I had an interesting conversation with some acquaintances the other day, in which thoughts on the chances of a candidate who actually regards our constitution as the default operating manual for the country being able to compete effectively for the Presidency in 2012 had a bright light shone upon them. The light unfortunately illuminated a bleak picture.
These acquaintances happened to be life long Alaskans, he from the state capitol of Juneau, she from Wasilla, so I couldn’t help but ask them what they thought of a particular woman who has made a few waves of late up there. It turns out that I had asked the right people. Both of them had numerous close relatives with senior positions in state bureaucracies in Juneau who knew the former Governor quite well. In addition, she had served as a Senate page for a stretch during the time when Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski ruled the state as their own personal fiefdom. They described a state house run openly and unashamedly on graft and influence peddling. An environment in which everything and everyone, from the two US Senators to the lowliest of freshman state house pages was blatantly for sale or lease in the form of bribes or favors demanded. She relayed to me how the pages performed their duties by delivering written messages from one committee chair person to another, and how the request to pass on the message was routinely met with a written request from a more senior page or legislator of a quick “service” in the washroom, or an occasional invitation for a weekend tryst at a remote hunting lodge, depending on the perceived importance of the message to be delivered. When she refused these advances due to the fact that she was a happily married mother of two, she was informed in no uncertain terms that failure to put out meant no access, and no message delivered. When she relayed this response back to her employer expecting some sort of disciplinary action, she was told in equally certain terms that she had a job to perform and that if she couldn’t figure out how to perform it there were other women, perhaps younger and more ambitious who were eagerly awaiting the opportunity. If you could successfully negotiate these entry level positions in “Alaskan political science”, you were deemed eligible to move up the ladder in representative government. When you hear someone speak of politics being run as an “old boys club”, this is what they are talking about. This as I understand it was the environment faced by Sarah Palin when she was elected governor on a platform of cleaning out the “old boys” network. And she was successful for a time.
For what it’s worth these clients of mine described her as being just about what most thought of her, good and bad, before the media savaged her to such an extent. A mix of looks, fierce independence, ambition, a sometimes exaggerated instinct for self promotion, and a singular naiveté in believing that she could single-handedly reform generations of entrenched provincial politics as usual. She was genuine. For this she was very popular. And for this she paid a price. I’m sure you can imagine the life long visceral enemies made in such an endeavor as she embarked upon. Twenty years ago I attempted to steer a group of union carpenters under my foremanship into abstaining from their daily wake and bake routine, and was met as Rodney King was by the LA Police Dept. To this day, though I was just trying to help them keep their jobs as our employer drug tested randomly, I am confident that if I ran into them in a bar they would raise their stools in unison and beat me with them without so much as a how do you do. Nobody likes a killjoy.
This is not the part where I jump on the Palin bandwagon and express my unyielding support, although in a just world she would probably deserve it. On the contrary. After being beaten bloody by the entrenched forces she had attempted to defeat, she elected to resign as Alaska’s Governor and take the battle elsewhere. Something that these two Alaskans held against her. Even though they understood what she was up against, and continue to like and admire her, they expressed a sense of betrayal. A feeling that they and members of their families in state government had put their heads on the chopping block in allying with her, only to watch in dismay as she abandoned them when the big leagues came calling. Not fair perhaps, even they admitted as much, but they had friends and family that were left twisting in the wind when the good old boys returned. I ask you to reflect on this when thinking that Palin, if elected, might accomplish the task of cleaning up the Washington DC old boys network in the face of what would be an extremely hostile press and easily manipulated populace.
If Sarah Palin, or Marco Rubio, or Alan West, or Michelle Bachman, or Herman Cain, or any of the so called Tea Party candidates manage to win the Republican primary, they have about as much chance of winning the general election in 2012 as someone with Obama’s background and experience would have had in 1972, because the ground work has not been laid. The inability to enact real change from the top down without ripping the country apart is just as true for conservatives and libertarians as it is for progressives. Change comes incrementally, as we have seen over the past decades. It seems sudden lately because we folks who just wish the government to mostly leave us alone have naively assumed that we can win by simply pretending that there isn’t a game being played. As much as I can’t stomach modern liberalism, they have earned their current place at the top due to their long march through our cultural institutions. Time to roll up our sleeves, stop looking for saviors, and do the same. We have the advantage of having truth on our side, so we’ve got that goin’ for us. Cheer up. It took the progs forty years to get where they are. No reason we can’t do it in twenty.
Cross posted at Jaded Haven.