Saturday, November 22, 2008

Loving Sarah Palin

We find comfort among those who agree with us—growth among those who don't.
—Frank A. Clark

A reader pointed out to me yesterday that my recent remarks about Sarah Palin do not illustrate the “unconditional positive regard” (UPR) that I’ve been advocating to help heal the bipartisan divide in this country. I have to admit that UPR has not been high on the list of feelings I’ve had toward the governor of Alaska since she first came to my attention in August. So today I’m starting a program of attitude adjustment.

Sarah, I love your glasses. And your kids are adorable.

There—I feel better already! Now that we’ve dodged the bullet and are in no immediate danger of a Palin presidency, I can afford to be magnanimous.

In all seriousness, though, I’d really like to be able to start talking politics with Republicans, libertarians, and conservatives, as well as those who are left of my position on the hypothetical spectrum of political attitudes. (Yes, there are some of those!) For most of my adult life, it’s generally been impossible to really converse with Americans of different political persuasions without risking a relationship. Maybe that’s why Congress has so often been too bogged down in controversy to take positive action and why recent administrations have degenerated into extremism.

One thing we may all be able to agree on is that our country is at the brink of something very new and different in terms of politics. It’s more than just a swing of the pendulum—it’s a whole new clock. When things change dramatically—whether in our personal lives or in politics—we have two choices: 1) try to settle back into our old comfort zones and restore our feeling of “normalcy” as quickly as possible, or 2) embrace change and try to use it to move forward.

I propose that we try to move forward.

In a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan made the following observation:

“There is joy to be had in being out of power. You don’t have to defend stupid decisions anymore. You get to criticize with complete abandon. This is the pleasurable side of what the donkey knows, which is that it’s easier to knock over the barn than build it.”

With all due respect to Ms. Noonan, I’d like to suggest that—donkeys or elephants—we avoid knocking over the barn and try instead to make room in it for all of us.

Here are my final thoughts on the subject of Sarah Palin: I think her selection as a vice presidential candidate was one of those “stupid decisions” that many conservatives thought they had to defend. She’s simply not qualified—and there’s no shame in that. Neither am I. In all probability, neither are you. Very, very few people have the unique combination of knowledge, experience, intelligence, and personality to run this country and be a major player on the world stage.

Ms. Palin is bright, personable, and fiercely loyal to her convictions—all traits that I admire. I really don’t blame her for her down-home populism, which plays well in Kansas, or for being firmly planted to the right side in a long-established culture war that she embraced but did not create.

I do blame her for confusing Alaska with the United States and not knowing her limitations. But so long as she is not a candidate for high national office, there’s room in this barn for both of us.


Anonymous said...

I believe there is hope for the kind of relationship among different believers that Citizen Jane discusses. I was at a party this summer where two of the major topics of discussion were religion and politics -- those two "no-nos" of polite society. Amazingly, even though people disagreed, everyone was civil and respectful. So it is possible.

The British have a longstanding tradition of "the loyal opposition": those members of the out-of-power party or parties are seen as having an important role in keeping the ruling party on track. Yes, it's partisan politics, but in a different way than we play it in this country. The focus is on what's best for the country. It's happened a few times in this country -- usually in times of crisis. If Barack Obama and John McCain are serious about working to bring the country together (and I think they are) then maybe we will see it happen again.

I'm hopeful.

Citizen Jane said...

Thanks, A! So am I.