Monday, December 28, 2009
Review of _Going Rogue: An American Life_ by Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin immediately engenders strong emotions in most people. Here I offer an assessment of her new book that will be informative to both lovers and haters.
General Layout: The majority of Going Rogue (GR) is a chronological account of Palin’s life from childhood to the present and focuses on the following historical periods: Growing up (from childhood to marriage and children) with an emphasis on Alaska’s unique characteristics (physical, political, historical) and their influence on her development, serving as city council member and mayor of Wasilla, serving as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, serving as Governor of Alaska, running for Vice-President of the United States, and the aftermath of the campaign. Palin then describes her general political orientation.
Significant Sections: I believe that the most interesting and significant sections in GR are: Her descriptions of the complexities of being a governor and dealing with powerful oil companies, her account of the nuts and bolts behind the scenes of a presidential campaign, her account of the brutal realities of being a high-profile politician, and her statement of her political orientation. Other sections in the book help to flesh out her story in great detail and will be of interest to her fans, but will not greatly profit non-fans. Chapters Four, Five, and Six are therefore the most significant.
Personal Observations: I address my observations specifically to two different groups--those who dislike her or are undecided about her, and those who admire her.
Regarding the first group, I would argue that this book should be strong evidence that Sarah Palin is a highly competent executive who has accomplished extraordinary things. She brought down deeply entrenched and corrupt Republicans. She forced the hands of oil companies to fulfill contractual obligations. She rejected and reversed many of the perks of her office. She survived a brutal, sustained political assault. None of this means that the first group needs to like her or agree with her about anything. It is only to say that Sarah Palin is a serious and competent woman. For the libertarians in this group, I respect your suspicion about Palin’s ideology, and while it is true that she is deeply religious and does not believe in macroevolution, I believe that the book will give the impression that Palin’s principal concern is not to enforce morality by means of the state, but rather to reduce the size of the state to leave room for social norms to serve their function. Libertarians, by the way, will find nothing to fault in Palin’s views of economics.
Regarding the second group, I would argue that this book will most certainly give you a deeper confidence in Sarah Palin’s confidence and determination. You are aware of how tough the campaign was, and now you know that, not only did she survive it, but she has come out stronger than ever. Her values are solidly grounded in theory. I was delighted to see that she referenced Thomas Sowell’s _A Conflict of Visions_, which I read in June. She knows the difference between the “constrained” and “unconstrained” visions that Sowell explicates, and falls firmly on the constrained side, as do I. Even though I am not traditionally religious and I do believe in macroevolution, I believe that Sarah Palin’s faith is a positive factor in her life and I am absolutely convinced that she withstood the brutality of the campaign far more ably precisely as a result of her faith. Although not myself a Christian, I believe that Sarah Palin represents many Christian values quite well and I find her faith quite moving.
Final Thoughts: Palin’s book, I think, deserves its popularity. I found it a bit long, but the details of the campaign were absolutely riveting. For anyone interested in American politics, this book is a must-read (at least the chapters I mentioned). Sarah Palin will always appeal very strongly to many Americans on the basis of her folksy background, her traditional values, her resilience, her patriotism, and her fortitude. I believe that any honest person must recognize that we have met and come to know two amazing people during the 2008 campaign: Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Both the right and the left simply must admit the power and importance of these two people.
I love the political diversity in the country because from its creative tension and destruction beautiful things have arisen. That is why Palin will continue to play an essential role in American politics being, as she is, clearly the most vibrant exponent of one of the essential streams of American political philosophy.