The New Playbook
by

Even the dimmest Democratic strategist now realizes that beating a “lifelong” Yankees fan with roots in Illinois may not have been enough of a tutorial in how to stop real agents of change. But campaign operatives spend years honing political reflexes, and so Democratic talking points continue to trudge forward, limping from the beating that many of them received from the Governor of Alaska and her band of merry men, but still capable of persuading uninformed voters.

While I am not a Republican, I am, together with such disparate conservatives as blogger Charles Martin and rocker Ted Nugent, a self-appointed paladin for Sarah Palin. Accordingly, it seems helpful to review and rebut the most prominent of Democratic arguments. Martin continues yeoman service as a rumor buster, but I’m talking more generally about the signal-to-noise ratio that Democrats are now trying to find with respect to how they attack the Republican ticket.

The literary parallel to this activity might be found in Louis L’Amour’s great old western, The Sackett Brand, where every man in the extended Sackett family rides to the rescue of a relative who has been framed for murder and trapped by several dozen gunslingers on Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. One Sackett realizes that he will not reach that ground in time to lend his marksmanship to the coming showdown. Unfortunately for opposing cowboys, the man also recognizes three of them taking their ease in a saloon, and decides that the best way to help his besieged relative is to “trim the edges” of the company ranged against him. It’s the kind of ethos that wins both wars and elections.

What legacy media types have not yet realized is that Sarah Palin has a tribe (thank you, Thomas Lifson), and Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley is every bit the rallying point that L’Amour made the Mogollon Rim.

THE GENIAL BUT CREDULOUS afternoon host on a talk radio station in North Carolina spent two days echoing Cajun confidence man James Carville in a lament that John McCain had not picked Senators Olympia Snowe or Kay Bailey Hutchison as running mates. There are a lot of Republican women out there, he mused, so how does putting a state jet on eBay and changing your mind about a bridge construction project give anyone chops enough to stand a heartbeat from the presidency?

The obvious answer to that lament is to reject attempts to minimize the Palin record, which compares favorably to that of either banana (top or second) on the Democratic side. Moreover, as the talk show host seemed not to understand but Mr. Carville surely does, Governor Palin galvanizes the Republican base more than any other candidate would, while bringing impressive energy policy credentials to the table. Despite their years of federal service, neither Hutchison nor Snowe could turn the October 2nd vice presidential debate into must viewing the way Governor Palin has.

One could also reverse the question, and ask how 35 years as a bench-warmer in the Senate gives the Democratic candidate for Vice President claim to that office, especially when the standard-bearer to whom he now answers already has speechifying down pat.

The few Democrats who continue to denigrate executive experience in Wasilla and Juneau seem to assume that because Barack Obama befriended political players in Chicago and had Annenberg Challenge money to “organize” with, he must have run the city, at least in a metaphorical sense. In the mother of all circular arguments, Obama himself cited managing his own campaign as proof of his executive abilities.

Faced with nonsense like that, the easy rebuttal is to ask why Obama has a campaign manager, and whether management is the same as leadership. Confuse those nouns often enough, and what you get is what Obama has: a rationale for having voted “present” rather than “yea” or “nay” as often as possible. The contrast with presidents who believe that “the buck stops here” could hardly be more vivid: any buck that stopped at Obama’s desk would be tempted to plant a flag and beat its chest in an “I’m the first!” dance.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal had fun with email generated by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, but while Taranto swatted Plouffe’s attempt to define the responsibilities of a community organizer as “helping to elect Barack Obama,” he let another whopper pass unrefuted. “You know that despite what John McCain and his attack squad say, everyday people have the power to build something extraordinary when we come together,” Plouffe had written, as though John McCain were against “everyday people,” even though evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, starting with the non-lawyers on the Republican ticket, proceeding through winsome convention speakers like U.S. Army Captain Leslie Smith (Ret.), and ending with legions of rank-and-file voters whose humility contrasts with the aggrieved sense of entitlement that hobbles so many activists.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM now suggests that Obama should ignore Palin, because the election is about McCain, and Democrats think they can beat the old guy who did not remember how many houses he had on account of having married into beer money. They may be right. But Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Rudy Giuliani once thought the same thing, and McCain is not running by himself. With the possible exception of Oprah Winfrey, ignoring Sarah Palin is not something the media will be doing.

Embittered feminists sputter that Palin is “anti-choice” in the hope that the charge casts a spell against election to federal office. In this they forget that the “anti-choice” vote enabled George W. Bush to beat John Kerry. Moreover, “anti-choice” flips to “pro-life,” and away we go, because pro-life morphs easily into pro-mommy, and if some of those moms join the PTA and sign their kids up for hockey leagues and rifle range memberships, well, stranger things have happened. Leaning on recycled anti-choice rhetoric only keeps people from realizing that when the choice involved amounts to infanticide, being “anti-choice” is a good thing.

The continuing reverberations of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” are also a force to be reckoned with in this election, and something that Democrats did not have to face in prior contests for the presidency. Among other things, the “new feminist” thought of the late pope reminds anyone who sifts through it that chivalry is grounded in honor rather than condescension. The terms of the abortion debate have officially changed, and that debate is not trapped on the Mogollon Rim any more, either: When American Catholic bishops rapped Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for confusing fourth-century embryology with Christian doctrine, they moved with a speed they had learned from Pope Benedict XVI, and a confidence they had learned from Pope John Paul II. The bet here is that in spite of their creedal differences, truth formulated by a former Polish quarryman also resonates with certain American snowmobile racers.

A cousin to the anti-choice charge is the idea that Governor Palin is somehow “extremist.” Dahlia Lithwick of Slate thinks Palin’s nomination acceptance speech exemplified Republican efforts to “mainstream the mean girl.” Her pout is at least two ice cubes short of a tray, in that it falsely assumes that Palin is some kind of super freak, while confusing pointed criticism with meanness. The rest of us applaud pointed criticism as a useful tool for turning moose-sized egos into mooseburgers.

Other people have already pointed out that one of Governor Palin’s strengths is that she and her family are so endearingly mainstream that “mainstreaming” them is wholly unnecessary. In this, of course, Todd Palin is equally complicit, and God bless him for it.

Professionals on both sides of the aisle tend to miss this stuff because they still think in terms of books like The Last Hurrah and Dreams from My Father. They should be thinking in terms of The Sackett Brand, The Strongest Tribe, and The Didache.

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