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An Open Letter To Sarah Palin

Dear Governor Palin:

After reading that awful nonsense by Peggy Noonan which seemed to assert you were Anti-Christ, and more measured responses by Ron Radosh and Mark Barabak, I realized something: it isn’t enough to take a measured response in your defense. The attacks on you are far too personal, unrestrained, and self-justifying: the people making them are not being held accountable, just as the Bush-bashers are not accountable for anything (i.e. making North Korea, previously contained, a real threat to us in a matter of months).

We need a media that is accountable. This cannot happen by creating more alternative media, for that already exists and is ignored. It cannot happen through our schools and universities, for powerful interest groups pretty much control what is taught over a 12-16 year span. (It was sheer chance I ran into National Review my sophomore year of high school, and was therefore able to evaluate what I was taught in History, English and later Philosophy and Politics courses for myself, with just a seed of doubt to start.)

Part of media accountability, of course, is doing what we’re doing now, laying facts out there. In your announcement that you’re not seeking a second term, you helped all of us who saw you as a competent public official make our case:

Here’s some of the things we’ve done:

We created a petroleum integrity office to oversee safe development. We held the line for Alaskans on Point Thomson – and finally for the first time in decades – they’re drilling for oil and gas.

We have AGIA, the gasline project – a massive bi-partisan victory (the vote was 58 to 1!) – also succeeding as intended – protecting Alaskans as our clean natural gas will flow to energize us, and America, through a competitive, pro-private sector project. This is the largest private sector energy project, ever. This is energy independence.

And ACES – another bipartisan effort – is working as intended and industry is publicly acknowledging its success. Our new oil and gas “clear and equitable formula” is so Alaskans will no longer be taken advantage of. ACES incentivizes new exploration and development and jobs that were previously not going to happen with a monopolized North Slope oil basin.

We cleaned up previously accepted unethical actions; we ushered in bi-partisan Ethics Reform.

We also slowed the rate of government growth, we worked with the Legislature to save billions of dollars for the future, and I made no lobbyist friends with my hundreds of millions of dollars in budget vetoes… but living beyond our means today is irresponsible for tomorrow.

We took government out of the dairy business and put it back into private-sector hands – where it should be.

We provided unprecedented support for education initiatives, and with the right leadership, finally filled long-vacant public safety positions. We built a sub-Cabinet on Climate Change and took heat from Outside special interests for our biologically-sound wildlife management for abundance.

We broke ground on the new prison.

And we made common sense conservative choices to eliminate personal luxuries like the jet, the chef, the junkets… the entourage.

And the Lt. Governor and I said “no” to our pay raises.

But again, this is already being done, and is clearly not enough. We’re not asking that everyone become conservative when we complain about the state of the media. We’re asking whether conservatism can be given a chance, and not a chance merely from the fact that liberal policies may fail. In a sense, the real danger from liberal policies is that they don’t fail: we become dependent on the welfare state, or bureaucracies making decisions for us, and as we do we alienate our freedom and our morals to the government.

It is your desire to privately energize conservatism in America that has me intrigued:

…I’ll work very hard for others who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government and strong national security for our country and support for our troops and energy independence and for those who will protect freedom and equality and life.

I’ll work hard for and I’ll campaign for those who are proud to be American and who are inspired by our ideals and they won’t deride them. I will support others who seek to serve in or out of office, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all, inside Alaska or outside of Alaska.

People are not taking this resolution of yours seriously, but I’m taking it very seriously and I want to know what you have in mind so I can help out in my own way. The op-ed piece you wrote in the Post about Cap and Trade was not only right on the mark, but hit the exact tone and language many of us need to hear. We need a general outline of a given situation, the arguments presented, and the facts that support one position or another: without any wasted words you made your case.

Many of your detractors are “hung up” about your style – phrases such as “God gave us energy” in the speech above linked, as opposed to your own formulation in the op-ed:

American prosperity has always been driven by the steady supply of abundant, affordable energy. Particularly in Alaska, we understand the inherent link between energy and prosperity, energy and opportunity, and energy and security. Consequently, many of us in this huge, energy-rich state recognize that the president’s cap-and-trade energy tax would adversely affect every aspect of the U.S. economy.

Still other detractors wonder about your ability to respond to the media, arguing that you actually represent some form of celebrity politics awash in narcissism and self-pity (some of these detractors, of course, voted for the current President, who did not have any problem implying that because of his identity he could heal America’s original sin).

I dislike the concerns of pundits usually; they’re on the level of those who observe media alone, and mistake their feelings quite often for reasons because of a lack of sustained inquiry into what is seeming and what is simply. But conservatives need unity, and it is more than electoral unity; some of the concerns pundits may have about the base are correct, to wit:

  • People who are into conspiracy theories (esp. 9/11 “truth”) at the tea parties need to be marginalized.
  • There is no war with Islam: there are many in Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq who have been devastated by radicals of all sorts, and are fighting for their security, their families, and yes, taking bullets for Coalition soldiers too.
  • Glenn Beck, Ron Paul and others should be looked at as giving cover to more extreme positions that are not harmless.
  • And yes, Creationism is dangerous. There are many reasons to dislike American education and want to reform it; Creationists might be the best reason for letting liberals have complete control of the system currently. (There’s a better argument for submission to Biblical authority: if God died for you, what do you owe Him? At what point is belief not knowledge, because it shouldn’t be?)

Of course, no pundit is even close to being this specific: they’re not concerned about the rise of the BNP in the UK, or the surge in KKK membership here. But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they see what I see: conservatism has generally been hostile to education over the last half-century or so, and we’re paying the price. We can only “educate” those in isolated, small communities, and our broader reach – our ability to communicate that we have much of substance to say – is compromised by our ability to isolate ourselves and buy into the worst sorts of conspiracy theory.

While you’re helping more conservative candidates win office, while you’re pushing for the correct proposals for our economy and energy/security policy, it may be prudent to say something about why one should even be Republican. One thing I argued a while ago is that both parties should be educative – why can’t the RNC put up a link to a “book of the week” that might be “Capitalism and Freedom,” or put together local lectures on things like Lincoln’s legacy? [I should note this could happen sooner than I think: one thing I never expected was for the RNC to have a blogroll, and actually recognize other conservatives online - that was a good move. Now if the site is simpler when remade, with the blog front and center...]

People need to know while it’s their party, it’s not just their place to vent or be told what candidates to look at, but to be respectful of others and knowledgeable about what they’re joining. Which brings us back to the problem of media today – the media is only about today, the present, about our concerns now. In a sense, it can never really grapple with the future, and certainly not responsibly with the past. Parties, strangely enough, can be that institution where we do deliberate and figure out what’s genuinely feasible as Americans. It sounds strange to say that because we do have representatives, but once people are elected, the deed is pretty much done. It’s almost in how we conduct ourselves privately that politics for each and every one of us exists, and by definition, politics isn’t private. Hence, our attachment and work within a given party is a very valuable thing, especially if we are better for participating, and not a slave to the agenda commercial media sets because of our basest desires.

7 Comments

  1. Good post. Lots of good information about Palin that I was not aware of. I suspect she will be the person causing things to happen in the US over the next few years.

    However, I need to disagree with the notion that conservatives are and have been hostile to education. If anything we are disappointed, and one things that disappoints us about education is the notion that it is being used. Now if I am reading you right that is exactly what you suggest conservative do. You suggest that we as conservatives also start using education in one of ways that liberals do. Do one of the very things that disappoints us? Manipulate education so that it drives people to our cause? I don’t think so. Now, if a case could be made for conservatives to manipulate education, it would be made not to drive people to our cause but to stop others from driving people to their causes. We would of course be less disappointed in education, but, we would be asking conservatives to be progressive and that is not what conservatives do.

  2. I see where Chris is going, and I agree that it is especially hard for conservatives everywhere with regard to education. I recently came across this article that snubs what is going on at UVa because an American Political Thought program was funded by an ‘ideological’ group. That article can be found here:

    http://chronicle.com/cgi2-bin/printable.cgi?article=http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i41/41millercenter.htm

    But as you can see, the “ideology” pushed on students was simply a close reading of the Federalist Papers, and other Founding documents. Only a hit-piece would ever suggest that studying such work is ipso facto a conservative undertaking. I mean, I get it. But after all, they aren’t asking them to teach Creationism. That BTW was one thing I never could fully grapple with, either, and I think you did a fine job of explaining how one handles personal faith and its place in the classroom. If only we could get more to agree. Put out the good questions worth asking rather than tell them what to think and people’s minds will be naturally inclined to the thing more than we even realize…

  3. @ thag – Yeah, you see where I’m going. Independent of the “let’s teach Republicans about Lincoln and Democrats about Rousseau and Mill” thing, I think the most professional thing in the university is for a privately conservative professor to be able to articulate and defend liberal arguments, and vice versa for a liberal professor. But since either professor is going to be charged anyway with being biased – as if partisanship were inherently evil – I’m willing to say “hey, I’ll just get yelled by you idiots for being biased, because what I have to teach will outlast your petty name-calling.”

    Of course, all of this depends on close-reading, which is less about reading and really more about learning to articulate good questions and examine them with rigor. And hahahaha wouldn’t you know it but some of the dumbest and most powerful voices in the academy – on both the Left and Right – think that people thinking for themselves is something that shouldn’t be allowed.

    We’ll win back education for the thoughtful. But it can’t really start in the classroom. It has to start here, in willingness to be open to something new in our everyday lives.

  4. Maybe I just can’t understand why some learned and named professors wouldn’t want people to think, but it would seem to me that there is a depressing lack of faith. I know a Lincoln scholar who went to a public high school to speak some years back, telling the teachers to circulate the Gettysburg Address a week beforehand. When he met with the students and asked what they liked best that they had read about Lincoln, one student broke a long silence and shyly responded that their teacher had told them it would do them any good — they couldn’t understand it.

    That isn’t even an issue of partisanship — that is a crisis of belief in self-government completely! Regardless of one’s political stripe, that is a travesty.

    Those truly committed to this idea of educating people are doing great work though, and close to my town you could even hear a professor speak on any number of topics — open to the public. Maybe this is an exception to the rule, but the thing is…people show up! And there are better things to talk about than the John Birch Society apparently has on its plate, as you point out.

  5. Also, I find what you said about “a better case for submission to Biblical authority” interesting. Do you mean something like the teaching of the book of Job — in so many words, “you’re human, don’t argue against God”? I would be impressed to hear a teacher/professor go to lengths to explain why someone shouldn’t argue; maybe that happens in some private education, but I would have no idea.

    I don’t want to neglect the rest of what you’ve written about Palin, but I found that part particularly interesting, and it is something that raises contention with her. I remember watching some vid on YouTube of Matt Damon (!) presumptuously (I don’t know if she thinks this or not) saying, “I really want to know if she thinks dinosaurs were around 4,000 years ago.”

  6. Definitely a nice post on Sarah- We really didn’t know much about her and the media is absolute immature sensationalist garbage. While I may not have supported her in the last election you really have to respect such an up front woman… and she seems relatively trustworthy.

  7. Sarah Palin could not push a smooth rock down a steep hill. And she will never, ever, ever hold national office. Ever.

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