Last week, Sarah Palin made an important speech to a major financial audience in Hong Kong. It was clearly an opening bid for presidential candidature. But what sort of Republican is Palin and would she be acceptable to the Republican Party, let alone a majority of American voters?To answer one of Browne's rhetorical questions, no, we don't think that Sarah Palin is a true libertarian, but she is a libertarian conservative. Actually, she is what we would call a New Federalist, but the differences between libertarian conservatives and New Federalists are so slight that they may be little more than semantic.
Sarah Palin is definitely from outside Washington. Also, she is an attractive woman, filled with self-confidence and proven magnetism.
However, the Republican Party is deeply split between the traditional big-government establishment and the small-government libertarians, who seem to be gaining ground fast not only in America, but also in Germany and France.
In her Hong Kong speech, Palin spoke as a libertarian Republican capitalizing on the increasing support shown for Ron Paul's politics. She also praised Reagan and Thatcher, two notable libertarian conservatives. But is Palin really a libertarian or has she been pandering to her libertarian conservative audiences?
If Palin is a true libertarian, how possibly can the Republican establishment accept her?
At present, it appears that Palin is disapproved of very strongly by the powerful Republican establishment.
However, polls show an increasingly strong resentment of big government. The high taxes and falling consumer demand resulting from it appear to fly directly in the face of economic recovery. There is a growing appetite for the small government and small business that history shows lead to lower taxes, higher employment and prosperity.
If Sarah Palin is a true libertarian Republican, she could be set to ride a massive popular wave. She is certainly a possible candidate.
If the Republican Party establishment truly wants to regain power, it may have to accept a route led by a libertarian and decidedly "provincial" woman. They may wince, but Sarah Palin may be the only one capable of returning them to the White House.
The term New Federalism emerged during the Nixon administration in 1969 as the label for a policy plan to turn over control of some federal programs to state and local governments and to provide block grants and revenue sharing. The term was expanded on in the Reagan years to more broadly define a political philosophy of devolution, or of transfer of administrative powers from the federal government to the states. The primary objective of New Federalism, unlike that of eighteenth-century Federalism, is to restore to the states and to the people some of the autonomy and power which they lost to the federal government as a consequence of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. At the time of George W. Bush, it was widely believed that he would govern as a New Federalist, but his administration was mark by neoconservative policies which turned out to be big government and big spending policies, and Ronald Reagan's coalition of conservatives, libertarians, independents and blue collar Democrats began to fall apart.
The term New Federalism should not be confused with the New Federalist Party, which does not support the principles of New Federalism, as defined by Ronald Reagan. On the contrary, that party has more in common with eighteenthth century federalists, and it still honors Alexander Hamilton as its founder and philosophical leader. Reagan New Federalists are more in the tradition of Jefferson and Jackson. Nor should the term libertarian conservative be confused with the Libertarian Party, from which libertarian conservatives part company, mostly on social issues and the limits of individual liberty. And therein lies a problem. There is no one good term which describes the small-government conservative. There was once a time when simply saying that one was a conservative fit the bill, but the rise of neoconservatism and the prevarication of the likes of moderates David Brooks, David Frum, et al calling themselves "conservatives" has drained most of the meaning out of the word.
President Reagan attempted to codify New Federalism by Executive Order in 1987, but Bill Clinton revoked it with an Executive Order of his own in 1998, which restored the unconstitutional role the federal government had assumed since FDR's time. There is even a New Federalist political platform which defines the principles of New Federalism and calls for rolling back those abridgements and infringements of the rights of the people and the states as plainly set forth in the founding documents. It awaits the election of the first true conservative president since Reagan for re-implementation.
Whether we call her a New Federalist or a libertarian conservative, Sarah Palin is the one political figure who appears to have the momentum and the popular appeal to put herself in a position to reverse the 20-year trend away from Ronald Reagan's winning principles.