Friday, March 25, 2011

Governor Palin's Role--Point Guard or Cheerleader?

In recent weeks, it seems that the chorus of voices telling Governor Palin what she should or should not do has grown louder and louder. Earlier this week, Bill Kristol asserted that Governor Palin should not and could not be the GOP nominee for President in 2012. Andrew Breitbart and Ann Coulter have also weighed in recently on Governor Palin's presidential possibilities, both of them stating that it would be a "step down" for her to run for the presidency or that the presidency is "beneath her". Breitbart and others have asserted that Governor Palin's best place in politics would be as Kingmaker or Queenmaker--cheering on from the sidelines those who are in the game. All of these assertions begs the question--can you really ask a point guard to take the role of a cheerleader?

In Kristol's assertion about Governor Palin's potential for a 2012 run and nomination, he first disrespects both Governor Palin and the American electorate. Kristol stated that Governor Palin was " unlikely to be the Republican nominee, and to be honest I think she probably shouldn't be the Republican nominee for president". In response to Kristol's ridiculous statement, Mark Levin tweeted on Wednesday:
Thanks Bill but, frankly, who asked? We believe in the real democracy project here, and the people will decide. http://fb.me/UJLwfH2d

Levin is right. To be sure, pundits' and talking heads' jobs involve discussing political campaigns, polls, and the viability and potential of possible candidates. However, Kristol said Governor Palin shouldn't be the Republican nominee, which is not his call to make. That judgement is left to the American people through their vote, not the pundocracy through their megaphone. Kristol is entitled to his opinion, but he's not entitled to shape the opinion of the entire electorate.

Kristol also laughably stated that Governor Palin hadn't taken the lead on the issues since stepping aide from the Governor's office:
I thought she had a real chance to take the lead on a few policy issues, do a little more in terms of framing the policy agenda. I don't think she's done that.

Governor Palin has taken the lead on several issues since stepping aside from the Governor's office. Dare I say, she's effectively been running point for the conservative offense since she was announced as Senator McCain's running mate. Governor Palin has both taken the lead on many issues and has even influenced the Obama administration to take action on a few occasions. Governor Palin made a strong statement on the war an Afghanistan in Augusts of 2009 signing on to a letter to President Obama with Bill Kristol himself--something he seemingly forgot. Governor Palin's famous "death panel" Facebook post laid out the problems of rationing, bioethical concerns, and the improper role of government in the health care reform proposal of Democrats. She framed the debate by framing both the rhetoric and the policy. She has taken a lead on the issues by warning of the problems of quantitative easing and the resulting rise in commodity prices that would follow. She is the only potential Presidential candidate to endorse Congressman Ryan's roadmap-- a serious and effective way to address entitlement reform and our massive national debt. Of course, no one can call plays on the issue of energy independence better than Governor Palin, recognizing both the problems with the inhibitory policies of the current administration and the solutions needed to make America energy independent. When President Obama showed a complete lack of leadership and total ineptness following the oil spill in the Gulf last Spring, Governor Palin encouraged him to meet with the head of BP to appropriately address the spill, and eight days later, President Obama did. During the uprisings in Egypt, Governor Palin called for President Obama to also ensure that the people of Iran were equally supported in their struggle for freedom, and the next day President Obama made a statement to call for the Iranian people to be allowed freedom. In short, Governor Palin has taken indeed taken the lead.

In spite of the fact that Governor Palin has indeed led on the issues, people like Andrew Breitbart assert that she would be better suited to be a cheerleader for other conservatives:
“I think the presidency is beneath her,” the conservative media activist told GQ. “There's more power in being Oprah Winfrey than in being Barack Obama. It would be my goal for Palin to become Oprah and be the ultimate kingmaker for 20-odd years.”

There's a lot to say about the influence over culture that a figure like Oprah has. In recent years with the increase in the use of social media and a 24/7 news cycle, people have the opportunity to influence the political landscape without taking a definitive lead on the policy. This is how Governor Palin has the potential to be what Breitbart characterizes as the "ultimate kingmaker", or essentially a cheerleader. In this role of cheerleader, Governor Palin would be a voice of support for the ideas and policies being in acted on the "court" and for those who seek to play the game. However, there's no room for leadership when you're relegated to the role of cheerleader, and as mentioned earlier Governor Palin has lead on so many issues both in her firm stances on issues and in her stellar gubernatorial achievements ranging from energy independence to frugal budgeting to ethics reform. Governor Palin uses social media and traditional media effectively, but she uses media as a tool, not as a her operational framework.Her ability to influence is enhanced by the media, but not driven by it.

In Breitbart's comments he indicates that he thinks that greater power lies in being an "Oprah" figure than in being a president, and Ann Coulter's comments indicate that she thinks Governor Palin would lose influence and power by running for President. These two individuals are missing two critical points in their argument--the political shift in leadership that would occur if Governor Palin is elected president and the unique perspective held by Governor Palin regarding elected office.

In their comments, Breitbart and Coulter must be conceding that if Governor Palin doesn't run for the presidency in 2012 that President Obama will be re-elected. How else can they assert that Governor Palin maintains her "power" only if she does not run? Governor Palin's current political "power and influence" lie in the fact that she provides the most stark contrast of President Obama and his policies. Through her ability to community effectively, Governor Palin has been able to frame the debate rhetorically as well. Governor Palin replacing President Obama in the Oval Office, in a sense, changes her level of influence. Being placed in presidential leadership mean that she no longer provides the stark contrast in policy because she becomes both the new point of comparison and the President. Governor Palin's new level of influence now lies not in the contrast between herself and President Obama, but in her ability to clean up the mess that she has been exposing in her previous unelected level of influence. In their assertions, both Coulter and Breitbart have created a false argument.

Influential in their own right, Breitbart's and Coulter's influence differs from Governor Palin's. They need to understand that Governor Palin does not view the Presidency as a position of power, but as a position of service. In choosing to run for president, Governor Palin is seeking how to serve, not how to obtain power. In her interview with Greta van Susteren on Wednesday night, Governor Palin laid out what characteristics she would desire in a President and why she might choose to run (emphasis mine):
I'm tempted [to run], because I'm still wondering who the heck is going to be out there willing to serve the American people for the right reasons. Not for ego, not for special interests. Not with partisanship that will get in the way to do what is right to get the economy back on the right track and strengthen national security. Who else is out there who wants to do this?

If Governor Palin chooses to run, it will be because she's motivated by how she can best serve, not how she can gain greater power. This is servant leadership--a term perhaps not too often used outside of evangelical circles--but indicative of a point guard seeking to assist, not to score. The decision to serve as "America's point guard" lies with Governor Palin and the American electorate, not with pundits who want push the narrative of the Establishment or project their own ideals of power and influence on Governor Palin.

UPDATED: Jim Nolte, editor of Big Hollywood, has a piece up today where he speaks about Andrew Breitbart's comments. Here is what he says in part:
Anyone who knows me or who has followed me on Twitter knows that all Sarah Palin has to do is point to the broken glass she wants me to crawl over. I’ve never seen anyone put through such a cruel, mean-spirited, public meat grinder where their family, womb, faith, gender, dialect, looks and culture are all fair game for the worst kinds of smears. And because she has survived this unprecedented evil with such grace and dignity – Sarah Palin is my hero. And of course I want her to be president. But when Andrew says that he sees her as the Oprah of the right; once again, he’s seeing the bigger picture — the pop culture landscape that shapes and defines our politics in ways not enough people on our side understand (you better believe the Left gets it).

There ’s only one Sarah Palin and she would make for one outstanding president, and like Andrew I will vote for her in a heartbeat and fight for her every step of the way. But it’s just a fact that the price of a President Sarah Palin is a hole in the crucial pop culture war that only she can fill. And only a wicked, journOlisting MSM would attempt to spin into a negative a man publicly declaring that he would like to see this one person lead the charge in a battle that has defined his life more than any other.
Andrew Breitbart has been nothing if not supportive of Governor Palin, but the role that he feel she should fill is more of one that is solely cultural, whereas many other Palin supporters would like to see her fill a role that is more political, and thus would transcend political and cultural lines. I agree with Nolte in the fact that, yes, perhaps a President Palin would leave a hole in the "pop culture war". However, isn't it more important that a gap in presidential leadership be filled? Governor Palin and her family will make the decision as to whether or not she will seek the presidency or whether she will continue to fight the battle on a different plane. No matter what that decision is, she has my unequivocal support.
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