Sunday, November 15, 2009


I can understand why Newsweek's Jon Meacham sees Sarah Palin as a modern version of Barry Goldwater in 1964, but if he (or the Obama White House) thinks she invented my-way-or-the-highway wingnuttism, or reinvented it, he hasn't been paying attention:

What Obama advisers privately refer to as "Palinism" has created a climate of ideological purity inside the GOP. To deviate from the anti-Obama line at all -- that is, to acknowledge that politics is the art of compromise -- risks the censure of the party....

As Evan Thomas argues in this week's cover, the Reagan style was one that might not have passed muster with Palin's adoring fans. Reagan realized that movement conservatives like him needed moderate conservatives to win and ultimately to govern. In 1976, in his challenge to President Ford, Reagan announced that he would run with Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker, a Rockefeller Republican. It never came to that, but four years later, in Detroit, Reagan seriously considered only two men for the ticket: Ford and George H.W. Bush, both men from the middle, not the far right, of the Republican Party. It is difficult to imagine the 2012 nominee choosing a more moderate running mate, not least because there are so few moderates left in the GOP. Even those of centrist inclinations are finding it virtually impossible to work with the administration for fear of a backlash from the base.

But Republicans were on the hunt for RINOism well before Palin hit the national stage. Recall the war they waged against the guy who was at the time their codpieced hero president, George W. Bush, on three issues: the Harriet Miers Supreme Court pick, the Dubai Ports World deal, and immigration reform. Bush had to back down on all three because of pressure from his own base.

It's not about comity between the parties so much as it's about feeding the hatreds that fuel GOP-base thinking. Harriet Miers wasn't perceived as a culture warrior who'd stand up to supposed liberal "judicial activism." The DPW deal and the Bush immigration plan failed to treat suspect groups of brown people as the scum of the earth. That's what's important to the base; Palin didn't organize this parade; rather, she used her VP campaign and subsequent pronouncements to get herself picked grand marshal. The parade will go on with or without her.

It's "Palinism" in that she embodies it, but it's not "Palinism" in the sense that she's a movement founder -- better to call it Limbaughism or Murdochism or Norquistism. And believe me, if she loses the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, it will be GOP Nominee-ism -- whoever beats her.

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