Conservative By Passion or Fashion?
By: David Bozeman
Kathleen Parker, who inexplicably passes for conservative, spent much of her latest column praising Sarah Palin’s ability to market herself. While not exactly lauding Mama Grizzly on substance, Parker, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek, acknowledged Palin’s knack for defining the issues, remaining relevant and keeping her critics on edge. “Instead of changing her tune,” Parker writes, “she turns up the volume. . .Don’t like her little red shoes? She’ll add a red leather jacket.” Provoking eyerolls, Parker compares herself to Palin, recalling her appearances to promote her book Save the Males: “I wore an aggressively feminine suit — pink with a bow in the back — just to irritate hard-line feminists.”
Thus begins Chapter 1, Profiles In Courage: The Mushy Moderates Edition. Parker, you see, routinely showers liberals, such as the late columnist Molly Ivins, with gushing praise, yet she achieved her greatest fame to date by suggesting in 2008 that Sarah Palin remove herself from the GOP ticket. She wrote, “A brilliant 75-year old scholar and raconteur confessed to me over wine, ‘I’m sexually attracted to her. I don’t care that she knows nothing.’ ” Parker couldn’t defend arguably the most conservative — and maligned — nominee on a Republican ticket since Reagan before her wine-sipping compatriots, not even by donning a feminine suit with a bow in the back to show solidarity with a sister conservative.
Today, Parker writes, “This woman is not to be feared or loathed. She is to be taken with a grain of humor and a dash of admiration.” Why the change in tone? Could it be that Republicans in general and Republican women in particular stand on the brink of historic mid-term gains? Nikki Haley won the GOP nomination for South Carolina governor and Carly Fiorina the nod for US Senate in California. Both, by the way, were endorsed by Palin. Sharron Angle in Nevada and scores of other women, such as Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, are walking the conservative walk every day. Sarah Palin the dominant political force has eclipsed Sarah Palin the national punchline. Could it be that Parker wants to be on the right side of history as it unfolds, the prescient voice who first called 2010 the year of the Palin-led Conservative Women’s Movement? Just a point to ponder.
In a related story, the memory of Calvin Coolidge, according to AOL News, is enjoying a resurgence, with our 30th president becoming a favorite of Tea Partiers. For years, conservatives have been reluctant to defend the legacy of Silent Cal, who served from 1923-29 and is rated a mediocre leader by scholars. Historically, he was eclipsed by the stock market crash and the FDR era, but the quaint country lawyer epitomized, in word and in deed, fiscal restraint, individual initiative and duty over self-aggrandizement. Instead of a favorite, maybe he should be the Tea Party patron saint.
Calvin Coolidge wins a new round of admiration every generation or so — Ronald Reagan hung his portrait in the cabinet room of the White House — but how sad that celebrating his shining example hinges on the whims of political fashion. Even Reagan himself was derided by the Republican establishment before 1980 as either too lightweight, too extreme or both. Today, every other Republican tries to claim his mantle, and even some Democrats laud him as a voice of reason in contrast to Palin, Bachmann and the Tea Partiers. But the Reagan who won big in 1980 was no less the father of modern conservatism than the Reagan who barely lost the GOP nomination in 1976.
It’s easy to back a winner, even when risking the enmity of your friends on the wine and brie circuit, while standing behind solid, committed but electorally iffy conservatives requires a love of cause and country seldom seen in public life. Still, conservatism welcomes all comers, even the Johnny-come-latelys and Dick Cheney, Human Events’ 2009 Conservative of the Year and a great American who, nonetheless, remained deathly silent in the face of relentless criticism for much of his eight years as VP. Ultimately, it is incumbent upon voters to discern which leaders are conservative by passion or by fashion. One does not have to agree with every position of Sarah Palin to feel her commitment to America. She has changed little since 2008, except for increased depth and maturity. Though not an outright endorsement, I submit that her depth of passion be the standard by which all candidates are judged. And she doesn’t need a frilly suit with a bow to rile her critics, just her courage and conviction are enough to do that.