Beyond the Palin

By Perlstein, Rick | Newsweek, July 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

Beyond the Palin


Perlstein, Rick, Newsweek


Byline: Rick Perlstein; Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.

Why the GOP is falling out of love with gun-toting, churchgoing, working-class whites.

The conservative opinion elite is divided--irreconcilably so--about Sarah Palin's decision to quit the Alaska governorship. One faction says good riddance: The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer had already judged her unfit for national office 24 hours before her announcement, and The New York Times's Ross Douthat now refers to her "brief sojourn on the national stage" in the past tense. On the other side, the Post's William Kristol called Palin's quitting a "high-risk move" designed to catapult her to greater public prominence. Taking the longer view, though, the clash is symptomatic of the deepest strategic debate in Republican circles since the disciples of the Reagan revolution captured Congress in 1994.

For decades it has remained a Republican article of faith: white, lower-middle-class, "heartland" masses, fundamentally socially conservative, were an inexhaustible electoral resource. So much so that Bill Clinton made re-earning their trust--he called them the Americans who "worked hard and played by the rules"--the central challenge in rebuilding Democratic fortunes in the 1990s. And in 2008 the somewhat aristocratic John McCain seemed to regard bringing these folks back into the Republican fold so imperative that he was moved to make the election's most exciting strategic move: drafting churchgoing, gun-toting unknown Sarah Palin onto the GOP ticket.

But beneath the surface, some Republicans have been chafing at the ideological wages of right-wing populism. In intel-lectual circles, writers like David Brooks and Richard Brookhiser have argued for a conservatism inspired by Alexander Hamilton, the least democratic of the Founding Fathers, over one spiritually rooted in Thomas Jefferson, the most democratic. After Barack Obama's victory, you heard thinkers like author and federal judge Richard Posner lamenting on his blog that "the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party."

Such discomfort has been dormant for some time. Under the influence of philosophical gurus like Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol, the sotto voce tradition arose of flattering the sort of voter who drove a pickup truck even if he wasn't the sort you might want to socialize with. (Take, for example, "jes' folks" Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Long before his jet?-setting affair, after all, he met the jet-setting, Georgetown-educated Yankee investment banker who became Mrs. Sanford at a Hamptons beach party.) But Palin has raised the "class" question publicly among conservatives as seldom before.

Michael Barone, writing in March on U.S. News's Thomas Jefferson Street blog, noted that the electorate's portion of "under-30 downscale whites" has been stagnating, while the participation of both young upscale whites and African?-Americans generally has spiked upward. The pool is shrinking; thus he thinks Republicans should now focus on wooing upscale whites, banking on their disenchantment with Obama's moves to fix the economy. Author and former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently made the argument, on the occasion of the split between Palin's single 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, and the 19-year-old father of her child, that "it is marriage that creates culturally conservative voters--and young downscale Americans are not getting married. When they do marry, they do not stay married: While divorce rates among the college educated have declined sharply since the 1970s, divorce rates among high school graduates remain ominously high." In a much-discussed blog post titled "Bristol's Myth," Frum cited statistics showing that white women without a college degree are far more likely to have a child out of wedlock than their -college-educated counterparts.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond the Palin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.