The Education Of David Brooks

A poignant column today. Boy, oh boy, do I wish Sarah Palin was chosen because she is the real embodiment of Republican "reform". And I'm sure that was one argument that persuaded John McCain to pick someone he didn't know and who hadn't been vetted in anything but an almost comically amateur fashion. As David concedes, the reason we don't have Lieberman is because David's party is a religious organization that would not accept a pro-choice Jew on the ticket. So the first reason we have Palin is the Christianist veto, not some reform fantasy that exists in David's and Ross's and Reihan's brilliant heads.

And what has Palin reformed? Here's David's money quote on this:

The key fact is this: When the testing time came, she quit her government job, put her career on the line and took on the corrupt establishment of her own party.

Does David really buy this? Let's look at her career and what sustained it. I will use Wikipedia, a resource the McCain campaign might want to know about. In her run for Mayor:

she criticized [then-mayor John] Stein for what she called wasteful spending and high taxes,[5] and highlighted issues such as abortion, religion and gun control.[18] Though the position of mayor is non-partisan, the state Republican Party ran advertisements on her behalf.[18] During her first term, the state Republican Party began grooming her for higher office.[17]

In her first election, then, she's a fiscal but also very social conservative. I very much like her fiscal conservatism - although it's not hard in a state with a $5 billion surplus. But denying that she is first and foremost a Christianist creation is to put blinders on, blinders David has sadly been wearing about the Christianist right for a long time. I mean why would any small town mayor need to bring up abortion and religion, unless she were a fundamentalist activist? What on earth can a small town mayor do about abortion? Among the things Palin did in office, according to a fellow city council member, was propose to ban some books in the local library because they violated Christianist ideology. And look at the early involvement of the GOP hierarchy. If she is such a threat to them why were they grooming her all along?

Palin took on the Murkowski dynasty after Senator Murkowski passed her over to replace him as governor senator and appointed his daughter! This is why she took on the political establishment. It had ticked her off. David can dream all he wants that this was a reform impulse. Challenging the Murkowskis could be seen that way. But this decision was also the impulse of a very driven politician, seeking revenge. We all know the Bridge To Nowhere flim-flam at this point. But to give real context: in her second term as Mayor of tiny Wasilla, Palin

hired the Anchorage-based lobbying firm of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh to lobby for earmarks for Wasilla. The effort was led by Steven Silver, a former chief of staff for Senator Ted Stevens,[29] and it secured nearly $27 million in earmarked funds. The earmarks included $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs, and $15 million for a rail project linking Wasilla and the ski resort community of Girdwood.[30] Some of the earmarks were criticized by Senator McCain.[31]

Yes, she pointed out the rank corruption of some of her peers. But even her criticism of Ted Stevens was tempered by expediency:

Shortly before his July 2008 indictment, she held a joint news conference with Stevens, described by The Washington Post as being "to make clear she had not abandoned him politically."[41]

There isn't much evidence in her term as governor of any major Christianist initiatives or appeals - unless you count her family's bizarre personal life. But she is, in context, the creation of the Christianist movement, and her appeal is rooted in that subculture. David's own paper carries a vivid story on her base today. Money quote:

“I’m not that into politics,” said Delores Field, an Alaska Inupiat from Eagle River, near Anchorage, who does not consider herself a Democrat or a Republican. “I’m just going to vote for Trig Van Palin’s mom.” ...

Ms. Palin’s political career has grown along with her church, which began with a few families and recently moved to a new building that seats 400 and hosts three services on Sunday.

Steve Menard, a member of the church who is running for Wasilla mayor next month, said that although the church helped Ms. Palin’s rise, a political climate ready for someone like her was helping her national profile.

“You needed the right candidate at the right time,” Mr. Menard said, “to open doors for working women who share a set of values.”

Look: I understand the desire to look for the best. In the first hours of the news, I was dreaming she might even be good for gay rights. But reality is reality. Memo to David: Keep reading; stop dreaming.