Campaigns/Elections

The Secret Life of Sarah Palin

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Tyler Cowen has a fantasy about Sarah Palin:

Andrew Sullivan is calling Sarah Palin "Rovian." Maybe, but her first order of business has been to fool the Republican establishment, not the American people. (Read this silly AEI guy.) Her few genuine words on foreign policy indicate her positions are hardly the modern Republican norm. She is "unusual" on pot smoking and benefits for gays and juror nullification. The Republicans are underestimating her role as a Hegelian agent of world-historical change, just as the Democrats did at first.

Which narrative do you find more plausible?:

"Lovely Sarah, she's saying and doing everything we want her to. What a quick learner. How pliable she is. Remember Descartes [sic] on tabula rasa?"

"Once John and I are elected, they'll need me more than I need them."

The people who are right now the happiest may end up the most concerned. For better or worse, they're about to lose control of their movement.

Needless to say, Cowen's evidence for this theory is thin. But I understand where he's coming from. There's just enough curious wrinkles in Palin's resume—her apparent support for jury nullification, her friendly relations with the Alaskan Independence Party, her roots in the Mat-Su Valley—to let a libertarian dream that the unvetted vice president will have a secret agenda, if that's the sort of dream you're predisposed to have. And why wouldn't you be so predisposed? There's a longstanding cultural myth that an honest, authentic person will come to power accidentally and enact sweeping, benign reforms. This might not happen very frequently in real life, but it happens in the movies all the time.

I'm all for film-fueled reveries. But I hope this sort of thinking doesn't lead anyone to actually vote for John McCain's ticket. Even if we set aside the question of whether Palin really has a hidden agenda, such a strategy would be troublingly passive; when a movement is reduced to hoping for a deus ex machina, there's a fundamental sense in which it has given up. We're in bad shape if our plan to expand American liberties owes more to the plot of Dave than to any hard-nosed political calculations.

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  1. There’s a longstanding cultural myth that an honest, authentic person will come to power accidentally and enact sweeping, benign reforms. This might not happen very frequently in real life, but it happens in the movies all the time.

    it has happened, from wikipedia:

    To the chagrin of the Stalwarts, the onetime Collector of the Port of New York became, as President, a champion of civil service reform. He avoided old political cronies and eventually alienated his old mentor Conkling. Public pressure, heightened by the assassination of Garfield, forced an unwieldy Congress to heed the President. Arthur’s primary achievement was the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. The passage of this legislation earned Arthur the moniker “The Father of Civil Service” and a favorable reputation among historians.

    Publisher Alexander K. McClure wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired? more generally respected.” Author Mark Twain, deeply cynical about politicians, conceded, “It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur’s administration.”

    But I hope this sort of thinking doesn’t lead anyone to actually vote for John McCain’s ticket. Even if we set aside the question of whether Palin really has a hidden agenda, such a strategy would be troublingly passive; when a movement is reduced to hoping for a deus ex machina, there’s a fundamental sense in which it has given up.

    I agree, which is why Im still voting for Barr.

  2. But I hope this sort of thinking doesn’t lead anyone to actually vote for John McCain’s ticket.

    I’m trying to envision a scenario that would get me to cast a ballot for McCain.
    .
    .
    .
    Nope, coming up blank here.

  3. Remember Descartes on tabula rasa?

    Not generally the man I associate with the term…like, at all.

  4. Damn you robc! You’ve shaken the foundations of my cynicism! Get out of my head!

  5. when a movement is reduced to hoping for a deus ex machina

    Are you talking about the Democrats?

  6. I’m trying to envision a scenario that would get me to cast a ballot for McCain.
    .
    .
    .
    Nope, coming up blank here.

    Ditto for Obama as well. I think the phrase “failing upward” was made specifically for politicians.

  7. I think Palin has a genuine libertarian streak, but not enough for the LP to nominate her. Palin makes the McCain-Palin ticket the lesser of two evils. Barr-Root is still the best of three choices.

  8. How pliable she is. Remember Descartes on tabula rasa?

    The second sentence could be a warning that despite seeming pliable, she, in fact, has innate concepts that she brings to the table…

    Just spit-balling here.

  9. TAO: Thanks for reminding me to add that sic.

  10. “Barr-Root” sounds like a Scooby-Doo noise.

    “Baroot? Rot-row, Raggey!”

  11. Somebody give NutraSweet a Scooby Snack.

  12. the best of three choices.

    I think Im going to have 6 choices on my ballot.

    If we had IRV or some other ordered balloting, I would probably be going something like this:

    1. Barr
    2. Baldwin
    3. McCain
    4. McKinney (for humor value and to see an impeached president actually removed from office)
    5. Obama
    6. Nader

    McCain choosing Palin might move him up to 2. Maybe. I havent read enough to see just how nuts Baldwin is. 🙂

    4-6 could go in any order, for all I care.

  13. but it happens in the movies all the time

    Well, that’s good enough for most people.

    That’s why I fret so awfully, every year, about the Goodyear Blimp being used in a terrorist plot to kill everybody at the Super Bowl.

  14. We’re in bad shape if our plan to expand American liberties owes more to the plot of Dave than to any hard-nosed political calculations.

    Jesse, we are in bad shape. Deal.

  15. Hash makes me sleepy. I got snark to do, Epi.

  16. that an honest, authentic person will come to power accidentally

    except in this case, we have an equivocating nitwit who’s been thrown into ring as a result of cynical political calculation.

    Palin makes the McCain-Palin ticket the lesser of two evils.

    I would have considered voting for McCain if he had picked someone like Hagel, or hell even a Romney would have been a halfway acceptable choice. Palin? She brings nothing except a spotty and easily dismissed record of ‘reform,’ and a whole bunch of evangelical baggage. Just how is that even remotely libertarian? Ooooh, she’s an outsider! So’s my fucking cat.

  17. A guy walks into a bar and orders a drink. Then another. Then another. Eight drinks later he hits on the hot chick sporting the moose rifle and hockey skates and succeeds in taking her home for the night. Next morning he wakes up next to McCain.

  18. Doug wins the thread. Puck gets an honorable mention. SugarFree gets two Scooby Snacks.

  19. I AM THE LIZARD KING!

  20. TAO: Thanks for reminding me to add that sic.

    Glad I could finally put that philosophy degree to use other than as a tag for the handicapped spaces.

  21. This might not happen very frequently in real life, but it happens in the movies all the time.

    Hey, if you haven’t seen “The pope must die”, put it on your NetFlix list right now.

  22. TAO,

    A crippling ontological crisis is a real condition, affecting real people. You shouldn’t have to park 500 feet away at the mall.

  23. Sarah Palin as the libertarian savior? Wouldn’t this fit well into the hallowed libertarian tradition of pinning hopes on morons and/or aging fanatics who you keep expecting to fart? Palin’s grasp of the issues would certainly qualify her for the moron category. After Ron Paul (farting old fanatic), maybe Palin is just what you need. Keep the faith!

  24. A crippling ontological crisis is a real condition, affecting real people.

    Ooh, on the inevitable PSA, could we include ennui? Those of us not ready for a full existential crisis may still be occasional sufferers of ennui. Equal opportunity angst, plz!

  25. except in this case, we have an equivocating nitwit who’s been thrown into ring as a result of cynical political calculation.

    That’s not true! Obama brings both hope and change to the table as well!

  26. Dag,

    A student once asked me what “ennui” meant.

    A boredom so pronounced it can only be expressed in French.

  27. In a dark, dank laboratory a hunch old man finishes zapping a collection of test tubes with electricity.

    “Yes”, he cries, “I have combined the genomes of Ron Paul with Sarah Palin! I have created an intelligent candidate who will reunite the Mises and Rockwellian camps with a populist ideology and who still looks hawt in a bikini!”

  28. A boredom so pronounced it can only be expressed in French.

    At least (like menage a trois) Americans are relatively unlikely to mispronounce it. ‘Foyer’ has about a one in three shot at correctness, but the really important stuff we’ve got down.

  29. You sound tense, Lefti. Have some delicious pie and calm down.

  30. E travail ?loigne de nous trois grands maux: l’ennui, le vice, et le besoin.

  31. I would have considered voting for McCain if he had picked someone like Hagel, or hell even a Romney would have been a halfway acceptable choice. Palin? She brings nothing except a spotty and easily dismissed record of ‘reform,’ and a whole bunch of evangelical baggage. Just how is that even remotely libertarian? Ooooh, she’s an outsider! So’s my fucking cat.

    Some libertarians are projecting their views onto Palin the same way that centrists projected their onto Obama. It’s not reality, especially the more we get to know about Palin, but it is hard to convince people otherwise, especially if they have that pesky “F” in their Myers-Briggs profile.

    Palin makes the McCain-Palin ticket the lesser of two evils.

    This would be true if McCain was remotely stable, Palin diplomatic, or either one honest. Unfortunately, they are basing their campaign on a narrative that is the opposite of the truth. More unfortunately, people are buying it.

    Both Obama and McCain have plans that will screw up the economy even worse than it is now. Biden or Palin will do no better. That said, I believe that a McCain/Palin administration will continue to erode civil liberties and will use the military to destablize the world even further than has been done under the current administration. Not that an Obama/Biden adminstration would not do so. I just believe it will be to a lesser degree.

  32. There’s a longstanding cultural myth that an honest, authentic person will come to power accidentally and enact sweeping, benign reforms.

    There’s also a long-standing Christian myth that a not-so-honest person will come to power and enact sweeping and horrifying reforms.

    Tribulation…here we come!

    In other words, just becuase she may be a stealth candidate who cares little for the evangelical platform, in no way indicates that she would be a libertarian wet dream.

    She might be the pragmatic, opportunistic cronyist a lot of folks are starting to suspect she is.

  33. That said, I believe that a McCain/Palin administration will continue to erode civil liberties and will use the military to destablize the world even further than has been done under the current administration. Not that an Obama/Biden adminstration would not do so. I just believe it will be to a lesser degree.

    The inner cynic in me thinks that both administrations would be about the same on that issue, just we won’t know about how President Obama is spying on us until twenty years after he leaves office. 🙂

  34. Mike E,

    Some libertarians are projecting their views onto Palin the same way that centrists projected their onto Obama.

    As a centrist, I believe it is important to include the same qualifier…”some centrists.”

    Some centrists are projecting their views onto McCain/Palin as well…

    We centrist will decide the election as always. I think most centrists look at candidates and evaluate based on pragmatic criteria.

    Obama’s negative: he wants to do too much, to take on too many domestic problems.
    McCain’s negative: too trigger happy and likely to place the US in an even worse position internationally.

    To me that makes McCain the greater danger.
    Other centrists I have talked to see it the other way around. It will be interesting to see how it swings.

    I don’t think Palin is having much of an impact on the centrists. At least none that I interact with.

  35. The inner cynic in me thinks that both administrations would be about the same on that issue, just we won’t know about how President Obama is spying on us until twenty years after he leaves office. 🙂

    madmike gets an A+

  36. le travail ?loigne de nous trois grands maux: l’ennui, le vice, et le besoin.

    Tu parles Francais? Formidable! …A moins tu comprends seulement Voltaire de prix.

  37. Obama’s negative: he wants to do too much, to take on too many domestic problems.
    McCain’s negative: too trigger happy and likely to place the US in an even worse position internationally.

    To me that makes McCain the greater danger.
    Other centrists I have talked to see it the other way around. It will be interesting to see how it swings.

    I’m with you, but you can never underestimate how trigger happy some Americans want the president to be.

  38. Barr/Root is still most certainly the best choice for hardcore Libertarians. But for Mainstream libertarians, McCain/Palin makes more sense.

    Actually, the most sense for ALL LIBERTARIANS is to vote strategically. If you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania, VOTE MCCAIN/PALIN. If you live in Texas or Utah, you’re safe with Barr/Root.

    The optimum result all around is a win for McCain/Palin and 2 to 3 million votes for Barr/Root, and a crushing of the Fascist Democrats all around.

  39. Tu parles Francais?

    No, sorry. Someone I was involved with spoke French and loved that quote from the Turk, and when you guys mentioned ennui, it popped into my mind. She had a little placard with it on it.

  40. Eric, when did you start dating Jonah Goldberg?

  41. If you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania, VOTE MCCAIN/PALIN.

    No.

    And I’ll be even more delighted if that one vote actually affects the outcome here in the Ohizzle.

  42. Barr/Root is still probably the best choice for hardcore Libertarians. But for Mainstream libertarians, Obama/Biden makes more sense.

    Actually, the most sense for ALL LIBERTARIANS is to vote strategically. If you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania, VOTE OBAMA/BIDEN. If you live in Massachusetts or Vermont, you’re safe with Barr/Root.

    The optimum result all around is a win for Obama/Biden and 2 to 3 million votes for Barr/Root, and a crushing of the Fascist Republicans all around.

  43. Oo! Oo! I wanna play.

    Can we start comparing McCain to Paul von Hindenberg?

    And who can we compare Obama to? Idi Amin? Papa Doc Duvalier?

  44. Both libdem and Donderooooooo are idiots.

    The optimum result would be an all around win for Barr/Root and 2-3 million votes each for Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin.

    Duh. Morans.

  45. Both libdem and Donderooooooo are idiots.

    The optimum result would be an all around win for Barr/Root and 2-3 million votes each for Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin.

    Duh. Morans.

    Nope. I don’t entirely agree with what I said, I just think it is approximately as justified as what Dondero said.

    Also, I think there are far more optimum (just even more unlikely) results than Barr/Root winning.

  46. If you were going to launch a Republican Manchurian Candidate, they would admittedly look a lot like Palin. You would want them to be in with evangelicals but also a states rights person. That way when they were President they could say things like “I would love to pass this or that moralist legislation and I feel your pain but the federal government just doesn’t have the power to do that. We should leave things like drug laws and marriage laws to the locals.”

    Evangelicals are often a menace at the state and local level but at the federal level a lot of them just want the federal government out of their hair so they can continue to be a menace at the local level. You could totally con them into voting for a Libertarian candidate for federal office by saying all the right things with the caveat that those things don’t belong at the federal level.

    Sadly, no way in hell would Libertarians ever be bright enough or practical enough to do such a thing. Better to yell “why don’t you go back to Dogpatch, you dumb bible thumping hillbillies” and continue to live on the margins.

  47. Could Palin’s “innate concepts” be her pliability?

    Regards,
    TDL

  48. The people who are right now the happiest may end up the most concerned

    Reminds me of Thomas and Roberts. They’re supposed to be conservative robots dutifully obeying the orders of the Great Right Wing Conspiracy?, but occasionally they’ll piss off their handlers by making a correct ruling for the correct reasons. I expect to here a few WTFs from McCain’s mouth if he manages to get Palin elected.

    There’s a longstanding cultural myth that an honest, authentic person will come to power accidentally and enact sweeping, benign reforms.

    George Bush was an honest authentic person who came to power accidentally, but his “reforms” were anything but benign. We like to pretend that he’s an evil schemer, but I do believe he really is sincere and well meaning. As someone told me earlier this week: “he is principled, it’s just that his principles aren’t your principles.” I would rather have a money grubbing opportunist in office wasting his time trying to siphon money out of the treasury, than a true believer trying to change the world for the better.

  49. All you need to know about Palin is that she was the neocon second choice for Veep, behind Lieberman. Same as 2000, when Bush was the neocon second choice for Prez behind McCain.

    If you’re a libertarian and thinking of voting for McCain because of Palin, remember that the neocons are lots better at political intrigue than libertarians: plenty of libertarians got played by the neocons, but did you ever hear a neocon lamenting, “Those darn libertarians sure made a monkey out of me!”?

  50. “But I hope this sort of thinking doesn’t lead anyone to actually vote for John McCain’s ticket.”

    Unfortunately if McCain doesn’t win, Obama wins. So given the choice how can you NOT vote for McCain?
    What kind of pot are you smoking Walker?

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