Chris Cillizza Doesn’t Get the Tea Party or Governor Palin

Not exactly a news bulletin, I know, but nevertheless noteworthy for the longevity of the false narrative he continues to promulgate. To be sure, there are many other mainstream media types who promote the idea that Governor Palin’s primary, if not only, appeal to conservatives is due to her mainstream conservative social views. I don’t mean to single out Cillizza for this demonstrably false meme, but his piece in today’s Washington Post is representative of this fallacious line of thinking. In his piece, Cillizza attempts to handicap the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates in the context of acceptability to the Tea Party movement. In so doing, he begins with this sage insight:

The 2012 presidential field is already crowded with all-but-announced candidates.

But, there is a big slot left unfilled: someone from and for the economic wing of the tea party movement.

So, according to Cillizza (and others), there is no potential candidate associated with the Tea Party movement known for fiscal conservatism. After this rather nonsensical observation, Cillizza correctly notes that opposition to the unprecedented (and predicted) fiscal irresponsibility of Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress is what resulted in the genesis of the Tea party movement:

While the tea party movement was formed in reaction to economic issues…

Before digging himself into a hole:

…most of its leading spokesmen and women are more closely identified with the social wing of the movement.

Cillizza then runs down the list of potential candidates he deems to be associated with the Tea Party movement. He first mentions Governor Palin (I’ll come back to her shortly) before mentioning Huckabee (A Tea Party candidate? Really?), Santorum (I don’t think so), Gingrich (Two words: Dede Scozzafava), and Mike Pence (Maybe). Cillizza correctly notes that no establishment type candidate (e.g. Romney, Thune, Daniels, etc.) will be acceptable, and since all of the previously mentioned candidates are social conservatives, there is a big opening for a fiscal conservative to capture the Tea Party vote:

Given that reality, there is a wide opening for a candidate who embodies the fiscal side of the tea party movement to emerge as a serious contender for the nomination.

Heh. Back to Governor Palin. About her, Cillizza writes the following:

Leading that list is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the most high profile tea party figure in the country. While Palin has spoken forcefully against President Obama’s fiscal policies, her rise to prominence has largely been built on very strong support among social conservatives.

This simply makes no sense. Just because the Lamestream Media concocted a phony “Sarah Palin is a ‘religious fanatic’ who thinks dinosaurs roamed the earth just last week” narrative the moment McCain selected her doesn’t make it so, and Tea Partiers know this (unlike, evidently, Washington Post pundits). Indeed her entire political career has been based on fiscal, not social, conservatism. To be sure, she is personally a social conservative, but that did not figure prominently, if at all, in any of her political decisions.

This has been the case whether she was Mayor of Wasilla, Governor of Alaska, a City Council Member, an oil and gas regulator, or whatever. As Mayor she followed the Wasilla Municipal Code, as Governor she followed the Alaska State Constitution she swore to uphold, even if it didn’t necessarily comport with her social beliefs. In 2009 she famously appointed Morgan Christian to the Alaska Supreme Court, even though she took a lot of heat from social conservatives for her decision. The Alaska Judicial Council sent her two names and, as required by law, she chose one even though neither was pro-life. Is this something a “crusading social-con” would have done? As President, Governor Palin would endeavor to return the country to the common sense, constitutional foundation upon which it was founded. This is exactly what the Tea Party wants, Cillizza’s misinformed musings to the contrary.

Anecdotally, I have attended several Tea Party events. Everyone I have spoken to has the highest regard for Governor Palin…due to her fiscal conservatism. In fact, none of the Palin supporters I know (and there are many), including myself, could be characterized as social conservatives. Her appeal is to libertarian leaning fiscal conservatives because that is how she has governed. There are many Republican politicians who claim to be fiscal conservatives, but very few, like Governor Palin, who actually are. Tea Partiers know the real deal when they see it, and Governor Palin is the real deal. I’m not sure if the narrative Cillizza and others are promoting is an attempt to drive a wedge between Governor Palin and the Tea Party or whether it’s just ignorance…probably both. Whatever the case, it won’t work.

Cillizza does allow that Governor Palin is well-positioned to bridge the gap between social conservatives and Tea Partiers:

Palin, who is well liked among both social and fiscal tea party supporters, might have the easiest time bridging the gap due to the fact that she is very well liked by both ends of the movement. But, Palin is the most unorthodox of public figures so it’s hard to predict whether she would try to unify all tea party backers behind her or content herself with further cultivating her strong supporters among the social issues wing.

Again, note the obsession with “social issues” in Cillizza’s analysis. Cultivating her strong supporters among the social issues wing? What’s that mean? Does last night’s re-tweet of Tammy Bruce’s tweet fit that narrative? The Governor Palin I’ve been watching over the past two plus years has been going after Obama primarily on fiscal issues. Indeed one could make the argument that she is the most fiscally conservative of any of the leading 2012 prospects on the Republican side. Has Cillizza read any of her op-eds or Facebook Notes, or seen any of her speeches? After reading his piece today, and noting the dearth of reality contained therein, one would have to conclude not.

The mid-terms, during which she led the opposition to the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda, was decided on fiscal issues. Just last month, Governor Palin endorsed the Ryan roadmap to balanced budgets, to date the only credible plan that would both allow the economic growth and force the fiscal discipline necessary to achieve that end. It’s also noteworthy to Tea Partiers that Governor Palin remains the only potential 2012 candidate to endorse Ryan’s plan. Is this an example of cultivating the social issues wing? Governor Palin’s support in the Tea Party movement is strong, and it’s based on her fiscal conservatism. Perhaps in the eyes of the mainstream media, it’s not possible to hold socially conservative views and be fiscally conservative at the same time. But in the real world, people can walk and chew gum simultaneously. This is not complicated.



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