Patrick Buchanan declared the beginnings of a culture war at the Republican National Convention in 1992. And, by the 1996 election, "Pitchfork" Pat did not merely want to reform the White House--he and his Buchanan Brigade were damned near ready to storm the palace gates to burn it down.
Sarah Palin, a young mayor from Wasilla, Alaska, reportedly was among the ranks of the Buchanan movement. Her desire to have creationism taught in schools while at the same time having a husband in a trade union certainly jived with the central tenants of Buchanan-style populism, which embraced tariffs just as readily as the church alter. Further, her Jacksonian orientation and political sensibilities put her squarely within the middle-class radicals that made Buchanan the "Hell Raiser of '96."
Political commentators failed to see Buchanan coming before the New Hampshire primary during both his presidential campaigns, and they called it wrong additionally during this election cycle by oversimplifying the fault lines of Republican Party. As usual, too much was made of "moderates vs. conservatives."
Pundits clearly missed the boat on Sarah Palin. They analyzed her selection as a cheap ploy for female Hillary voters. Doubtlessly, it probably came into play, but it hardly explained the whole situation--but, then again, it fit agenda-driven reporting to see and explain it to the American public that way at the time.
Those political experts roundly played off their mistake by revising their explanation of her selection as a means to arouse the evangelical and conservative bases. Again, they were partly correct and even closer to being directly on target. Unfortunately, though, they then blindly walked into a trap by preemptively accusing Palin of ineptitude and inexperience before she even had time to deliver her nomination speech.
Whether you love her or hate her, Palin undeniably knocked the ball out of the park that night. Her address shifted the dynamic of the race to energy independence, one of the few issues McCain stood on stronger footing with swing blue-collared voters than did Barack Obama.
More importantly, Sarah "Barracuda" spoke like a genuine us vs. them red-blooded American culture warrior. Elitists and academics the world over cringed. Working-class independents and middle-class radicals – the Buchananites and fabled Reagan Democrats of yore – were instantly wooed.
Somehow, the "Hardball crowd" hadn't seen that one coming. They overlooked that Gov. Sarah Palin was already planting the seeds for a movement of dedicated "Palinistas" devoted to advancing her political fortunes as the leader of their own cause.
Political missteps, satirical lampooning and the economic crisis unfortunately K.O.'ed any chance for resurgence for the McCain campaign in the days after the convention. Yet, nonetheless, Sarah Palin unquestionably had established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the Republican Party.
The American working-class has already begun to show a less hawkish steak after the Iraq War. If the trend continues, Buchanan's "America First" non-interventionist foreign policy could suddenly begin to tempt them.
And, given the recession, it is entirely feasible those same working-class voters and their malcontent allies in the middle-class may again take up trade protections, regulated immigration and economic nationalism – all precepts of Buchananite Hamiltonianism.
Yet either way in the future, where Sarah goes, the grassroots will grow.
Daniel Goffreda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org He was a co-founder and managed a conservative college newspaper, The Mountaineer Jeffersonian, while at West Virginia University.
Mr. Streitz was a Minuteman on the Arizona border in 2005. He is a co-founder of CT Citizens for Immigration Control (www.ctimmigration.com) and twice ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. He is a co-founder of the 2012 Draft Sarah Committee, which is a registered Draft PAC with the Federal Election Commission (www.2012draftsarahcommittee.com) (email@example.com)