Why Sarah Palin Doesn't 'Get' Free Markets
By Staff News & Analysis - November 14, 2009

By the third week in September, a "Free Sarah" campaign was under way and the press at large was growing increasingly critical of the McCain camp's decision to keep me, my family and friends back home, and my governor's staff all bottled up. Meanwhile, the question of which news outlet would land the first interview was a big deal, as it always is with a major party candidate. From the beginning, Nicolle [Wallace] pushed for Katie Couric and the CBS Evening News. The campaign's general strategy involved coming out with a network anchor, someone they felt had treated John well on the trail thus far. … Nicolle had left her gig at CBS just a few months earlier to hook up with the McCain campaign. I had to trust her experience, as she had dealt with national politics more than I had. But something always struck me as peculiar about the way she recalled her days in the White House, when she was speaking on behalf of President George W. Bush. She didn't have much to say that was positive about her former boss or the job in general. Whenever I wanted to give a shout-out to the White House's homeland security efforts after 9/11, we were told we couldn't do it. I didn't know if that was Nicolle's call. – Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin; Chapter Four; Section 8, pages 255-257

Dominant Social Theme: Free at last!

Free-Market Analysis: We've indicated before that we believe Sarah Palin is being positioned by her handlers as a free-market proponent. Yet her problem and theirs is that she shows little sign of lessening her sympathies for America's increasingly massive intel-security network and world-spanning military industrial complex.

The evidence is unmistakable, in our humble opinion, and points to a larger strategic problem the Republican party and its backers face. They need to finesse a contradiction in terms, a fix they find themselves in, in which they have to support both free-markets and the world's most dominant military empire. They are struggling, in a sense, with how to co-opt the language of American libertarianism as propounded by its major political proponent Ron Paul (R-Tex) and literally millions of supporters (many young), while leaving intact unspoken larger sociopolitical and strategic alliances with the American military machine. Sarah Palin is an attractive, living metaphor of this effort. But unfortunately for her, the score is not in her or her party's favor. Contradiction: one, Finesse: zero.

But let's back up a bit and take a longer look. The Republican party, like the Democratic one writ small, is a party of the empire. The conversation is actually fairly simple. The Democratic party poses as the people's party, committed to fighting for the little guy and getting him a fair shake. But when the party is in power, it expands the state through higher taxes and Draconian legislation purportedly to benefit the little guy, but which really makes his life much harder. The Republican party poses as the party of business, including small business, and likes to position itself rhetorically as the entrepreneur's friend. (Lately, some of its proxies are even attacking the Federal Reserve a bit, though that's a story for another day.) But when the party is in power, it expands the power of the state by aggressive militarism and support for the military industrial complex – at the expense of the small-businesses it purports to support.

Voters may believe that they are receiving a choice by voting for Democrats who will expand the power of the state on behalf of the average joe or Republicans who will expand the power of the state on behalf of "protecting" American free enterprise. In fact, both are parties of increased state power (and consequently taxes, regulation and general civil oppression) – and thus in many ways are two sides of the same coin. The party and platform that stands athwart the DemoPubs is the Libertarian party which promises – or should promise – to roll BACK the power of the state.

The language of the American Libertarian party is (or should be) the language of the country's founders, specifically Thomas Jefferson who, along with proponents, was well aware of the damage that the state could do, especially federal power. The language of the Libertarian party is (or should be) both free-market and anti-empire (militaristic). There is no similar rhetoric to be found anymore within the American Democratic party context. Democrats may occasionally speak to issues of national security and self-defense (of the realm and empire, in fact) but mostly Democrats speak the language of socialism, of protecting the average joe through an expansion of state power.

Republicans, however, still have a significant rhetorical commonality with those who espouse freedom and civil society. This overlap has to do with an endorsement of free-market principles. However, the problem for the American Republican party is that it is virtually schizophrenic at this point, in that it must appeal to its free-market base while making sure (sotto voce) that America's powerful military and security establishment itself is both palliated and satisfied. Democrats must do the same, but it is not such a problem for Democrats, since Democratic rhetoric generally advocates the use of state power in all its forms in the pursuit of "justice."

It is the misfortune of Republicans that they are stuck with the more schizophrenic message of the two major parties. The brain-trust has tried in recent years to minimize the schizophrenia by speaking of a strong national defense and of fighting terror – but no amount of rhetoric can disguise the bottom-line support for a trillion-dollar military industrial complex with an increasingly aggressive and armed domestic intel apparatus and a thousand overseas military bases. Such an establishment is profoundly anti-free market and will, eventually, prove insupportable financially and politically.

In the pre-Internet age, this schizophrenia was not quite so noticeable. But in the post-Internet era, with a genuine swelling of appreciation for Jeffersonian principles and laissez faire, the militaristic and pro-empire stance of the Republicans is increasingly problematic, one that threatens the entire two-party (one coin) system. There is only one way out for Republicans, as desperate and unworkable as it is. They must further deemphasize their support for empire and increase the level of rhetoric for free-markets, in the hopes that they will continue to confuse and then co-opt the tens of millions of American voters that are culturally pro-business and supportive of free-market entrepreneurialism.

Into this delicate balancing act steps Sarah Palin. We believe she is no less a creature of the Republican power brokers than anyone else that sits at the heart of the American political machinery. However, she is a woman with an increasingly fervent free-market vocabulary and a "rogue" spirit that is supposed to attract disillusioned free-market types to her banner. Yet the trouble with Sarah Palin is the trouble with the larger Republican party; the rhetoric cannot disguise the conflicting agendas and in Palin's case, most astonishingly, they cannot disguise (and certainly not re-erect) her intellectual framework such as it is.

Which brings us to the above EXCERPT from her new book, Going Rogue.

Sarah Palin has always evinced support for the American military-industrial complex, obscuring the extent of it, in our opinion, with vague sentiments regarding "patriotism" and "support for the troops." But in this excerpt, above, Sarah Palin goes on record as wishing to give a "shout out" to Homeland Security.

This is absolutely astonishing within the context of what the Republican leadership is trying to do, as described above. Do they really believe that those increasing American millions educated by the Internet are approving of the indescribably bad and bureaucratic Department of Homeland Security? (One could spend a week alone mulling the bizarre Orwellian intimations of the nomenclature). When it comes to America's swelling tide of free-market proponents, Palin's entire brand is likely vitiated, if not fully eviscerated by her vocal support for the American military and its extensive holdings.

No, this is not good. It will doom the Palin bandwagon before it starts. One needs to win over the swelling free-market intelligentsia (even those modest remnants associated with the Bell!) before one wins over the larger free-market movement. But if Palin is to be the Evita Peron of American politics, the first woman of the right and the free-market avenger of the left, then she will have to do better than this. Her foot-in-mouth disease (book-in-mouth?) is likely to be quite damaging to her. Her foreign relations experience is burnished by her physical proximity to Russia, she tells us. She declines to offer the title of a single magazine she has read in a national interview. Now she wishes to give a "shout out" to the Department of Homeland security (as if the entire merciless machinery was a special friend of hers). It really is astonishing.

We have commented before on the lack of PR expertise as it affects the monetary elite. Mostly it comes down to the inability to defend the indefensible. Ben Bernanke has done himself and his institution no good with his imperious performances on Capitol Hill. True, the policies – dominant social themes – of the monetary elite are quite clever and persuasive. But when it comes to defending them, or portraying them publicly, the messaging starts to fall apart. It is one thing to work covertly and behind the scenes. It is another thing to project a credible and overt public face.

We see in Sarah Palin all the contradictions and difficulties that the monetary elite faces these days. In other venues long ago we reported the two-party system might be impossible to save in America once the Internet began to bite. We believed that libertarian-minded Republicans and Democrats alike might split off to form what amounts to a third party. If it is impossible to form such a party within the system (and, yes, the Republican brain-trust may try as well, but only as a strategic feint), then extracurricular approaches will be pondered. The strategy the Republicans are attempting, that of co-opting the Libertarian movement by emphasizing free-market principles and down-playing an obvious partiality to empire is likely not to work, or not to convince, anyway. It will always be betrayed by the understandable weakness of human nature.

After Thoughts

Sarah Palin is not an automaton but seems very much a creature of action rather than contemplation. There is nothing wrong with this type of person, generally, and in fact within a private-market setting such a charismatic individual may be a real asset to a venture or company. But at a time when the Republican party is attempting in our opinion to launch the political equivalent of a domestic special ops mission – convincing free-market voters generally of something it is not (and with more vehemence than every before) – the chosen (political) special agents will have to be very careful of their words and their positioning. Yet this is an almost impossible task given who and what politicians tend to be. Yes, the brain trust has its work cut out for it with Sarah Palin. But let us not be too harsh. It is a nearly impossible task, as the future may show.