Monday, November 30, 2009

Sarah Palin Is Consistent....Sometimes

Since there are more important things to talk about than Sarah Palin, I promise this will be the last post discussing her for a bit. The problem is that watching Sarah Palin is often like watching a train wreck. Of course for eight years George W. Bush was something of a train wreck so one can't entirely ignore Palin.

What caught my eye over the weekend is this story on Huffington Post:
Sarah Palin dropped out of a 5k race on Thanksgiving Day in Kennewick, Wash. The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor quit the race because she wanted to avoid the crowds that were waiting for her at the end...

For all I know Palin's reason for quitting the race is legitimate. But the word that caught my eye was 'quit.' Every time she fails to show up for an event, every time she drops out, every time she ditches an interview, even every time she changes her mind, the tag of quitter is going to follow her.

And yet a politician should have the right to change his or her mind. It would have saved our nation a great deal of grief and trouble if George W. Bush had changed his mind a few times.

What Sarah Palin and George W. Bush have in common is an unwillingness to engage the world as it is rather than as what they believe it to be based on the extremes of their ideology and prejudices. Part of the reason President Bush lasted eight years is that he had enormous power at his disposal. Given all the issues that Bush should have been dealing with, he was a bit like an incompetent general who has such overwhelming force at his beck and call that his many blunders left him weaker but still standing at the end of eight years. Make no mistake, Bush left our economy weakened and our position in the world weakened through his steadfast refusal to change his mind at critical junctures.

Thanks to Karl Rove, George W. Bush was able to put the far right into his corner and get them out to vote. Sarah Palin, despite her many shortcomings, doesn't need Karl Rove. She has her own radar for right wing nonsense. That alone is enough to make her dangerous. That's why she was selected by John McCain. It's ironic, by the way, that McCain got deservedly labeled as erratic when in fact he's considerably more steadfast than Palin.

The bottom line is that despite all the jokes and silliness surrounding Palin—often invited by her actions, words and lack of knowledge—there is a possibility she will be the next president of the United States. If by some fluke she is elected and continues her pattern, she will be feckless and erratic while her handlers will insist she has a plan and knows her mind. And our country will drift yet another four years.

It would be easy to dismiss Palin out of hand except for one thing: many American progressives are exhausted. They have been fighting for eight years to restore at the very minimum some sense of balance in our system. Many progressives are acutely aware of what has been lost under Bush. For many, Obama is not, so far, the beacon of light many hoped he would be. It would be a mistake, of course, for progressives to throw in the towel. This is a generational fight, one hardly understood by a media fascinated more by how much their colleagues are going up or down in the pecking order than by the vast changes now going on in the world.

The Carnegie Endowment for Peace notes that vast changes are already underway:
The world’s economic balance of power is shifting dramatically. By 2050, the United States and Europe, long the traditional leaders of the global economy, will be joined in economic size by emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. China will become the world’s largest economy in 2032, and grow to be 20 percent larger than the United States by 2050.

If the United States cannot get its act together, we may see that change moved up to 2020. China has made a number of smart economic decisions in recent years but they are still generations away from making smart decisions on human rights and other issues as well. It may not seem like it at times but progressive politics will matter for many years to come.

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