We’ve had a week now to process the news … it still feels like disreality in some ways. Like at any moment we’ll wake up and discover we’ve been dreaming this whole affair. But in truth, the dream is over … the dream of volunteering for the most thrilling presidential campaign of a lifetime … the dream of electing a proven reformer to the White House — at least in 2012. Much work remains, however.
Oh, I know … we could still persuade Governor Palin to change her mind. We can write postcards, letters, and we can even write her name on the primary ballots. I’m not dismissing those Earthquake efforts. But I really want to understand where the Governor is coming from, to take her words at face value, to understand what she’s told us, and where that can leave the Palin movement as a whole. (Kinda like how Luke, the budding Jedi, felt after Obi Wan Kenobi sacrificed himself to Darth Vader). I simply can’t believe she would make this decision lightly knowing full well where it would leave us in terms of a GOP field. I don’t think she said “no” just so we would feel obliged to beg her to reconsider. I don’t think she’s playing mind games with us, despite her renowned skills as a political poker player.
Obviously I predicted Governor Palin would run for president. (I also predicted the Phillies would be in the World Series. Look where that got me!)
But I also acknowledged consistently that I trusted Governor Palin’s judgment. I knew she was privy to facts and information and experience that I was not. Everything I wrote was a guess, at best.
So what facts, information, and experience convinced her to take a different path when we know she was seriously considering a run? We may never know all the variables, but here’s how I think things played out in the big picture … Governor Palin has always been good at making cost-benefit decisions. She does this without regard for her political career. She has said, “If I die politically, I die.” And this, incidentally, is the sign of an effective leader.
For instance … when some in her Wasilla community were clamoring for a fancy new municipal building to hold the offices for the mayor and city council chamber, she said “no” and proceeded instead with core infrastructure projects that would boost the long-term prosperity of her city and attract business. She turned down the “symbolic” improvements for the real improvements that would raise the standard of living for each constituent. Because there was not enough capital to do BOTH.
She took that same philosophy to Juneau when over three years she vetoed nearly a billion in special projects advanced by the legislature in favor of forward-funding education and saving for a rainy day. She knew that even though there was a surplus, lean times would follow, and that one of her jobs as the state’s chief executive was to give the school districts and other government entities more certainty to plan for the future, not having to worry about lean years suddenly cutting off their funding. She thought long-term.
How does this relate to Governor Palin’s decision to work to build strong majorities in Congress and win more governorships? I think once again she’s laying the core infrastructure for long-term prosperity for our country. She’s thinking beyond this election cycle, beyond the symbolism and yes, import, of a presidential bid, to the long-term solvency of America. We’ve already seen what a few reform-minded governors can do. Imagine a whole country of Scott Walkers! Wisconsin is digging itself out of a budget hell hole due to the Tea Party, Scott Walker, and yes … the inspirational leadership of Sarah Palin. And it is our strong Constitutional conservative governors who will be the next generation of presidential candidates.
There is also so much to be done in changing the make up of Congress. As Governor Palin has said time and again, Congress holds the purse strings. Congress passes budgets. Congress has the power to repeal Obamacare and reform entitlements and accomplish real change. Congress confirms judges and cabinet officials. Congress passes the laws that the executive branch must enforce.
That’s not to say a president couldn’t accomplish a heck of a lot. Obviously, Governor Palin needed a “title” to accomplish what she did in Wasilla and Juneau. But presidents are like the price of oil. They rise and fall in short-term swings. The presidency changes hands frequently. Meanwhile, we have members of Congress who have served for DECADES. We have members of Congress who have served through six or seven different presidential administrations. Incumbents are protected by their gerrymandered districts and win re-election a stunning 98% of the time. Congress is the REAL problem here. They are unaccountable!
Moreover, thus far we’ve only considered the “benefits” of Governor Palin running for president … we haven’t really considered the costs.
In running for president, Governor Palin possibly would have become the scapegoat for Obama’s failures. She would take all the flak (as would her family). It’s not just about the personal cost of seeing your family attacked. I don’t doubt that perhaps some family members opposed her run. But I think Gov. Palin realized that between the media and the GOP establishment, even if she survived the primaries, she would be badly damaged. She would be heavily outfunded. I think she believed she could beat Obama. But again … harkening back to decisions she has made in the past … at what cost? There is an opportunity cost to consider as well. Would Republicans build a stronger majority in the House? Would they take back the majority in the Senate, and perhaps build a fillibuster-proof majority? Especially when Democrats at all levels would run against HER instead of being forced to run on Obama’s record?
There’s only so much personal “capital” to spread around. A person can only do so much. I think Governor Palin recognized where she could play a very effective role in next year’s elections, just as she did last year, and how she could protect her family from the vipers, and build for the long-term.
That’s where we come in … We’re part of the long-term prosperity of this country. And I think Governor Palin has given us all the tools and vision we need to rise up and win this battle. As a Star Wars fan, I’m reminded of the way Luke felt about losing his mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan could have continued to fight Darth Vader straight up, he knew that others might not understand his decision, but he recognized where he could be most effective. He recognized the cost vs. the benefit. He needed to step aside and fight in another “realm” … so Luke and friends could escape to battle the forces of evil.
Think of the long-term … and think of where the real power is in this country. It is with the people … if we are willing to fight for it.