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McCain Picks Palin and Reform for the GOP

August 29th, 2008 · 31 Comments · Elections and Campaigns

In a miraculous moment in Dayton, Ohio, John McCain announced what may be the most politicially significant decision of the new millenium. Faced with many choices and the challenge of a resurgent left, McCain defied all of those who questioned his worthiness as a leader and a candidate and those who worship ‘conventional wisdom’, by making the boldest and most courageous choice of a Vice Presidential running mate since William McKinley reluctantly accepted the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt. Out of a field which included many safe choices and many establishment figures, McCain vindicated himself and the hopes of those Republicans who had extended him the benefit of the doubt, by picking Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.

In his announcement, McCain summarized Palin’s career as an innovative governor, an opponent of big business and institutionalized politics, and stressed her background as a mother and a product of a normal middle-class family. Palin is not a child of wealth or a creature of the political establishment. She’s as much a maverick as McCain has claimed to be. She comes from a frontier state with a frontier mentality and a love of freedom and individualism which too many Republicans have drifted away from. By picking her, McCain is making a clear statment that he will be running as the political maverick and innovator and reformer he has tried to be rather than the establishment moderate some have accused him of being. Palin will bring out the best of John McCain and as running mates they will bring out the best of the Republican party and return it to its root values of small government, fiscal responsibility and individual liberty.

Throughout this campaign McCain has been faced with a choice of constituencies to appeal to. He has had to court independents and moderates, the religious right and Republican reformers, all of whom control substantial numbers of votes and strong activist elements. Although always viewed as a longshot and brilliantly concealed by the McCain campaign, in retrospect the Palin selection seems almost inevitable, because she is the only person whose track record and reputation should satisfy the demands of every constituency McCain wants to appeal to.

Palin will appeal to reformers because she is firmly part of the liberty wing of the party, sharing the goals of traditional Republicans represented by groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus who want to return the party to the traditions of Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt. She also has a strong pro-family reputation as the mother of five and someone raised in a traditional middle class household. Her pro-life views and support for conventional marriage should stand her in good stead with religious conservatives, yet she also used her first veto as governor to protect the rights of gay Alaskans to partnership benefits, showing a willingness to accept non-traditional families as well.

As governor Palin has been strongly independent of the party leadership, has challenged establishment figures like Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young over corruption issues, and has been an activist for progressive energy policies, supporting expanded oil drilling and development while limiting the influence of big oil companies in government. Palin is young and personable and articulate and clearly not part of the Washington political establishment. She’s the youngest person ever elected governor of Alaska and the first woman governor in the state’s history. She’s also enormously popular, with approval ratings in the 80s.

McCain’s choice of Palin stands in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate. Obama went for the conservative, boring and conventional choice. By picking Palin, McCain has made his declaration for progressive change, reform and new ideas. With Biden, Obama declared for the political establishment and made his claims that he supported change seem hypocritical. With Palin, McCain has shown that he understands real change and is willing to take risks and make the GOP the engine for authentic reform and better government for all the people which it was originally founded to be.

Today McCain is reborn and the voices of doubt have been silenced. The dark days of ambivalence and poor leadership are behind us, and the GOP can move forward in unity to campaign on a foundation of principle, reform and optimism.

Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.

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31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Liz Michael // Aug 31, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Okay, has she ever been a MEMBER of the RLC? And what precisely IS her record as to liberty issues?

    You gotta understand. The front of the ticket is still a lying weasel. I understand where Palin satiates the Huckabee crowd, but how does she satiate the Ron Paulites?

  • 2 Dave // Aug 31, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    No, she hasn’t officially been a RLC member, but she was endorsed by Ron Paul and has backed liberty candidates in Alaska against people like Dan Young, so she’s in the right camp.

    She was interviewed on MTV last year and basically identified herself with Ron Paul as the same kind of outsider with an emphasis on individual liberty.

    Now, how well she’s acted on those beliefs is open to debate, but that’s clearly the perspective she’s coming from.

    Dave

  • 3 Dave Weigel // Sep 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Picking Palin will quiet some unrest in the liberty wing of the party, but it not a turning point. McCain isn’t reborn. Sugar coating a poison pill may make it taste sweet, but it still kills you. McCain is still an evil neocon that will have an atrocious foreign policy of empire and nation building. That alone will bankrupt the country, but if it didn’t, McCain’s idiot domestic policy will. McCain’s complete lack of understanding of economics will kill any chance of a decent domestic policy.

    The only way picking Palin will be beneficial is if McCain dies next week, Palin is thrust into the head of the ticket, and she picks a sound VP such as Ron Paul or Andrew Napolitano.

  • 4 Dave // Sep 1, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    McCain is hardly a neocon. You folks need to learn not to thow that word around all the time. It makes you sound retarded and paranoid.

    McCain is a good old fashioned GOP warhawk which is hardly the same thing as a neocon.

    As for economics, anyone can hire a good economist to do their thinking for them.

    I do like the idea of Palin/Napolitano in ’12.

    Dave

  • 5 Westmiller // Sep 2, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Your praise would be warranted … if what you say about her were true … but I see no evidence that Palin is anything more than a sweet, lovely, and well-spoken statist.

    Granted, she was appointed as an ethics officer to the state oil commission and did her job, even at the expense of corrupt Republicans. I’ve never heard of any politician who favoring bribery.

    Her primary achievement was to increase taxes on oil production (at the expense of every consumer) and handout thousands of dollars in “free money” to her constituents. I guess that bought her a high approval rating, but I call it fascism.

    Palin is firmly in the “religious right” frame on every social issue and a militarist to boot. That is a LONG was from being a “part of the liberty wing” in the GOP.
    Yes, she vetoed a bill directing her to ignore a state Supreme Court ruling on same-sex benefits, but she *supported* the 1998 ban that the court struck down and said she would *support* a ballot question that would deny state benefits to any homosexual couples.

    Yes, Palin favored Don Young’s primary opponent, but she campaigned *in favor* of the “Bridge to Nowhere” … as long as her state didn’t have to pay for it. [BTW: Ron Paul endorsed Don Young.]

    Other errors:
    She was never endorsed by Ron Paul, nor by the Libertarian Party of Alaska, in any campaign.
    She never supported Ron Paul’s candidacy, except to say that he was “cool” for being “independent of the party machine.” Palin isn’t any more acceptable to Ron Paul than is John McCain … particularly on the war.

    McCain picked Palin because she agrees with him on almost every issue [the only reason she wants drilling in ANWR is to collect more money for her state oil “slush fund”] … and she has a vagina. She is otherwise totally unqualified (on libertarian principles or any other) to step into the office of President on “day one”, nor any other day.

    My expectation? She’ll be the Thomas Eagleton of the GOP: gone within weeks of her nomination.

  • 6 Dave // Sep 2, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Well Bill, it’s always been my operating assumption that all Alaska Republicans are inherently more libertarian than the average for the party. With Palin we’ve got a limited track record to go on, but I don’t see reason to give up hope quite yet. But then I think McCain is a secret libertarian waiting to break free.

    Your praise would be warranted … if what you say about her were true … but I see no evidence that Palin is anything more than a sweet, lovely, and well-spoken statist.

    Where do we draw the line to define who is and is not a statist? She’s certainly not more of a statist than Obama or Biden or Hillary Clinton.

    Granted, she was appointed as an ethics officer to the state oil commission and did her job, even at the expense of corrupt Republicans. I’ve never heard of any politician who favoring bribery.

    But surely you’ve heard of politicians turning a blind eye to ethics violations when it was politically expedient.

    Her primary achievement was to increase taxes on oil production (at the expense of every consumer) and handout thousands of dollars in “free money” to her constituents. I guess that bought her a high approval rating, but I call it fascism.

    I agree that it’s a terrible policy from a national point of view, and not something I’d like to see emulated. Interestingly her approval rating went down rather than up around the time it was passed.

    Palin is firmly in the “religious right” frame on every social issue and a militarist to boot. That is a LONG was from being a “part of the liberty wing” in the GOP.

    Religion is not inherently incompatible with liberty. The question is how far she would go in imposing her views on others. And believing in a strong national defense and even believing in foreign interventionism under some circumstances is ALSO not an automatic disqualification. There is a reasonable argument to be made that liberty should not be limited by national borders and that part of the price we pay for our freedom is to promote and protect freedom elsewhere in the world. It’s a choice we have to make as a nation whether we choose to spend our resources that way. On a moral basis it’s at least defensible.

    Yes, she vetoed a bill directing her to ignore a state Supreme Court ruling on same-sex benefits, but she *supported* the 1998 ban that the court struck down and said she would *support* a ballot question that would deny state benefits to any homosexual couples.

    That was quite a while ago. Back then Bob Barr was a raving fag-basher too. Since then she has said more positive things which seem to add up to a mainstream position where she would support civil unions but not gay marriage.

    Yes, Palin favored Don Young’s primary opponent, but she campaigned *in favor* of the “Bridge to Nowhere” … as long as her state didn’t have to pay for it. [BTW: Ron Paul endorsed Don Young.]

    But remember she’s also gone after Young and Stevens for their ethics violations, and that ought to earn her some points.

    Other errors:
    She was never endorsed by Ron Paul, nor by the Libertarian Party of Alaska, in any campaign.
    She never supported Ron Paul’s candidacy,

    I picked up the bit about Paul endorsing her from one of the Ron Paul sites. I never thought the LP of Alaska had supported her. BTW, Paul was on Fox News on Sunday and said of Palin: “She sounds like a very good person and has a lot of good conservative credentials.”

    IMO Paul’s not much of a libertarian either. His positions and hers seem pretty close together on some issues.

    except to say that he was “cool” for being “independent of the party machine.” Palin isn’t any more acceptable to Ron Paul than is John McCain … particularly on the war.

    Sure, but is that a bad thing ultimately? Ron Paul couldn’t get the GOP nomination and certainly couldn’t win a national election. And he’s not inherently right about everything.

    McCain picked Palin because she agrees with him on almost every issue [the only reason she wants drilling in ANWR is to collect more money for her state oil “slush fund”] … and she has a vagina. She is otherwise totally unqualified (on libertarian principles or any other) to step into the office of President on “day one”, nor any other day.

    She’s no more unqualified than Obama, and does have more experience and less of a record of corruption than Obama has. That seems appealing. And McCain does have some libertarian credentials. We ranked him ‘libertarian’ twice on the Liberty Index and he has beaten Ron Paul on social issues several times.

    Dave

  • 7 Dave // Sep 2, 2008 at 5:16 am

    BTW, see my other article on Palin for direct quotes from libertarians who think she’s great. And my assessment there and here is largely based on reactions I’ve seen from people who class themselves as libertarian or liberty Republicans. None of them being Eric Dondero.

    Before Palin was picked as VP there was a lot of positive buzz about her on the various Ron Paul groups too.

    So I’m not pulling this out of my hat. The perception is very clearly that she’s a more libertarian-leaning choice for VP than the others he was considering and some people are taking that as a sign of hope.

    I agree that she’s more of a religious right conservative than a libertarian, but I think she’s still better than Romney.

    Dave

  • 8 Eric Dondero // Sep 2, 2008 at 5:47 am

    The RLC’s beloved libertarian Republican Governor Mark Sanford of SC has just come to the defense of fellow libertarian Governor Sarah Palin. (read it at the link above.)

    Westmiller is technically right, that the Libertarian Party did not endorse her. But the Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate against her that year did endorse her. As did the State Party Chairman Jason Dowell, with the tacit approval of the LPA Board.

    (For the record, the LPA very rarely takes any official action on anything. They are a very loosely affiliated group. 99% of the time they just go along with what the State Chairman does.)

    Eric – RLC Founder

  • 9 Eric Dondero // Sep 2, 2008 at 5:48 am

    Dave Wiegel, that was a pretty vicious thing you said about McCain. Suggesting that it be better if he just died.

    I’m no great fan of McCain either. But that was clearly over the top. I really think you should retract that, or risk being quoted all over the internet.

  • 10 Dave // Sep 2, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Eric, I think you overstate the postiveness of Sanford’s remark. It’s quite general and really says nothing about endorsing her views. It’s mostly just praise for her personal qualities.

    Wiegel’s comment is also not as outrageous as you make it out to be. He’s not wrong to point out that if Palin will do good, she’d do even more if she actually became president than she will with McCain in office.

    Dave

  • 11 Westmiller // Sep 2, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    … But then I think McCain is a secret libertarian waiting to break free.
    I’d like to believe that. It might even be true, but I see no evidence. His one and only principle seems to be altruism: the “transcendent obligation” (of everyone else) to self-sacrifice for a “greater good” (read: the dictates of the leader).
    I’m no Randroid, nor am I a political purist, but I’m also not an apologist for craven populists.

    Religion is not inherently incompatible with liberty.
    I agree. Moreso, I agree that the issue is whether one seeks to “impose their views on others” beyond the defense of individual rights. It seems pretty clear to me that neither Palin nor McCain earn “sainthood” on that issue – even in comparison with Obama/Biden.

    .. believing in foreign interventionism under some circumstances is ALSO not an automatic disqualification.
    Agreed, as long as you define “circumstances” within the Just War paradigm. For Palin/McCain, it seems to be a “we don’t like you ragheads” paradigm, while advocating the same kind of theocracy (in a different flavor) as any radical Muslim.

    That was quite a while ago.
    That was a few months ago (supporting a new referendum banning “civil unions”). Because she had gay friends and tries to follow the Alaska Constitution doesn’t make her a “civil libertarian”.

    …that ought to earn her some points.
    I give her all kinds of points on many issues, just as I give any fiscal conservative “props” for good positions on many economic issues.

    Despite my critique of your “apologetics”, I don’t dislike Palin. She’s a very competent politician, affable, and correct on many issues.
    I just don’t think it wise to tie our fortunes to her “apron strings” by calling her something she is not.

  • 12 Dave Nalle // Sep 18, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Agreed, as long as you define “circumstances” within the Just War paradigm.

    I actually find the ‘just war’ argument completely inadequate. I think it establishes many criteria which are basically irrelevant. I prefer a test of ‘best national interest’ rather than the more subjective moralism of ‘just war’.

    For Palin/McCain, it seems to be a “we don’t like you ragheads” paradigm, while advocating the same kind of theocracy (in a different flavor) as any radical Muslim.

    I think that’s a pretty gross mischaracterization of their beliefs. I see little evidence that either of them is particularly motivated by racism or that they want to impose theocracy on the rest of the country, despite their support for some religiously motivated positions on issues like abortion. Palin is clearly more religiously motivated than McCain, and her positions on issues of faith in poliitcs are quite similar to those or Ron Paul. Which is to say that I don’t agree with either of them at all.

    Dave

  • 13 Westmiller // Sep 19, 2008 at 1:49 am

    “… I actually find the ‘just war’ argument completely inadequate. I think it establishes many criteria which are basically irrelevant …

    So, write a critique of the theory and I’ll find something to disagree with. ;o)
    To my mind, it essentially requires a “real, clear, and imminent threat” to warrant any kind of pre-emptive military action.

    “… I prefer a test of ‘best national interest’ rather than the more subjective moralism of ‘just war’….”

    I can’t think of any phrase more laden with subjective moralism than “best national interest” … in whose mind?

  • 14 Dave Nalle // Sep 19, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Well, in my mind, of course. But seriously it’s not that hard to define criteria for what circumstances are a big enough threat to the national interest to require action. But it’s always going to be subjective. The just war theory is even subjective.

    I’ve actually written half an article on the just war theory, and one of the points it raises is that it’s very easy to apply just war theory to the war in Iraq and find it acceptable. What is a ‘real, clear and imminent’ threat is inherently subjective.

    Plus ‘just war’ is only a step or two away from ‘holy war’. But I guess my main reason for not liking ‘just war’ is that I’m always inclined to prefer a concrete argument to a moralistic one. I like “this war will cost X and get us Y” a lot better than “X is making mean faces at us, let’s smash him.”

    Dave

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