Published in The Tennessean, Sunday, January 16, 2011
Palin's character carries her through adversity
by Richard J. Grant
In autumn 2008, just before the elections, some colleagues asked whether or not I considered Sarah Palin qualified to be president. My reply was, “She doesn't have to be. She just has to be better qualified than Obama and Biden.”
Was she better qualified? Two years later, a poll by Rasmussen Reports found that “52 percent of likely U.S. voters say their own views are closer to Sarah Palin’s than they are to President Obama’s.” This was reflected in the 2010 election results when voters rejected the president's big-government agenda by severely reducing his congressional support.
Though few admit it, Sarah Palin has shaken up both parties. Character and ideas have consequences. It has not been lost on the political professionals that, after two years of observation, the American people show a greater affinity to the constitutional attitude of the hockey mom than to that of the “constitutional scholar.”
Political professionals never rest, and the worst of them never let a crisis go to waste. That is why a tragic, but local, event that men of integrity would have faced with dutiful strength and perspective has instead been whipped into a national spectacle of character assassination and cheap self-advertisement.
The shooting of 20 people in Tucson became the surreal backdrop for a modern witch hunt, the perfect opportunity to frame and smear a pesky opponent. The media's speedy and drone-like convergence of attention on Sarah Palin was too smooth to be an accident and too incessant to be real.
Palin's accusers, none of whom was morally qualified to cast the first stone, insisted that the shooting was the result of a polarized political atmosphere. Learning the truth about the shooter was apparently a low priority. Palin, and everyone like her, had to be framed.
Facing this, Sarah Palin stood up and responded to her critics firmly, clearly, and with an uncommon civility. She might never be president but, in the face of a media ambush, she certainly set an example for the incumbent.
But maybe she has already had a greater impact on history than her critics will ever admit. The more we listen to her, the more we detect a consistency of thought that improves with experience and refinement. We also see more of what we sensed from the beginning: She has something that runs deeper than love of country. She has more than just a gut feel for who we are and what it means to live here.
The party professionals who claim to hope she will run in 2012, because she would be the easiest to defeat, are bluffing. The clever ones are. If they truly believed it, they would not put so much effort into denigrating her, unless their real goal is to discourage everyone like her.
Her attackers showed during the past two years that they have nothing positive to offer. Voters have already rebuffed them. It is not Sarah Palin who has had to change; the president has had to change. His program is the pig begging for lipstick. He is the one now pretending to be something that he is not, whether we call it “centrist” or some other mushy word.
But at least he has had enough sense to change his staff and to bring in advisers who will spend the next two years asking, “What would Sarah Palin do?”
Richard J. Grant is a professor of finance and economics at Lipscomb University and a scholar at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. His column appears on Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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