Sarah Palin did not announce whether she would enter the 2012 presidential contest in a fiery and substantive speech in Iowa on Saturday, but she did make three more significant announcements that, in the long run, will potentially be more important than a potential future announcement date.
First, as part of a five point plan to revive America’s economy, Palin called for the elimination of the federal corporate income tax as a way to “break the back of crony capitalism.” Her reasons for eliminating the federal corporate income tax, though, were more important than the actual proposal because it was a way in which she drew a line to differentiate herself from not only President Barack Obama, but nearly every other GOP presidential candidate, most notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Second, on the three year anniversary of her vice presidential acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2008 when Palin, a reform minded governor who had record approval ratings, invigorated the flailing McCain campaign, Palin cast herself squarely as the anti-McCain. Palin said that she could not understand why some people referred to Tea Partiers as “hobbits,” a clear reference to McCain’s remarks that denigrated a political movement his critics claim he shamelessly, like a typical politician, used to get re-elected only to turn his back on it once he got back to his familiar Washington trappings. Palin has written on her Facebook page that America needs a “do-over” in 2012, and her speech gave more fuel to the thought that she believes America should get a 2008 rematch against President Obama with her name on top of the Republican ticket.
Third, her speech was significant because, should she choose to enter the presidential race, it put forth a skillfully crafted blueprint that would allow her to seamlessly run a primary and general election campaign at the same time, much like what then candidate Obama did against Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush during the 2008 election cycle.
Here are ten significant themes from her speech that serve as the first draft of a future Palin campaign blueprint.
1. Her announcement — eliminate all federal corporate income tax
As part of a broader plan that focused on the 10th Amendment and devolving powers locally, eliminating ObamaCare and burdensome regulations, eliminating runaway debt by prioritizing and cutting spending and engaging in serious entitlement reform, and using domestic energy production as the “real stimulus” plan, Palin called for an end to the federal corporate income tax.
By eliminating the federal corporate income tax, Palin said America would again be “the most attractive and competitive place” to “hire people” and “attract capital,” which would lead to an “explosion of growth” by creating “millions of high paying jobs.”
To balance out the loss of federal revenue, Palin said, “we eliminate corporate welfare and all the loopholes and all the bailouts,” and, by doing so, “we break the back of crony capitalism because it feeds off corporate welfare, which is socialism for the very rich.”
Palin said that America’s message to businesses and corporations will be, “we will unshackle you, … but you must stand or fall on your own just like the rest of us on Main Street.”
More broadly, eliminating the federal corporate income tax and all the gaming and political maneuvering that accompanies it, according to Palin, will end the culture of corruption that has infested and enriched Washington. According to Palin, seven out the 10 wealthiest places in the nation are suburbs of Washington.
“There may not be a recession in Georgetown,” Palin said, “but there is in rest of America.”
Palin spoke of people who “arrive in Washington of modest means” and “then miraculously, throughout the years, end up very wealthy” because “they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money — tax payer dollars — that” they then use to “bail out their friends on Wall Street, their corporate cronies, reward contributors and buy votes via earmarks.”
She called this a system of “corporate crony capitalism” that is “not the capitalism of free man and free markets, of innovation, … of ethics, of sacrifice, and hard work and risk.”
According to Palin, this “collusion of big government and big business and big finance” hurts the “little guy” and is a “slap in the face at small business owners.”
There is nothing in it for the “permanent political class” to change because they have a “lot of mouths to feed” in order to keep “the good times rolling” for the likes of corporate lobbyists.
2. She attacked Perry implicitly by directly attacking Obama
Palin threw cold water on the members of the mainstream media and the Republican and conservative establishments who erroneously and ignorantly assumed she was going to endorse Texas Gov. Rick Perry. While Palin directly attacked Obama by name, she cleverly and implictly attacked Perry, who has been accused by his critics of being a crony capitalist who engaged in “pay for play” politics.
“I detest crony capitalism,” Palin said, before saying that Obama has shown us “cronyism” on steroids.
The steroids reference was interesting because Perry has often been accused of being “George W. Bush on steroids.”
Palin lambasted Obama for awarding his donors and supporters but also said that GOP candidates needed to be vetted as well.
“Now to be fair, some GOP candidates also raised mammoth amounts of cash, and we need to [also] ask them … what, if anything, do their donors expect in return for their investments,” Palin said. “We need to know this because our country can’t afford more trillion-dollar thank you notes to campaign backers … it is an important question [to ask because] it cuts to the heart our problem.”
According to Palin, such a culture is the “antithesis of the pioneering spirit that built our free and hope filled country.”
These lines were significant because Palin has been the most thoroughly vetted potential candidate in history, especially with the trove of her personal e-mails that were released that only showed her to be the anti-crony capitalist reformer she had claimed she was all along.
3. Copies Obama’s 2008 strategy of having the same message in a primary and general election
More importantly, by running against the “crony capitalism” in the GOP and tying Obama to that same “pay for play” culture, Palin is doing to the GOP and Obama on fiscal issues what what Obama did to Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush in 2008 on issues related to war and peace.
In the 2008 election, Obama ran as a change candidate who was against the wars in which America was mired. Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war, and Bush, who oversaw it, were essentially the same “establishment” Obama skillfully ran and positioned himself against.
Richard Nixon famously said that candidates run to the extremes in the primary and dash back toward the center. In modern politics, with the hyper and incessant news cycle that travels with increased levels of velocity, such dexterity is harder to pull off.
It is often why politicians are derided as being no different from porn stars who change positions on camera.
What made the Obama campaign successful in 2008 was that the anti-war and anti-establishment campaign he ran to win the Democratic primary was essentially the exact same campaign he ran against George W. Bush (though John McCain was the nominee) in the general election.
Likewise, should Palin run, she will attempt to do what Obama did in 2008 by running against the GOP establishment and Obama at the same time by tying them both to the crony capitalism culture of Washington.
“The challenge is not to replace Obama,” Palin said, “but who or what to replace” him with.
It is “not enough just to change up the uniform,” Palin said, expressing the frustration of many independent voters have with the two political parties they feel are merely two sides of the same status quo coin. “If we don’t save the team and change the game plan, we won’t save our country.”
Palin said that “candidate Obama pledged to fundamentally transform America” and “that’s the one thing he has delivered on … we’ve transformed from a country of hope to one of anxiety.”
To Palin, only a “sudden and relentless reform” will return power to ‘we the people.’”
4. The anti-McCain
Many conservatives held their noses and voted for McCain in the 2008 elections. Some stayed home.
Their suspicions about McCain as the type of establishment Washington politician who talks a good game and essentially uses the Tea Party for votes while not standing behind their conservative principles were solidified with his “hobbits” comments.
This speech established Palin as someone who would not turn her back on the principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility and the anti-establishment ethos the Tea Party movement holds sacrosanct.
5. Embraces the Tea Party as the true agents of change
Palin said that because of Washington’s reckless lurch to the left, the Tea Party was born of an urgency that was similar to that which “propelled” the “Sons of Liberty during the Revolution,” the “Abolitionists before the Civil War” in addition to the Civil Rights movement in the 20th Century.
Palin said the Tea Party is a part of a “noble American tradition” that comes from ordinary Americans and wrapped herself around this spirit in her speech.
6. Establishes that the establishment is doing to Palin what they are doing to the Tea Party
“Like you, I’m not for sale,” Palin told the audience, in reference to purportedly objective commentators who do not disclose their associations to other candidates while commenting about the 2012 race on television. Palin reiterated that she would not hire establishment hacks just so they can say nice things about her on television.
With that line, Palin firmly established herself as someone who is in line with the spirit of the Tea Party movement.
Part of the reason why the Tea Party is derided is because its members say what is on their minds. In the Twitter age, this can be a boon or a curse, but Palin often uses it to her advantage. Regarding the Obama Administration calling the government a “federal family,” Palin snidely said she “wanted to be emancipated” and, though she never thought she’d say it, wanted “divorce.”
Regarding polls that the permanent political class often uses to self-perpetuate their influence, Palin said that polls are just for “strippers and cross-country skiers.”
And Palin said that while Obama speaks of uniting a red America and a blue America, she represents a “red, white, and blue America.”
Again, Palin showed an ability to ruthlessly attack her opponents in the language of the common person, much to the chagrin of the Washington establishment. At the end of the day, her colorful language and analogy ensures that her point gets across and sticks. One of those points was that polls do not matter to her and will not influence how she chooses to potentially run her campaign and govern.
Palin told the audience that while it is easy to tell people that tell them to “go to hell” to “go to hell” themselves, they should “keep it classy” because time-tested truths prevail in the end.
In many ways, the entrenched interests in the GOP and the Washington establishment that only want candidates they know they will get a return on investment from to run represents what Palin and the Tea Party movement are fighting against.
And the more these forces try to set false deadlines or prevent Palin from participating in what is purportedly a democratic process, the more she becomes an avatar for a movement that feels the same is being done unto them.
7. United States of Europe?
Palin said that the crony capitalism endemic in Washington is one “that destroyed Europe’s economy.” With all due respect to T.R. Reid, who penned a book titled The United States of Europe, when Herman Cain says he will fight so that America doesn’t become “the United States of Europe,” he gets thunderous applause from the audience.
In a primary and general election, Palin can say that the Tea Party movement must be the agent of change that prevents America from being more like Europe. By implication, Palin would also say that Obama’s policies are making America become more like Europe.
8. 2012 will be a “finish the job” election of epic proportions
Palin spoke of an America that is “hurting” and a permanent political class that focuses solely on “symptoms” instead of the “root’ of the disease.
Two great forces have clashed during the last two election cycles. Palin seems like she will argue that in 2008, Obama’s vision of solving America’s problems through big government programs prevailed even though she urged Americans to look past candidate Obama’s rhetoric. She will argue that in 2010, the Tea Party movement that was in favor of the liberty and freedom that is often antithetical to big government policies and programs prevailed.
In essence, the 2012 election will be a rubber match between these two forces in which the Obama coalition and the Tea Party coalition will try to finish the job from 2008 and 2010, respectively.
Palin is squarely aligning herself with the latter group because she feels it is the only way for the “heirs of freedom” to pass down the same freedoms they inherited to their heirs.
9. Palin is the only person with a proven track record to battle Obama
Another central argument in Palin’s speech was that her message of change is different from candidate Obama’s and those of other GOP candidates like Perry because, unlike candidate Obama, she has a proven record of having defeated crony capitalists and special interests in Alaska.
“I’ve seen this crony capitalism before” and “I’’ve defeated in my home state” Palin said. She added that “real reform is hard” and that “sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers.”
Palin’s message is simple. When she says she’ll clean up Washington, her words, unlike like Obama’s, are not hollow because she cleaned up Alaska.
10. Acknowledgement of “O4P” and “C4P” and her plan shows that Palin is running
Many dumbfounded members of the mainstream media who purportedly cover Palin are just familiarizing themselves with “Organize4Palin” and “Conservatives4Palin.” Her acknowledgement of the former struck me as an indication that she is running. “O4P” is a volunteer grassroots network of supporters that will serve as Palin’s de-facto ground game should she run. If she were not running, why would she acknowledge a group of relentless, tireless, and fierce volunteers (whose motto is “Get your Grrrr on”) whose sole purpose is to organize on Palin’s behalf to get her elected President?
Further, if Palin were not running, why would she lay out a plan and governing philosophy?
From her speech, the tea leaves can be read simply: Palin sees the 2012 contest as a three way battle among the forces of big government, crony capitalism associated with big business, and a populism rooted in free markets.
Palin’s running for President as a free market populist, and the only questions that remain are when she is going to formally announce and if the electorate will opt for a message of free market populism above those of big government and crony capitalism.