Former Governor Palin’s presence leading Tea Partiers this weekend and her defiance in using questionable language at this time begs the bigger question: who should be the Republican rock stars leading the conservative grassroots in 2010?
Throughout this past weekend, I sat and watched former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin repeatedly and defiantly use questionable language during her addressing during two key events: a John McCain rally in Arizona and a Tea Party speech in Searchlight, Nev.
Yes, I understand: both sides of the aisle have used terms such as “reload” and “target” for the longest time when it comes to campaign politics. I get it and, further, I can explain it away—usually. However, at a time when the level of violence coming from the fringe elements of both sides of the political aisle is escalating to a point where bricks and bullets have been projectiles aimed at congressmen, I expect a former vice presidential candidate—someone one heartbeat away from the presidency if elected—to have a greater sense of decorum and responsibility when speaking in such a charged atmosphere. I get that, too.
Unfortunately, it seems that Mrs. Palin didn’t get it. At a time when conservatives and moderates are polarized against those supporting the current passage of “Obamacare”, the question Republicans must ask themselves if they are going to get the majority of votes in November is this: if they are going to capitalize on the momentum of Tea Party activism to gain wins in Congress, do they want someone such as Palin leading the charge?
After all, her book isn’t called “Going Rogue” for nothing. This weekend illustrated why she has been popular with Middle America, but also why she may not be the ideal person for the GOP to use as the rock star to usher in a Republican resurgence.
The Palin rhetoric this weekend played as a huge contrast to the tone and direction of Michael Steele, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor with regards to messaging in the public after the health care vote. Although the issue of language choice is significant enough on its own merits, the issue of who is leading the conservative charge towards November took on bigger significance as Palin was prominent on the campaign trail—both for Senator John McCain and against Senator Harry Reid.
At a time when the Tea Party movement has furthered its ability (rightfully or otherwise) to polarize America through its passionate activism, the thing that the RNC can least afford in its quest to galvanize Tea Partiers, conservatives, and Republicans together is to have such a controversial figure as Palin in any role of conservative leadership—perceived or otherwise. The Republican Party—under the leadership of Michael Steele—has regained the attention of moderate and middle America at a time when the mid-term elections can now dictate who leads on Capitol Hill in 2011. The reemergence of Palin as a Republican (or merely conservative) leader—after her fall-from-grace as governor of Alaska in 2009—could quickly lead to discrediting conservative candidates as a viable option for the general election voters in November. The Palin “hopey-changey” statements play well at Tea Parties and with hard-right conservatives, but as long as Republicans continue to have a double-edge sword to deal with (one where they must continue re-engaging the most conservative in America while presenting an image that moderates can trust at the polls), Palin’s presence in the front of the pack harms the overall effectiveness of Republicans in dealing with that challenge. Further, a politician that has a reputation for blatantly going off-script in regards to talking points is not the ideal candidate to be a visible leader of a political resurgence, especially when going against one of the best public-image presidents ever.
Mrs. Palin spoke of Americans (and Tea Partiers) reloading after the healthcare vote last week. Perhaps the type of reloading that needs to transpire for Republicans to be effective in November will involve making sure that she is no longer such a trigger-person in a swelling movement within conservative circles.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator, podcast co-host, and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .