One should be given combat pay for defending Sarah Palin in Manhattan. The other evening at a lecture, a s0-called distinguished author of political tomes reflected on the declining state of conservatism and cited Sarah Palin as the reincarnation of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who stirred the ire of the country by accusing a huge swath of the State Department as being card carrying communists.
Hearings were held and eventually the Senator, an authentic alcoholic, was exposed as a liar and a fraud, chastised by the Senate and tossed into the rubbish bin of history where he belonged. The ugly comparison ticked me off enough to challenge the author much to the consternation of the passive audience who had been nodding their approval throughout the lecture, which struck me more like a rant against Governor Palin, and despite being cloaked in snobbish intellectual certainty seemed far more virulent than I had heard in other Manhattan venues.
Aside from the emotional and inexplicable ugly abuse heaped on the Governor, the characterizations of her as stupid redneck trailer trash, a lousy mother and ignoramus, the final fallback position comes down to this: Is she qualified to be President of the United States?
In defense, I often try to answer the question with another question which goes something like this: Would you deem qualified for the Presidency a failed small businessman of limited oratorical talent who had never gone to college? A puzzled expression usually falls over the face of my interlocutor, then a wary grimace suggesting that I am asking a trick question, which, of course, I am. When the answer is a doubtful shrug, my riposte is that “you probably wouldn’t have voted for Harry Truman.”
It is important to note that when Harry Truman was President he was excoriated as being a hack politician, an ignoramus, a dumb Midwestern hick and hardly fit to step into the shoes of President Franklin Roosevelt who had chosen him as his Vice President for his fourth term for purely political and demographic reasons, and then rarely consulted him or met with him in person. Truman is now revered as an iconic President who led us into the postwar era, saved Europe and opened America to its greatest prosperity in history. History is always a better judge of “qualifications” than under the pressure of contemporary political events.
In dealing with this conundrum, I have been recalling the suggestion of my great late friend John David Garcia whose seminal book “The Moral Society” was conceived by him as a lasting testament to save our society from ignorance and eventual decline. In that book, amplifying a suggestion by Plato, he recommended that people who stood for office in a democratic system should first be formally educated in governing, certified by a degree, then only those who had been certified should be further credentialed by running for a legislature at the lowest level in a town council, for example, or running and being voted in as a Mayor, then moving on to run at the State level and after election to gain experience in State legislatures or the executive branch as Governor.
Only after being vetted by that experience would a politician be qualified to run for the national legislature or for President. One assumes that there would be a pool of certified politicians eligible to run with the experience in governing that would assure that they have the qualifications to participate in the complicated process of governing.
If that system were adopted we would not be conflicted on the question of qualifications, in much the same way lawyers or doctors are licensed or qualified by testing and a board of their peers. In the system we employ today, the only qualifications are age, citizenship, ambition and the ability to come up with enough money to buy staff and time and space in media.
In our present system, any jackass with the ability to raise a potful of dough can run for office and get elected to influence the most important decisions that impact directly on our lives. A wealthy person who has made a splash in business or has inherited family money can buy his way into Congress or an executive position like Governor at his whim. His election is not guaranteed of course, but his chances are directly proportionate to his wealth or the ability to raise money and hire people to fashion his or her presentation designed to manipulate the voters.
The goal is to package and brand a politician to fit the demographics of his target audience, the voter, and get him to “buy” the manufactured brand. Anyone with enough money can hire the people who are experienced in packaging and branding. We only learn hat we have been hoodwinked after the fact when we discover that the person we voted for was a mirage created by experienced manipulators. It is the Achilles heel of our current system, imperfect, messy and often insulting and destructive. But, as Churchill, has opined, the best of the worst.
I have always believed that John David’s Garcia’s idea was an improvement of our present system.
Obviously, we are very far from his dream of a qualified and credentialed pool of politicians from which to choose. Nevertheless the vetting process of starting at the bottom at a town council and working one’s way up the ladder does exist. Tip O’Neil was dead right when he concluded that “all politics is local.” To me it suggests that governance is learned at the lowest levels, where the give and take, the balancing of views the compromises and small battles are fought which hone the skills and credentials of politicians and qualify him or her as someone worthy of our support.
Which brings us back to Sarah Palin and her qualification for higher office, at least by the standards suggested above.
Palin was a member of the Wasilla, Alaska city council from 1992 to 1996 and the city's mayor from 1996 to 2002. After an unsuccessful campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in 2002, she chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 until her resignation in 2004. She was elected Governor of Alaska in November 2006. Palin became the first female governor of Alaska and the youngest person ever elected governor of that state.
Oh yes, and she does have an undergraduate college degree, unlike George Washington, Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland and others. And for all you teachers out there, the alleged trailer trash’s Dad was a teacher of science in the local public school system. And to all those hard edged alleged feminists, to my mind she qualifies as well as a poster girl of the feminist movement, going head to head in a man’s world while balancing the rigors of being a wife and mother. And she needs no defense as an inspiration to parents with physically challenged children.
‘Nuff said. Frankly, I doubt if the dyed-in-the-wool Palin haters will change their minds. Hate is the most difficult of all human emotions to expunge.