Posted on October 29, 2008

Will Sarah Palin Lead Middle America Back to the GOP (or Vice Versa)?

It’s the day after Election Day. Barack Obama is now President-Elect. The Republicans are licking their wounds—and already beginning to think about their comeback.

What will that comeback strategy look like? And will Sarah Palin be an important part of it? Quite possibly. Here’s why:

Middle America—especially white, culturally conservative, working class Middle America—has been the GOP’s core constituency for at least a generation. This constituency put Nixon and Reagan in the White House. Both George Bushes tried to appeal to it while quietly phasing in a new core strategy for the GOP—a strategy that ultimately didn’t work for either one. As Newsweek explains it,

Karl Rove and his disciples dreamed of a conservative majority that cut deep into traditional Democratic demographic groups like Hispanics and culturally conservative African-Americans. Those fantasy targets are gone. African-Americans will almost certainly remain solidly Democratic in the Obama era, as will Hispanics given the realities of immigration politics in the GOP.

Faced with bleak economic prospects and a Republican candidate whose idea of economic “reform” is a continuation of George W. Bush’s policy of tax breaks for the ultra-rich financed with borrowed money, the “Reagan Democrats” are drifting away.

Barack Obama is welcoming them into his big tent. Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama understands that “it’s the economy, stupid!” He’s focusing on middle-class economic concerns. And it’s working.

Bush/McSame Republicanism is on the verge of colossal failure at the polls. Once that becomes clear, at least some thoughtful Republicans will start looking for an alternative. That’s where Sarah Palin may come in:

Unlike most top-tier Republican candidates, [Palin] owes very little to the party’s business wing and thus would have little to lose by taking an anti-immigration stand. Since joining McCain’s ticket, she has echoed his moderate position on the issue. But she could turn this into a virtue: yet another McCain mistake she had to grin and bear. She could use the issue as a jumping-off point to break the party from business altogether on things like trade, making a protectionist argument from the right. The inexperience that has dogged her this year could help her in the future; without a record of party fealty, she could easily dispose of any party orthodoxy that kept her from marrying pitchfork populism with the ideals of the Christian right.

No telegenic Republican has tried this since Pat Buchanan in the 1990s. No superstar Republican has tried it in history. In Palin’s hands, this strategy could spawn a movement.

Imagine a GOP that was willing to tackle the two single biggest causes of middle class decline: import of cheap labor from Mexico and other Third World nations, and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to countries like China and India. Throw in a cultural orientation toward traditional Americanism and patriotism rather than globalism and “diversity,” and the stage would be set not just for a Republican, but for an American Renaissance—a rebirth of government “of, by, and for the people.” Such a movement would garner mass appeal on Main Street, but would be deeply loathed by economic, media, and entertainment elites.

Will it ever get off the ground, with or without Sarah Palin? Let’s wait until after the election, and see.

Leave a Comment

eNews & Updates

Sign up to receive breaking news
as well as receive other site updates!

We will not spam you, or sell, rent, exchange, or otherwise share your email address with a third party.