Palin and Sanford: A Tale of Two Governors

Two Republican governors, both considered rising stars -- the "next Reagan" -- have been prominent in the news the last couple of weeks.  Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin are both conspicuously religious, both defenders of states' rights, both unabashed conservatives, and both relatively young and attractive.  One of those two, Mark Sanford, lied to the people of South Carolina, lied to his wife, and had an illicit affair.  He is now, presumably, intending to remain Governor of South Carolina -- at least until the Almighty, his wife, and enormous political pressure compels him to resign.  Sarah Palin has been the subject of odious slanders, hit with frivolous ethics charges, and remained committed to her family throughout.  She has resigned from office and only hints at what her political future may be.

Let us hope that Mark Sanford hears a voice from on high, and soon, which tells him that integrity and faith in God require him to resign, to reconcile with his wife and children, and to find some other way to promote those values he professes to support.  Right now, he is deadweight.  Sanford seems to be relying upon conservative strength to keep him personally afloat.  Sanford seems to be placing his own, private interests above everything else.  Is Mark Sanford truly conservative?  Anyone who wanted to win political office in South Carolina had better present himself as a conservative.  But Mark Sanford might simply be a poseur who finds the advocacy of conservative principles the most convenient road to power.  Actions speak louder than words, and right now Sanford's actions speak office above honor.

What about Sarah Palin?  Her resignation as Governor of Alaska hurts, really, no one (except, perhaps, herself.)  The voters of Alaska gave her their highest office to clean up a corrupt state, and she has largely done that.  Although happy to be the first woman the GOP has put on its presidential ticket and the first Alaskan either major political party has put on its ticket, that honor has made it harder, not easier, to be a good governor.  Sarah Palin ran for the office of governor to help Alaska.  If Sarah runs for the Republican nomination in 2012, and if she had remained Governor of Alaska, Palin would need to spend most of the rest of her term in the lower forty-eight states.  She could not spend as much time in her government job as Alaskans needed her to do.  Her family would suffer the most, as Governor Palin tried to hold one office while running for another office.

We live so much in an age of spin, an era in which cleverness is pronounced victor over character, and in which giving up power or office is unfathomable to many, that many pundits cannot accept the notion that Sarah Palin may actually need to think and to pray about what to do with the rest of her life.  That sense of proportion, the willingness to live life out of the limelight, a devotion to family whatever the costs -- those are the values millions of Americans seek to find again in our life as a people.

 We do not really need new theories, innovative programs, imaginative legislation, or rock star politicians in America.  We live in a nation that once worked.  Now we live in a nation that seems so much like the rest of the world.  What made our nation great was never Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, or other grand figures.  What made our nation great was the character of our people. 

Sarah Palin represents what Americans once were.  She is a traditional American in a political universe of chic Europeans.  That is her greatest strength.  What will Sarah Palin "do" next?  Ah, we can all ponder that, strategize, calculate, and gaze into our political crystal balls.  But when we exercise our minds that way, we miss the point.  With no special gift for prognostication and no way of reading the mind of Mrs. Palin, I can tell you -- with as much certainty as I can say about anything in public life these days -- that Sarah Palin will do what she believes in her heart and in her soul is right. 

The current Governor of South Carolina, I fear, is thinking about what will "work" in Sanford's career.  Will Mark Sanford's wife stand by his side?  Will the Republican Party accept Sanford?  Can he win re-election?  The outgoing Governor of Alaska, I sense, is looking at her life from a completely different angle.  This Tale of Two Governors is very much like the chasm in the Republican Party or, indeed, the chasm in the Republic.  We do not need glib words or exciting novelties in politics or in governance.  We need honor, courage, faith, and clarity.  Those virtues are not just the key to winning elections:  they are the reason why winning elections matter.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
Two Republican governors, both considered rising stars -- the "next Reagan" -- have been prominent in the news the last couple of weeks.  Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin are both conspicuously religious, both defenders of states' rights, both unabashed conservatives, and both relatively young and attractive.  One of those two, Mark Sanford, lied to the people of South Carolina, lied to his wife, and had an illicit affair.  He is now, presumably, intending to remain Governor of South Carolina -- at least until the Almighty, his wife, and enormous political pressure compels him to resign.  Sarah Palin has been the subject of odious slanders, hit with frivolous ethics charges, and remained committed to her family throughout.  She has resigned from office and only hints at what her political future may be.

Let us hope that Mark Sanford hears a voice from on high, and soon, which tells him that integrity and faith in God require him to resign, to reconcile with his wife and children, and to find some other way to promote those values he professes to support.  Right now, he is deadweight.  Sanford seems to be relying upon conservative strength to keep him personally afloat.  Sanford seems to be placing his own, private interests above everything else.  Is Mark Sanford truly conservative?  Anyone who wanted to win political office in South Carolina had better present himself as a conservative.  But Mark Sanford might simply be a poseur who finds the advocacy of conservative principles the most convenient road to power.  Actions speak louder than words, and right now Sanford's actions speak office above honor.

What about Sarah Palin?  Her resignation as Governor of Alaska hurts, really, no one (except, perhaps, herself.)  The voters of Alaska gave her their highest office to clean up a corrupt state, and she has largely done that.  Although happy to be the first woman the GOP has put on its presidential ticket and the first Alaskan either major political party has put on its ticket, that honor has made it harder, not easier, to be a good governor.  Sarah Palin ran for the office of governor to help Alaska.  If Sarah runs for the Republican nomination in 2012, and if she had remained Governor of Alaska, Palin would need to spend most of the rest of her term in the lower forty-eight states.  She could not spend as much time in her government job as Alaskans needed her to do.  Her family would suffer the most, as Governor Palin tried to hold one office while running for another office.

We live so much in an age of spin, an era in which cleverness is pronounced victor over character, and in which giving up power or office is unfathomable to many, that many pundits cannot accept the notion that Sarah Palin may actually need to think and to pray about what to do with the rest of her life.  That sense of proportion, the willingness to live life out of the limelight, a devotion to family whatever the costs -- those are the values millions of Americans seek to find again in our life as a people.

 We do not really need new theories, innovative programs, imaginative legislation, or rock star politicians in America.  We live in a nation that once worked.  Now we live in a nation that seems so much like the rest of the world.  What made our nation great was never Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, or other grand figures.  What made our nation great was the character of our people. 

Sarah Palin represents what Americans once were.  She is a traditional American in a political universe of chic Europeans.  That is her greatest strength.  What will Sarah Palin "do" next?  Ah, we can all ponder that, strategize, calculate, and gaze into our political crystal balls.  But when we exercise our minds that way, we miss the point.  With no special gift for prognostication and no way of reading the mind of Mrs. Palin, I can tell you -- with as much certainty as I can say about anything in public life these days -- that Sarah Palin will do what she believes in her heart and in her soul is right. 

The current Governor of South Carolina, I fear, is thinking about what will "work" in Sanford's career.  Will Mark Sanford's wife stand by his side?  Will the Republican Party accept Sanford?  Can he win re-election?  The outgoing Governor of Alaska, I sense, is looking at her life from a completely different angle.  This Tale of Two Governors is very much like the chasm in the Republican Party or, indeed, the chasm in the Republic.  We do not need glib words or exciting novelties in politics or in governance.  We need honor, courage, faith, and clarity.  Those virtues are not just the key to winning elections:  they are the reason why winning elections matter.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.