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Republicans Should Reexamine the Public Good of Private Citizens

11:15 AM, Jul 6, 2009 • By JIM PREVOR
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"I would think, if you want to run for president - and I'm not sure that's got anything to do with what she's doing - that the forum of a governorship would be a better forum than just being a private citizen" -- Senator Chuck Grassley

In that phrase, "just being a private citizen," Senator Grassley encapsulates both why Sarah Palin is so phenomenally appealing to the Republican base and how divorced the national Republican apparatus is from the core values of party members.

Is it necessary to say that the good senator, now 28 years in Washington, D.C., has it precisely reversed? That Republicans believe that the bosses are the private citizens, that the people who work in D.C. and the state capitals are employees who the private citizens have hired to manage their affairs for a period of time.

Such aggrandizement of governmental office is unbecoming a conservative. A slew of people have given up their positions in mid-term to take offices offered by President Obama. Nobody batted an eye. Yet the same USA Today in which Sen. Grassley was quoted above also quotes Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski as saying that Palin's actions mean she has "decided to abandon the state and her constituents"--a critique Senator Murkowski never expressed toward Hillary Clinton when she resigned mid-term as a senator from New York to serve as Secretary of State.

One could say that Senator Murkowski has sour grapes because Sarah Palin defeated her father in a Republican primary. Yet she never would have said it if Governor Palin had resigned to be Secretary of State. That would have "made sense" as she would have continued to serve the people.

In fact if there were a Republican administration in Washington and Sarah Palin resigned to take the most minor cabinet office, it would make sense to the D.C. power brokers, as she would be moving from the fringes of American politics out in distant Alaska to the center. But the base of the Republican party does not believe that one can only serve the public good by being a government employee.

When Ronald Reagan explained that "government can't solve the problem, government is the problem," he was not expressing some kind of "the state, my enemy" philosophy, he was just explaining that the solutions to our problems will not come, cannot come, from the government; it is only the imagination and industry of the citizenry that can build our future.

When Sarah Palin leaves behind the administrative tasks of government to fight for what she believes in as a private citizen, she can only be seen to be "abandoning" her state and constituents if one believes that only government employees can serve the common good.

This is a crucial "learning moment" for the D.C. Republicans. The core constituency of the party does not think of themselves as selfish brutes working in the private sector without regard for their country. This massive base thinks that by paying the taxes and doing the work, starting the businesses and rearing the children, caring for their parents and fighting the wars, they are doing the crucial stuff that sustains our country, protects our freedom and builds our prosperity.

Will this decision make it more likely that Sarah Palin will become president? The answer, of course, depends on two things we can't know right now:

First, we will never know what Sarah Palin would have done with the governorship of Alaska. It seems reasonable enough to think that she had become so high profile that the Democrats, and some Republicans, would have done anything to block her from achieving success. So by passing the baton to a man who is ideologically in sync with her, but who also won't face the opposition she would have since he is unlikely to be a national star, she is doing a service for the people of Alaska.

Second, we don't know what she will do in the private sector. Will she write a thoughtful book? Become a syndicated columnist whose ideas make her a "must read" for everyone? Will she found an important new think tank? An important journal? Spearhead an effort to help the unemployed? Decide to launch a business? Or maybe she will start a new political party?

Inconceivable as it must be to many in Washington, D.C., there are still corners of this Republic in which people don't think that issuing orders and spending other people's money is a dream job. Maybe Sarah Palin thinks she can change the world without becoming president. Maybe she is deeply and authentically conservative and isn't certain that aiming to change the world is such a good idea.