Note: This is a condensed version of this long essay that I wrote while in Worcester during a jury duty wait. The told the parallel stories of the US Navy during the War of 1812 and the history of the electoral landscape between 2008 and 2010. I have removed the paragraphs concerning Captains Charles Stewart and Stephen Bainbridge and edited the piece to remove the transitions between the stories. The full piece is available here.
On Election Day 2008, Barack H. Obama won the presidency winning states such as North Carolina and Virginia which Democrats had not taken in years and retaining democratic strongholds such as Massachusetts and New Jersey; while in congress Democrats made solid gains winning a large congressional majority in the house and a super-majority in the Senate.
On every major network Pundits proclaimed it the start of a new democratic Era. Books poured out about the president, T-Shirts were selling briskly, a massive crowd turned up for the inauguration, and off in England Russell T. Davies was writing a script for the final episode of David Tennant’s run as the 10th Doctor Who’s with the climatic event of the first part was to take place as the world awaited a plan by President Obama to solve the world wide economic crisis. Pundits a plenty reasoned that the era of Reagan was over. Republicans such as Chris Buckley and David Brooks talked about the power of Obama and David Frum began his Frum Forum determined to take the Republican Party away from what they considered the conservative extreme and back to the middle where it could one day triumph.
Shortly after the election Rush Limbaugh, unapologetic defender of conservatism and the single most popular person on Radio declared that it was not the time to stop fighting. He maintained that the election was not a mandate against conservatism, indeed it was only the inclusion of Conservative Republican Sarah Palin that gave the campaign any energy and accounted for the only brief lead in the polls the campaign enjoyed. As Governor Sarah Palin returned to Alaska where Democrats, mindful of the energy she brought to the Republican side; unleashed a string of frivolous ethics complaints determined to neutralize her once and for all, Rush declared publicly on his radio show about President Obama: “I hope he fails”. In February he was scheduled to be the keynote and final speaker at CPAC where he would face a crowd of conservative activists at their lowest ebb of their political lives.
Rush Limbaugh stood at the podium at CPAC to make his case. Fox News knowing Limbaugh’s popularity with their viewers and CNN knowing he was a ratings magnet both decided to cover the speech live. Limbaugh’s “First public address to the American People” was a scheduled 40 minute speech but went nearly 90 covering conservative ground, explaining why he believed the Liberal Obama agenda would be disastrous to America. The liberal media roundly condemned his speech and the White House was delighted at the opportunity to make Limbaugh the face of the Republican Party confident that the quality and charisma of Barack Obama was more than a match for him.
Three thousand miles away on July 3rd 2009 Sarah Palin called a news conference and shocked the world by announcing she was resigning as Governor of Alaska. She maintained that the constant barrage of frivolous complaints was costing the state money and time. Pundits around the country added “quitter” to their less printable pejoratives and pronounced her power and influence at an end. Rush Limbaugh didn’t think so. He believed that this freed her from the constraints of office and allowed her to advance the conservative cause nationwide. Limbaugh’s ratings had increased as his visibility as the president’s chief opponent emerged and thousands of people who had never listened to his show before tuned in to see what he had to say, but the media and pundits dismissed this saying it was good for Limbaugh’s pocketbook but meant nothing in terms of the election or in terms of the power of the Nobel winning president.
Sarah Palin’s Facebook page attacking the president’s priority, the healthcare bill, is still available online but it was no less blunt decrying the government role in rationing care as “death panels”. It produced more consternation by the MSM, but she would not yield an inch. Message after message would be penned by Palin that would reach millions of readers through her Facebook page and her Book. Rush Limbaugh trumpeted her methods and her embrace of the Tea Party movement. He had her as a guest to promote her book which would sell millions of copies totally bypassing the media that held her and them to such scorn while MSM. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC continued to deride him as an entertainer, her as politically irrelevant and the tea party as racists.
On September 12, 2009 hundreds of thousands of tea party activists gathered on the mall at the Capital protesting the Obama administration. Conservative leaders spoke to the largely blue collar crowd to proclaim that they were going to take their county back. The media took note but scoffed, the numbers were astroturf and the Nobel winning president still held vast majorities in both houses. Elections were two months away in Virginia and New Jersey for Governor, a special election in New York’s 23th district saw the republican party embrace a liberal candidate named Dede Scozzafava and in January a special election would be held to replace the late Ted Kennedy who had held the seat since 1962. Let’s see what would happen THEN.
On Election Night the news astounded the nation. In Virginia Republicans had retaken the governorship previously held by the DNC Chairman Tim Kaine by a wide margin, In New York 23 Sarah Palin followed shortly by Rush Limbaugh endorsed the Conservative party Candidate Doug Hoffman over Dede Scocafava who eventually dropped out of the race a week before the election, the victory was Pyrrhic as she, despite tens of thousands of dollars of support by the NRCC, threw her support to the democrat Bob Owens who would edge Hoffman in a squeaker. In New Jersey Chris Christie would shock the political world by winning the Governorship of the state a shock that would be exceeded on January 19th 2009 when Scott Brown down 15 points according to the Boston Globe would defeat Martha Coakley in a race that would energize the entire Republican Party nationwide.
The results of the election were explosive although Obamacare passed with the help of democrats such as Bart Stupak he and others such as Chris Dodd and Bill Delahunt decided that this was the year to retire. Rush continued to push for conservatism and Sarah Palin campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates all over the country targeting 20 specific democrats for defeat and raising money to help support others. The effect was electric in states such as Massachusetts, where uncontested seats were a fact of life, suddenly found almost every race contested from 9 of the 10 congressional seats all the way down to auditor. Candidates like John Olver, Richard Neal and Barney Frank who had spent previous elections campaigning and donating to fellow democrats all over the country found themselves spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend seats that had never been at issue before. Nervous Democrats opened the spigots, funding 3rd party candidates to siphon off voters that might otherwise go to republican challengers. Media decried republican funding sources even as Democrats outspent their GOP counterparts, some like Jim McGovern by ratios as high as 30-1.
The Expectations game had shifted for 2010 as well. The conventional wisdom went from a 30 seat pickup for the GOP to a 40 and then from 40 to fifty and before Election Day came, some pundits were predicting as many as 75 seats for the GOP. Likewise in the senate the conventional wisdom went from small gains to larger gains to even the chance of picking up the full nine seats needed to flip the Senate. Pundits who had previously declared Rush Limbaugh a blowhard and Sarah Palin irrelevant and ineffective how were reduced to stating openly that if the candidates they supported in deep blue states such as California and Delaware failed to win, they would be considered failures no matter how many seats were won elsewhere.
On Election day the results were in and they were a slaughter, not since 1920 had so many seats fallen into republican hands and not since 1932 had either party managed to Capture the 63 seats that republicans did. 18 of the 20 democrats targeted by Sarah Palin were defeated and 6 Senate seats were taken by the Grand old party. In consolation Blue states such as Massachusetts and California remained blue Massachusetts after millions upon millions of dollars were spent and Union Activists given the day off by the state manned every polling place to insure that every possible democrat voted. Close calls were dodged by in districts such as ny-22 and Va-11 but only two seats La-2 and on in Hawaii formally held by republicans fell to the Democratic Party.
On November 3rd President Obama talked about learning the lessons of the election and spoke of compromise and working with the newly elected Republican house. Thursday November 4th 2010 on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough scoffed at Sarah Palin’s victory proclamation pointing out that candidates she backed failed to win in Delaware (held by democrats since 1973) Nevada (held by democrats since 1987 ) and California (Where a republican had not held the senate seat since the Johnson Administration) Politico derided her saying that less than half of her candidates (regardless of strength) won election, ignoring significant victories by Palin supported candidates in North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire, all states that had voted for Barack Obama just two years before.
Not all fell for MSNBC and Politico’s spin. CBS news pointed out Sarah Palin endorsed 43 house candidates of which 30 won while winning 7 of 12 Senate endorsed candidates. Senator Jim Demitt said “she’s done a lot of good for the Republican Party, and for our country.” And Rush Limbaugh, having none of the spin of the majority of the Mainstream media on the 4th said: “If anybody is an obvious winner here, aside, of course, from me, it would be Palin.”
So to conservatives who are basking in the joy of a historic question I say to you : “Never forget that it is to Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin that you really owe these victories.”
That is why I support Sarah Palin. Since the initial run of this piece Palin has continued to write, put pressure on the administration, defend conservatism and take the slings and arrows of the media. She continues to lead from the front and refuses to play the media’s game (or the establishment GOP’s game) by their rules.