Pam Geller, in the kind of attack mode that some partisans today now think is “debate” and/or scoring intellectual points (NEWS FLASH: volume and rage do not always equal logic or facts), made the breathtaking assertion to the late President Ronald Reagan’s son that she knows what Ronald Reagan would think better than he does. She knows Ronald Reagan would just love Sarah Palin.
And she would probably also assert that she knows better what Nancy Reagen would feel on stem cell research better than Nancy Reagan because you see she apparently is one of these.
Two things here.
1. It is pretty clear Ron Reagan, Jr. is not the same politically as his Dad which is a totally different issue than Geller’s assertion. She is not the first one to scream at Reagan’s son that he doesn’t know his Dad, since those who will disagree with Ron Reagan, Jr. (he is considerably and clearly more to the left and is a progressive radio talk show host) use the common tactic you see in politics, on talk shows and in blog comments of going after a person personally if you disagree with him and trying to discredit him. It takes a lot less enegy to name call, or to negatively define their character etc. than actually engaging on specific issues and points raised in political discussion. And it gets far more attention.
2. Ronald Reagan won a lot of independent voter and Democratic voter votes not because of sound btyes or attitude, which seems to be Palin’s stock in trade at this writing (if she is a smart politician she will evolve from where she is now). He won them over because (a)he offered ideas (b)he offered a vision that he consistently held as a speaker, radio broadcaster, newspaper columnist and Governor (and he had many critics who challenged that vision), (c)he had a track record (which some liked and didn’t like) from having served more than one term as one of California’s most politically potent governors, (d) he reached out to those with whom he strongly disagreed.
His entire approach — stick to your political principles but reach out and try to build a coalition that goes beyond your natural base — is the anthesis of what we have seen from Palin so far.
Reagan used saracasm, but his stock in trade wasn’t snark: it was communicating his concept of his idea of what America was and could be. Now, his many critics will slam that — and that is certainly fair game. But had a clear vision that was not just platitudes or generalities or 100 word verbal sentences or attacking a given Democrat or Democrats. And Reagan never had that deer-in-the-headlights look.
As President, some historians further note that Reagan did indeed compromise and work with his Democratic and liberal Congressional critics which — this is forgotten today when Reagan is a political saint for conservatives — brought him some angry comment from conservatives at the time.
Have we heard about the Palin independents who are flocking to her?
Have we heard about the Palin Democrats who threaten to leave their party to support her and are now leaving in droves due to her message?
Not yet and it’s unlikely we will: so far she’s a political darling of the Republican base and unless something changes she will be a candidate of the base. And all signs right now suggest that if she gets to the White House one day she’ll be a President for the base and by the base. There is little sign yet that she is seriously trying to woo those who have opposed her or have doubts about her. Or even respect the fact that they see things differently than her.
Sorry, but asking them how their hopey, changey thing is working out ain’t a great start.
So Ron Reagan is correct: Palin may embrace Ronald Reagan praise him, and openly celebrate his birthday, and her supporters may feel that if they say it often enough as a kind of political affirmation Sarah Palin IS another Ronald Reagan but:
I read Ronald Reagan, I listened to Ronald Reagan, I watched Ronald Reagan, I talked for hours with my late Uncle in California about Ronald Reagan and I voted for Ronald Reagan. And Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan. She does not practice the style of coalition-expanding politics that Ronald Reagan embraced.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.