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Truman Palin Forrester

I thought of sending another letter to the TNDP Executive Committee but . . . I’m not running for Chair of the Executive Committee and did not want to create any further confusion.  Nevertheless, hopefully, you are wondering what Truman Palin Forester means and will read on.

I’ve been reading The Last Campaign by Zachery Karabell over the last few days.  Karabell chronicles the course of the 1948 Presidential election putting it into the context of the cold war, the advent of television, the nascent civil rights movement and the end of World War II.  This election is remembered in great part for Harry Truman’s comeback and this picture:
Karabell goes further to point out that the 1948 election should be remembered as the last Presidential campaign that included any substantial debate about public policy.

This election had four serious candidates.   Former Vice President Henry Wallace ran as the Progressive candidate; then South Carolina Governor Strom Thurman ran as the Dixiecrat; New York Governor Thomas Dewey ran as the Republican.  These four men all sought to influence American policy on  US/Soviet relations, labor relations, the United Nations, civil rights and many other issues.  Their world views differed in virtually every aspect and represented a deep ideological divide that existed in the US at that moment in time.

One example of the deep ideological divide is evident in the difference between Truman’s and Thurmond’s views on civil rights.  The latter ran expressly to protect the vestigial institutions of slavery in the South.  The former began the Federal movement towards racial equality.  Likewise, Wallace sought to avoid the conflict with the Soviet Union and Truman sought to prevent any expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence – the Truman Doctrine.  The debate over these issues was varied, intense and meaningful.   Karabell convincingly suggests that after 1948, the stark US/Soviet ideological divide and the growing influence of television resulted in the evisceration of this type of debate.  Ideas were to a great degree sucked out of our political discourse.    I agree.

That’s Truman –  now for Palin.

At first blush it’s hard to imagine how Sarah Palin relates to Harry Truman but I’ll give it a try.

For some reason the 2008 Presidential campaign did little to tarnish the public perception of Sarah Palin as an intellectual or leader for that matter.  Her lack of knowledge of current events was stunning.  She demonstrated no ability to think on her feet.  She paled in comparison to Hillary.  Nevertheless,  her public stature has risen every day since November 2008.  Why is that?

One narrative that explains her rise revolves around the Katie Couric interview.  At one point, Couric asks Palin what she reads to stay informed:

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?
PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —
COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.
PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.
COURIC: Can you name any of them?
PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where, it’s kind of suggested and it seems like, ‘Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C. may be thinking and doing when you live up there in Alaska?’ Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

Why is this exchange important?  I suggest Couric’s question was meant to elicit a response that would either place Palin’s world view inside or outside the accepted canon.  Does she read the New York Times?  Does she read American Spectator?  Either answer and we all could have neatly fit her into the binary political world in which we have grown up.  By all measures we, as post 1948 Americans, should have rejected her when she did not allow us to categorize her in that way.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead of a rejected Palin – her stature has grown.

Has something changed – has the strictly binary nature of post 1948 American politics changed?  Have we begun to reverse our nation’s post 1948 political death?  Palin’s rise after her Vice Presidential debacle by itself probably would not indicate any change but there are other ideological green shoots – albeit all on the right end of the political spectrum.  The Tea Party movement and its new ideas represent possibly the most vigorous ideological shift in the Republican party in 60 years.  Perhaps, new ideas can actually thrive in the new – post cold war America after all.  To me, Palin represents a new infusion of ideas (albeit wrongheaded) into the right’s idea base and hopefully marks the end of the post 1948 idea annihilation.  In some sense the reinvigorated right should excite Democrats who have seen the life sucked out of their party.  Don’t we now have an opportunity to challenge the Democratic canons, innovate, improve, make a difference?  I hope and believe we do.

That’s Palin.  How does Chip Forrester relate to Truman and Palin?

I like Chip and take his interest in remaining Party Chair as a continuation of his admirable persistence and willingness to take on challenges no matter the odds.  I’ve been there myself.

Respect for Chip’s persistence is not enough for us to ignore the fact that Chip’s leadership over the last two years had resulted in little if any acknowledgment of the changing political landscape.  Since 2009, the Party has done nothing to advance any new ideas.  The Party lacks any infrastructure to consider, research or promote a new Democratic idea.  Like every other recent election, the Party sent out glossy mailers with the same old ideas.  Like every other recent election, we tried to out-Republican the Republicans.  Here we are at the end of the post 1948 ideological gridlock and all we can do is parrot the same old garbage.    That’s how Chip relates to Truman.

While green shoots have appeared on the right and Sarah Palin has grown in stature, Chip tried to convince the public Democrats should win so that Democrats would have a role in redistricting.  Really, in the middle of the worst recession in 75 years, that was the best we could muster?  Pathetic.  When Chip tiptoes up to the real issues confronting our party here’s what he offers.  “To effectively address the message challenge of 2010 it will incumbent upon us to ensure that every piece of the Democratic Party quilt has a voice at the table.”  Earth to Chip.   As Truman said, when the voters can pick between a fake Republican and a real Republican, they will choose the real one every time.

Re-elect Chip and the only voice at the table will be his.  That’s Forrester.  Enough already.

Truman Palin Forrester

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