Peter Brimelow [Email him] is the editor of VDARE.com.
We were in rural Arkansas, staying with my wife's grandparents, when the news broke that Sarah Palin was the GOP 2008 Vice Presidential pick. Lydia's grandfather had been showing his gun collection to her stepson, Alexander, and there were, as I recall, sixteen (16) of them laid out at the foot of the stairs, where they stayed for the rest of our visit.
Neither grandparent had ever heard of Palin, but her effect on them was electric. They instantly identified with every aspect of her—the blue collar husband, the church membership, the intense family life, the son entering the Army as an enlisted man (most American soldiers do not go to West Point, duh), the (undeniably principled) decision not to abort the Downs syndrome child, the outdoorpersonship. They even became enthusiastic about the GOP campaign, which they had previously regarded with deep depression.
McCain-Palin swept Arkansas by 20 points. But what seems to have been missed in all the uproar about Palin's just-out autobiography Going Rogue, and for that matter in much of the commentary about Obama's "historic" victory, is that McCain's wild gamble nearly worked nationwide too. After Palin's selection, Real Clear Politics for example showed him decisively leading Obama in opinion polls and the Electoral College through much of September—until the blight of Bush, the McCain campaign's own utter uselessness,and the worst financial crisis in eighty years, prevailed.
This is not, as VDARE.COM grumpily pointed out at the time, because of anything Palin has said on immigration, or on anything much else for that matter. She is a cultural rather than a political phenomenon. But she is none the less powerful for that.
Of course, it works both ways. The extraordinary visceral hatred of Palin obvious in the treatment of her candidacy and her book is equally cultural in origin—with the arguable exception of the abortion issue, which is a litmus test issue on the left much more so than on the right.
The plain fact is that Palin, who says she is half-Irish Catholic and half WASP, is literally a creature from the black lagoon as far as much ofAmerica's elite is concerned. For example, she remains scandalously unashamed that it took her five years and a couple of regional schools to get her college degree—she had to work her way through, she points out in exasperated tones—whereas Ivy League acceptance has become a sacred identity ritual for what Charles Murray has called the cognitive elite (and for its much-pressured children).
But the truth is that only about 40% of college degrees are earned in four years. And nearly a third (29%) of all degrees are earned by part-time students. So in this respect, as in so much else, it is Sarah Palin who represents the American experience.
The Palin furor, which Megan McArdle has wittily dubbed "Palinoia", is simply more evidence that the U.S. is becoming a heterogeneous empire. Just as Kevin MacDonald has identified the phenomenon of"implicit communities", into which people group themselves without really knowing why, so the historic American nation has identified instinctively with Palin. And its frankly alien ruling class—epitomized by the Obama Administration, which was decisively rejected by American whites—has not.
I have now read all 413 pages of Going Rogue—which, given its tight security, I can guarantee most of its critics have not—and can report that it's impressively written and organized, a great credit to Palin's ghost, Lynn Vincent, and, it must be said, to Palin, who presumably had the good judgment to select her. (Typical of what passes for debate in the U.S. elite, Vincent has been guilted-by-association asanti-gay and has responded by outing her own sister, noting that she chose her as a member of her wedding party). It also shows considerable political discipline, never criticizing McCain directly, carefully highlighting her support for Israel, suppressing all mention of the controversy over whether she supported Pat Buchanan in the 1996 Alaska primary. (She did. Buchanan, with typical chivalry, has allowed her to deny him).
Going Rogue is also completely convincing, to me, in explaining Palin's surprise resignation from Alaska's governorship. She was simply overwhelmed by spurious (as in dismissed) ethics complaints, the costs of which she nevertheless had to absorb personally. The Palins are not wealthy and it was just too much. Apparently many commentators simply do not realize that this sort of thing is typical of the modern managerial state and its legal bureaucracy. Of course, it means that only the wealthy and sociopathic can risk public office, and it's a reason why I called, in my most unpopular article ever, for vastly increased emoluments for elected officials. It should be noted, however, that Palin doesn't seem aware that, as Craig Roberts haspointed out, Exxon was very similarly coerced over the Exxon Valdezoil spill.
Two of Going Rogue's observations struck me as particularly acute.
She perceptively describes Ronald Reagan's governing technique:"pick your core agenda issues and focus on those" and have "a steel spine".
And she writes waspishly of "'campaign professionals'…my first encounter with the unique way of thinking that characterizes this elite and highly specialized guild. In Alaska, we don't really don't have these kind of people—they are a feature of national politics. Naturally enough, as the experts, they are used to being in charge…"
Comment has centered on Palin's criticism of McCain campaign manager Scott Schmidt, who unimaginatively but typically strove to keep her caged up. What I find especially telling is that Schmidt's first meeting with Palin centered on (of all things!) the Iraq War: he actually gave her "books on the subject, plus stacks of videos to review as we travelled from city to city so that I could review the war's history at 35,000 feet". Palin not unreasonably thought the campaign should be talking about the economy, then already in recession.
The intellectual exhaustion of the Bush Era GOP consultants is plain. The patriotic response to the war may have facilitated the implicit Sailer Strategy of 2002 and 2004, but by 2008 it was done.
However, I believe both parties suffer from these "campaign professional" parasites. They are an important hidden factor in American politics, driving politicians to do irrational things, like chiggers driving caribous to jump off cliffs. Right now, I think this"guild" is an important reason that the immigration issue has not surfaced, both for NIH reasons and because of the fear of being black-balled by their Beltway colleagues, regardless of whether it would work for their candidates.
So where does Sara Palin stand on immigration? The issue is completely unmentioned in Going Rogue. But, somewhat to VDARE.COM's surprise, we have to thank Rush Limbaugh for surfacing it in his November 17, 2009 interview: Rush Interviews Governor Sarah Palin
When Limbaugh asked Palin about combating unemployment, he got a worthy but boringly boilerplate answer that could have come fromSteve Forbes:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: We have 10.2% unemployment. We see no end in sight. The administration and others are suggesting next year could be just as bad with unemployment going up to 11%. What would you do differently than is being done now?
GOV. PALIN:…What we need to do is shift gears and really head in another direction because what we're doing right now with the Fed, it's not working. We need to cut taxes on the job creators. This is all about jobs, creating jobs. We have to ramp up industry here in America, and of course reduce the federal debt, quit piling on and growing more. But those commonsense solutions there, especially with the cutting taxes on the job creators, that's not even being discussed. In fact, increased taxes is the direction it sounds like Obama wants to go.
Of course, the unemployment antidote that is really not "being discussed" is an immigration moratorium. The 15.7 million unemployed in America have to compete against 1.8 million legal immigrants still pouring in each year. But I don't altogether blame Palin for not mentioning the idea because I'm sure she's never heard of it. (And she won't hear of it if it's up to her alleged discoverer, neocon immigration enthusiast Bill Kristol,although it may be a hopeful sign that his name nowhere appears in Going Rogue.)
In contrast, however, Palin is surprisingly up to speed on the Minority Mortgage Meltdown.
Still, amazingly, Limbaugh went on to ask Palin a direct question about immigration:
LIMBAUGH: Thirty seconds: Immigration. Can you do it in 30 seconds before we have to go?
GOV. PALIN: I can't do it in 30 seconds but just know that... You know, let me put it simply: Illegal immigrants are called "illegal" for a reason. We need to crack down on this. We need to listen to the border states where the governors there have some solutions and we need to get serious about that.
Our Alaska correspondent Ryan Kennedy wrote a sophisticated versionof the instinctive-support theme for us when Palin was nominated last August, not without resistance from other VDARE.COM writers. He wrote me about this exchange:
"Rush asked her about immigration in general and her instinct was to talk about enforcement and imply others didn't want to enforce the law. She coulda launched into amnesty babble. So she showed a little bit of tooth. Butway too little for the audience she was speaking to.
"But the comment about the border governors shows naiveté and/or ignorance. None of those guys want the laws enforced. They're either too scared of their militant Hispanic groups, or they honestly want the country swamped.
"Of course that Rush only gave her 30 seconds. I wonder if that was on purpose? I get paranoid sometimes with guys like Rush on this issue."
He added in response to my query:
"No I haven't given up on her. But my opinion of her is far, far lower than when I wrote that fan column a year ago. [An informed Alaska source, also an immigration patriot] is still a die-hard fan and I respect his opinion. But I kinda see her as still on the fence."
We have it on the authority of Newsweek magazine that Sarah Palin is a "problem". I leave the last word to my fellow immigration patriot Ryan Kennedy:
"Imagine the reaction if she had served up a big plate of red meat for our kind."
Peter Brimelow [Email him] is the editor of VDARE.com.