December 3, 2009
Sarah Palin's Reagan QualitiesBy Steve Flesher
Sarah Palin has taken the country by storm, electrifying the grassroots conservative movement in a way no Republican presidential or vice-presidential candidate has been able to in a very long time.
The last person responsible for uniting grassroots conservatives to such an energizing degree was the great conservative himself, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan was the grassroots rebel to the mainstream media in a weary America -- entrenched in weak national defense and poor economic leadership, which barely withstood four years of Jimmy Carter. Come the end of 1979, fifty-two Americans had been held hostage by Islamic militants for 444 days, unemployment was through the roof, and national inflation rested in the double-digits.
As in the Carter era, Americans of every stripe are beginning to feel that weariness again. This is clear from a tremendous growth in unemployment, which correlates with president Obama's diminished approval ratings in his first year -- described by Gallup as "the largest [drop] ... ever measured for an elected president between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953."
In addition to the immense-yet-strangely-encouraging disapproval of Sarah Palin among the media, Hollywood celebrities, and every liberal, Palin also finds herself at the editorial mercy of "conservative pundits" like Kathleen Parker -- or David Brooks of the New York Times, who proclaimed to George Stephanopoulos on the November 15th episode of "This Week" that Sarah Palin is "a joke."
Brooks, who used to be a liberal, was also responsible for parodying conservative pundit William Buckley, Jr. Naturally, one wonders how much attention Brooks actually paid to the 1980 presidential campaign.
As is the case with first-generation immigrants like Arianna Huffington and George Soros, who come to America with an immediate desire to reform it, many conservatives are suspicious of liberal-to-conservative "converts" who enter their side of the aisle with a drive to dictate how to change it.
Moreover, while some progressive types scramble to suddenly defend Reagan conservatism by writing articles titled "Sarah Palin is NOT the new Reagan," the life stories of Reagan and Palin contradict their theories by revealing stark similarities between these two fascinating Americans.
Reagan and Palin were raised with similar values, attended similar schools, had similar competitive interests, and embarked on authentic, gradual segues into public service, with an undeniable connection to conservative Americans.
Just like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin was born in a small town. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, while Palin debuted in Sandpoint, Idaho -- both in February. As a youngster, Reagan had a job as a lifeguard and developed an enriched passion for competitive sports -- particularly football -- in high school. Sarah worked with her family, getting up with her father on many early mornings to hunt for the family's meat supply. In high school, she became known as "Barracuda" on the basketball court, and she eventually led her team to the state championship.
Just like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin never attended an Ivy League college. Reagan chose Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, while Sarah Palin attended local and state-level universities. Both obtained bachelor's degrees and sought work as sportscasters -- Reagan for the University of Iowa, Palin for local Anchorage news station.
Just like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin got involved in politics by taking small steps. Reagan began writing speeches (which often espoused political messages supporting pro-business conservatism) while working for General Electric. Sarah Palin got involved with her local PTA and ran for city council of her small town because she was concerned about how her tax dollars were being spent.
Just as Ronald Reagan did, Palin contains an instantly recognizable honesty factor among the grassroots. Through honesty, both politicians' careers in public service continued to escalate in small but definitive steps.
Though he was honest and had good intentions, Ronald Reagan was dropped from General Electric as his speeches continued to grow more effective and persuasive. Identically, Sarah Palin made a large handful of political enemies in both parties in Alaska when, with the people's best interest at heart, she took on the same type of establishment politicians and opinions which continue to criticize her to this day.
Two years after his dismissal from General Electric, and in the same year Sarah Palin was born, Ronald Reagan kicked off the start of his enormous grassroots influence on a national level by giving his famed "Barry Goldwater" speech in 1964. Similarly, Sarah Palin remained impressively modest while giving one of the most powerful and effective speeches of all time during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Just like Reagan, Sarah Palin was able to demonstrate how one lives and learns through personal moments of grievance and despair. Last year, the mainstream media went wild over Sarah Palin upon learning about her daughter's pregnancy during the same time she was being vetted by the McCain campaign. With Ronald Reagan, liberals in the media took aim at the fact that he was "the only divorced president."
Just like Reagan, Sarah Palin had been out of the country only a limited amount of times before running for national office. Even during Reagan's service to his country, his nearsightedness kept him from serving overseas.
Liberals and Republicans alike declared Ronald Reagan unqualified to be president, especially after Gerald Ford beat him for the Republican nomination in 1976. Even after four years of Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford himself remarked as late as March 1979 that Reagan was "unelectable."
Gerald Ford is not the only member of a previously-failed presidential campaign to make such a proclamation. Just last month, Steve Schmidt, who headed the losing McCain ticket, claimed that Palin would not be "a winning candidate" for president.
With the release of Palin's Going Rogue this month, Nielsen reports Palin selling an astonishing 469,000 copies in the book's first week of release. This trounces Obama's The Audacity of Hope, which sold 67,000 in the same period. On her nationwide book tour, Palin is reaching out to the masses and once again drawing record crowds -- and her grassroots fame gave Oprah her highest ratings in two years.
Just like Reagan, Palin continues to plow through her opposition, remaining successful by holding onto the nationwide support she had from last year while growing an entire base of new admirers from the bottom up. With the left and the elite Republicans scrambling for their best anti-Palin rhetoric while she innocuously sells her book, one wonders what they will come up with if she ever does run for president.
Most importantly, given classic Reagan history, and while some in the media ponder whether Sarah Palin will ever get support from Washington's beltway, all grassroots conservatives seem to be energized by the obvious: She never needed it.