The big question, of course, is how well will the very conservative Palin actually appeal to independent voters and dissafected Hillary supporters?

On this question, I’m a bit more skeptical than many. I think that Palin’s choice to run with a special needs infant will fail to resonate with some women and I think that she’ll likely remain anathema for ideological liberal voters. She is fundamentally a conservative Christian woman, and for many women voters, that’s simply a non-starter.

However, Palin will appeal to a great many voters. Her appeal will be particularly strong among independent male voters.

From Will Wilkinson, (read the whole thing!)

First, let me just get it out of the way: I think she is a tremendously sexy woman. How this will effect the race, I have no idea, but it’s just got to. It’s not an issue of glamour so much as a kind of Paglian chthonic sexual power. Set in that context, her unabashed embrace of her fecundity and motherhood as a kind of qualification makes a lot of sense. Megan O’Rourke’s post on Palin’s political eros has it right, and I think she may even be on to something when she says we got a “glimpse of a novel problem for a presidential candidate: sexual tension with his VP.”

But she’ll also appeal to many women:

Tammy Bruce,

In the shadow of the blatant and truly stunning sexism launched against the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign, and as a pro-choice feminist, I wasn’t the only one thrilled to hear Republican John McCain announce Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. For the GOP, she bridges for conservatives and independents what I term “the enthusiasm gap” for the ticket. For Democrats, she offers something even more compelling – a chance to vote for a someone who is her own woman, and who represents a party that, while we don’t agree on all the issues, at least respects women enough to take them seriously.

Virtually moments after the GOP announcement of Palin for vice president, pundits on both sides of the aisle began to wonder if Clinton supporters – pro-choice women and gays to be specific – would be attracted to the McCain-Palin ticket. The answer is, of course. There is a point where all of our issues, including abortion rights, are made safer not only if the people we vote for agree with us – but when those people and our society embrace a respect for women and promote policies that increase our personal wealth, power and political influence.

Make no mistake – the Democratic Party and its nominee have created the powerhouse that is Sarah Palin, and the party’s increased attacks on her (and even on her daughter) reflect that panic.

As for me, this says it best:

From Robert Bidinotto (who is very enthusiastic about Palin):

I therefore need to reiterate emphatically that my only reason for supporting the McCain ticket — especially now that Palin is aboard — is that national-greatness progressivism represents a far-less-damaging and more mixed alternative to the utterly destructive, anti-American, left-Wilsonian “progressivism” of Obama. This is especially the case on the paramount issues of national security and energy production. Sadly, in this political environment, stopping Obama requires us to sign on to a philosophically chaotic and often damaging Republican candidate. The Palin pick indicates that free-market, limited-government influences at least will have a seat at the table in a McCain administration, tending to blunt his worst inclinations.