The Blog

Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, Cont.

Palin unleashed.

11:51 AM, Feb 8, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Sarah Palin's February 6 address to the Tea Party convention in Nashville opened the 2010 campaign season. It's arguable that it opened the 2012 campaign season, as well. Amazingly, however, the left has decided that the most important takeaway from Palin's speech was the fact that she scribbled some notes on her hand. Say what you will, Palin responded to the criticism in her own inimitable way.

Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, Cont.

Here is my off-the-cuff reaction to Palin's speech. NBC's First Read has a roundup of media reactions here. On February 7, Fox News Sunday broadcast Palin's first interview with a Sunday talk show. During her conversation with Chris Wallace, Palin clearly hinted that she will run for president in 2012. No real surprise there; former vice presidential candidates have recently campaigned in the next cycle: Lieberman in 2004; Edwards in 2008. Of course, neither was particularly successful -- political dynamics change massively within four years!

But will the dynamic change between 2008 and 2012? It is plain that Palin thinks it will not. She is recasting the debate between D.C. outsiders who stand for limited government, unapologetic American foreign policy, and popular rule, and D.C. insiders who want to expand government, increase taxes, cater to America's enemies, and dismiss popular concerns. Only a substantial course correction by Obama and the Democrats in Congress could nullify the political power of Palin's argument. And such a course correction does not seem to be in the works.

Not only has Palin been able to absorb the hatred and mockery directed at her. She has channeled it into a full-out barrage on the Obama agenda that is forceful, direct, and compelling. The Palin on stage in Nashville was the same Palin who debuted in Dayton, Ohio, on August 29, 2008; the same Palin who gave an incredibly effective address at the Republican National Convention less than a week later; the same Palin who went toe-to-toe with Biden and drew thousands of supporters to her rallies. She seemed refreshed. She seemed more powerful than ever -- despite resigning her office on July 3, 2009. Ask yourself: Is there another person in the GOP who will draw larger applause when they address the 2012 GOP convention? I do not think so. The crowd in Nashville broke into a chant of "Run, Sarah, Run!" two years before the first voting in Iowa.

Palin's speech was a window into the Tea Party movement and the future of the Republican party. The reaction to her discussion of national security and social issues revealed that the Tea Partiers share much in common with rank-and-file GOP voters. Palin's emphasis on limited government -- her frequent mention of the Tenth Amendment, for instance -- and less government spending was an attempt to re-capture the conservative voters repelled by George W. Bush's big-government conservatism. The Tea Party movement is a return to an older, more traditional conservatism. Katrina vanden Heuvel is not wrong when she says Palin shares many similarities to Barry Goldwater; she's just wrong to describe those similarities with such venom and condescension.

The attack on Goldwater was that he was too extreme to lead the United States. The attack on Palin is already the same. I wonder, though, if the independent voters who are divided on Palin have less of a problem with her politics and more of a problem with her qualifications. In the Chris Wallace interview, for example, Palin was excellent when she was asked for her quick-hit reactions to various issues; her response when asked if Eric Holder should resign was a classic of direct, straight-talk, down-home political rhetoric. But when Wallace asked her to describe "the Palin plan," her answer was vague. The independents who are key to winning elections require more substance.

Still, the elections are a political lifetime away. Right now, there is only one politician who fuses politics and celebrity in the manner of President Obama. It is Sarah Palin.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers