Palin and the coalition

I don't think this is a particularly insightful point, but I haven't seen it expressed elsewhere, so here goes. One of the puzzling things about the Palin pick is her apparent acceptability to the national security and fiscal conservative wings of the Republican Party in face of her manifest unfamiliarity with foreign affairs and her clear record as a vacuum cleaner sucking up federal funds for her constituents.

It's tempting to say that this reflects on the fundamental unseriousness of the Republican Party or that this is just another example that flip-flops don't count if you're a Republican. And I don't really think that's wrong, but it doesn't explain very much.

The explanation, I think, has to do with the nature of the Republican coalition. The fiscal and national security conservatives are prepared to tolerate Palin because, from their point of view, she's nothing new. Those wings of the party decided years and years ago that their best hope for political ascendancy was to make common cause with social conservatives. That she is unreliable on fiscal policy and knows nothing about foreign policy, well, that's just par for the course. The only qualification that matters, from the point of view of the rest of the coalition, is that Palin brings her voters.

And by the way, the politics of this coalition go a long way to explaining how the Republican Party has remained viable while espousing an increasingly unwise menu of policies. It breaks down like this. In each major area of policy -- economic policy, national security policy, social policy -- one wing of the GOP has a free hand to set the agenda with guaranteed deference from the rest of the coalition. But this deference means that ideas which begin well outside of the mainstream are nevertheless able to attract broad political support. With, as we've seen, unfortunate consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment

eXTReMe Tracker