Conservatives lining up obediently—no, eagerly

Focus on the Family has issued a statement expressing their complete support for the Palin family regarding Bristol Palin’s pregnancy and her upcoming marriage to the father, as quoted at the Corner. But of course the issue is not Bristol’s unmarried pregnancy and how the family is dealing with it—the same situation has happened a billion times before and will happen a billion times again. The issue is whether McCain should have chosen as his vice presidential running mate—and thus required the Republican party to approve that choice—a woman who has all these issues going on in her family. The issue is that McCain chose her and announced her selection, thus getting all the Republicans lined up behind her, with full knowledge that shortly after he announced her selection, there would be the further announcement that her unmarried daughter was pregnant. The McCain campaign itself told Fox News that McCain knew about the situation when he selected her. What kind of conduct is that by the leader of a party? Is this really what we want to be dealing with in the middle of a presidential campaign? Are conservatives now to raise as their co-leader and new icon a woman who is neglecting her children in order to pursue her political career and whose unmarried pregnant teenage daughter is getting married while the mother is running for vice president? McCain has put the conservative base in a position where it has to bend itself out of shape to maintain its support for the Republican ticket.

McCain has been lauded for his brilliant stroke against the Democrats in choosing Palin. But it appears that McCain’s truly brilliant stroke in choosing Palin has been against Republicans and conservatives. Which is no surprise, since, as we all know, sticking it to conservatives and defeating conservatism is McCain’s main goal in life, something he cares about, I suspect, even more than being president.

Update: But, no surprise, I am way out of step with the conservative base. They don’t have to bend themselves out of shape at all. Read the reactions at It’s an endless string of encomia for the wonderfulness of life and the fact that life is often messy and that many of us started out as the children of unwed teenage mothers and that the Palins are just so “real.” That’s what conservatism now stands for—getting “real” people with their “real” issues into the White House. Talk about the Obrah-ization of conservatism!

Or, rather, the McCainization of conservatism. Which is why I have opposed his candidacy from the start and still do.

- end of initial entry -

Paul Cella writes:

My oh my, what a wild few days for American politics.

Anyway, I’m not so sure that the conservative base will have to “bend itself out of shape to maintain its support for the Republican ticket.” When you think about it, what would the policy, so to speak, of the (mostly evangelical Christian) base of the GOP on unmarried pregnancies?

Why, the shotgun wedding, of course—which was the unspoken policy of America before Roe v. Wade. Especially from the perspective of the pro-life movement—which, as you know, is not the same as the conservative movement—this scandal, set in contrast to Obama’s appalling pro-abortion record, his statements about a baby as punishment, etc., might prove more uncomfortable for the Liberals. In one year the Palins twice demonstrate that they are willing to walk the walk on pro-life issues.

LA replies:

Paul, this is not about what should be done with unmarried pregnancies. Conservatives don’t celebrate unmarried pregnancies, so long as they result in a shotgun wedding. Such weddings are not desirable in themselves. They are a hard necessity, born of the unmarried pregnancy which shouldn’t have happened.

However, you did anticipate the fact that the conservatives would not have to bend themselves out of shape, which I’ve added in an update to the original post.

Paul Cella replies:

Oprah-ization. Fair enough.

I wholly agree that shotgun weddings are hardly desirable. But the alternative offered by liberalism—abortion—is infinitely worse.

Is it your view that conservatives have an obligation to criticize Bristol Palin and her finance for the reckless and immoral conduct?

LA replies:

All that the evangelical and Catholic conservatives care about is opposition to abortion. All that’s required for them to be happy is an illegitimate or defective pregnancy, followed by birth. They have no vision of social order, no vision of an overarching good, but have reduced all goods to the good of avoiding abortion. Which means that they embrace every kind of disorder, so long as rejection of abortion is thrown into the mix.

As I’ve already pointed out, the subject here is not the personal situation of Bristol. The subject is that a woman with Bristol’s situation in her family should not be running for vice president. A woman with an illegitimately pregnant 17 year old daughter should have kept it private by not running for vice president. Instead, she brings it before the world, requiring all Republicans and conservatives to approve of the situation in order to maintain their support for her.

The distinction between private and public has completely ended. The public sphere has been completely subsumed by the private sphere. So that if someone’s messy private sphere meets the conservatives’ requirements and presses their buttons (Palin’s daughter’s illegitimate pregnancy, followed by marriage and birth), then the conservatives celebrate that person and approve her for the second highest office in the land.

Gintas writes:

We could see this coming from a mile away, couldn’t we? We never got on the roller-coaster, but those who did will have to ride it out to the end. The coaster is called “Dr. Faustus’ Death Plunge” and it only costs your soul to ride. I guess people stick with it figuring they need to get their soul’s worth…

Dale E. writes:

I agree with you on this.

I had thought that for the first time McCain, in choosing Palin, was making a conciliatory gesture towards conservatives. Nothing of the kind. Instead, he did something quite damaging and risky, both to his own electoral chances and to his party.

Palin bears responsibility as well. If she had continued to serve as governor of a relatively obscure state for four more years, the scandal would have been old news, and mostly confined to Alaska itself. Her great local popularity might have made it a short-lived story. Instead it is at least temporarily the focus of national publicity, before an audience for whom she is a stranger. She must have known this would happen, and yet it appears she did little to protect her daughter. And, for what it’s worth, Palin may have ruined her own electoral future as well.

September 2

Paul Cella writes:

It’s not true that all I care about is opposition to abortion. I was just pointing out that, in my estimate of the facts, the pro-life movement will not be turned from its approbation of Palin by this scandal—not least because a very considerable portion of the pro-life movement consists of people who, faced with an unwanted pregnancy, were struck hard by the humanity of even unwanted babies. In short, the pro-life movement is studded with people intimately familiar with these sorts of scandals. [LA replies: Of course they won’t be turned from their support of her, because all they care about is rejection of abortion, just as I have said. So you’ve proved my point. As for the fact that unwanted babies are human, I’m glad to know this, but, as I’ve said many times, that’s not the point. The point is that a woman who has these issues going on in her family, at this very moment, should not be running for national office, at the same moment.]

You argue that McCain exercised bad judgment (if the reports are true) in choosing her in the teeth of this soon-to-break scandal. That’s fair enough. I do not argue in defense of that man’s judgment. [LA replies: it’s not a matter of reports, but of McCain’s own campaign telling news organizations that McCain knew of Palin’s situation.]

But I still think you and your marvelously articulate and forceful correspondent Laura are wrong in calling on her to withdraw, because you have neglected certain pertinent facts.

Above all, there is the fact that the revelation of her daughter’s pregnancy, while a shock to us, is clearly not a shock to the family. [LA replies: of what relevance is it to us that it’s not a shock to the family?] They first dealt with it some four months ago. They first dealt with it, as shock (for surely it was) while Palin was already a public figure, a governor of a remote state with its own mores and memories, isolated from the rest of the states and insular in its politics. (In fact the Downs pregnancy as well had to be dealt with, also unexpectedly, in the same spotlight.) [How did they deal with it? They haven’t done anything. The only thing they’ve done is something they haven’t done, which is arrange for an abortion. So, once again, for pro-lifers, the primary and perhaps sole morally significant act is the act of rejecting abortion. If people have rejected abortion, they’ve “handled’ the situation.]

To say she should withdrawal from the VP race on account of her daughter’s pregnancy is very close logically, it seems to me, to strongly implying that she should resign as governor as well. (Correct me there if you think otherwise.) The burden, as a mother, of caring for these children, children carrying children, is too much to allow a public career. That is a fair position, I think; but I do not think it can be advanced as a binding or absolute position. This question is one that must be answered in light of circumstances, principles, private intuitions, prudence, etc. [LA replies: This is not a matter of binding and absolute standards, nor have I spoken of it as such. I have stated as a matter of obvious and fundamental prudence that she should not be running for VP under her circumstances. As for Alaska, she was already governor when she became pregnant, so she couldn’t do anything about that. I’m not going to pronounce on whether she could handle her situation as governor. But being governor of that far away state of 600,000 people is not the same as running for and being vice president of the U.S.]

Now, the Palin family, it must be surmised, has considered this question at great and painful length, first with the Downs baby, but above all with the daughter’s pregnancy. Could she continue as a politician in light of these stresses on the family? Likely it was a regular preoccupation for her and everyone else for many months—possibility giving rise to all the rumors that the malicious leftists ran with.

But they answered the question for themselves—also many months ago. They decided that her public career should continue. That decision made, it is so shocking and scandalizing that they pursued its consequences when McCain’s call came in?

It is also a fact, as far as I can tell, that Palin’s whole political career as been largely unplanned. (She entered politics to oppose some tax scheme in her town, got elected to city council, then to mayor, and so on.) The political career has occurred right alongside a fairly common middle class life for Alaskans—a middle class life with, as we now know, some unusual but hardly unheard-of complications. [LA replies: well, heck, the rise of the Roman empire was unplanned, too. It’s not a relevant point.]

So I would ask you to reconsider on the grounds that the shock you feel, I feel, and many other feel as well, is not, in fact, shared by Sarah Palin and her family. [LA replies: I am unable to discern why you think this is a relevant argument.]

But she has made her choice. And I suppose I should admit that, as a matter of sympathy, intuition, familiarity—prejudice, to put it boldly—I root for Palin. She could be a woman in my church, a family member, etc. It’s not wrong to favor politicians, in addition to rational evidence, on the grounds of prejudice. This, it seems to me, is a fair conservative position. [LA replies: You seem to confirm an argument I’ve made before, that for many conservatives, it comes down to emotional identification with Palin as “one of us,” as “my kind of gal.”]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 01, 2008 02:18 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):