Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Alaskan values and the character of leadership

Following Monday's paean to Palin I've been musing a little bit further about why I think she is a good thing, despite having serious disagreements with some of her political stances (NB the creationism allegation seems to be a bit of an untruth - see "When reporters attack").

The biggest potential problem that I see does in fact lie with the issue I emphasised before - energy. Palin is clearly someone saturated with Alaskan values - the hunting, shooting, fishing, Moose-burger-eating red-in-tooth-and-claw element of US society. You could say that these values are frontier values, and what I would point out is that these values were formed where there was no sense of a limit to abundance, where nature could cope with whatever humanity threw at her. This is clearly the ground from which Palin offers scepticism about anthropogenic global warming, because such values don't meet immediate counter-evidence in the Alaskan context (despite Alaska suffering from the melting of the permafrost). This value set is not viable or appropriate in the context of a politics of scarcity, which is what Peak Oil and the associated problems will induce.

However, I think that Palin shares these values with a significant element of the US electorate and there is another set of values which I see as even more important, and still relevant to a position of leadership. One of the features of being heavily involved in these various outdoor activities is that you become quite attuned to reality. For example, if you are careless about the weather you can end up getting stranded and exposed; if you are careless about sea conditions when sailing you can end up getting capsized; if you are careless about hunting your bear then you risk your own life - and so on. There is, in other words, a more fundamental orientation towards reality which is cultivated by this outdoor lifestyle, which provokes important spiritual values such as humility and the Old Testament Heart.

In other words, whilst I can see her present positions on issues such as global warming and energy as being typically under-informed (typical for a US politician that is) I see her as having the character to respond correctly to better information - and I have no doubt that this better information would be conveyed to her if she gets elected, both through briefings and through regular intrusions of reality.

Which really points out the principal reason why I think she is a good choice - she has displayed character, and I continue to maintain that the contrast with Obama strongly reinforces the arguments in her favour. Both in her personal life and her political life she has taken risks and absorbed costs in order to maintain her own reformist agenda. Where, for example, has Obama taken on his own party in order to bring reform? Where, for example, has Obama shown courage in investigating wrong-doing in his own party? Where, for example, has Obama, shown leadership in initiating legislation to clean up the political process?

Obama is a machine politician with a fresh face and fancy words. Palin has walked the talk. And remember - this is a contrast between a Presidential candidate and a Vice-Presidential candidate! On the question of who has displayed the most character between the presidential candidates, Obama isn't even in the race.

UPDATE: someone else saying something similar: Obama, in short, is long on brains and short on guts.

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