Palin’s promise: Same old, same old

After letting Governor Sarah Palin’s convention speech settle in for a few days and following the post mortem analysis on TV and the blogs, I’m reminded of many things. Let’s start with Thomas Frank’s book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

Frank outlined the remarkable and clever tightrope the Republican Party has walked over the past four decades, knitting together blue collar and rural social conservatives with corporate CEO’s. Frank describes how social conservatives often voted against their own economic self-interests because of a more powerful and compelling narrative that the Republican Party had crafted around family values, personal responsibility, military might and the call to shrink government.

Many commentators are already heralding Governor Palin as the new champion of the social conservative base of the Republican Party. With George W. Bush exiting the stage, it’s a role in desperate need of a new player. The social cons lingering suspicions of John McCain are all but forgotten. They’re excited now. The 72 year-old McCain just handed them a huge head start in race to succeed him in the Oval Office, should he win in November.

But if Palin’s speech reminds us of anything, it’s Richard Nixon and his pit bull (sans the lipstick), Spiro Agnew. All of the elements are there – from the bashing of the straw man “liberal news media” to the politics of polarization. Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, captures it perfectly.

To accomplish the passing of the social con torch, however, the 2008 RNC even went so far as to borrow a page out of the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” handbook — the expunging of politically inconvenient personages from the historical record. (Or should I say, “redacting?”) George W, the man whose social con mantle Palin is assuming, just got airbrushed out of the picture, along with most of the last eight years of history. His complete absence from the RNC’s graphic 9/11 video spoke volumes.

The unmistakable message: Bush! What Bush? Just keep fear alive… (and Bush’s policies too).


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