Abortion. NRA. Religion - Palin Began With WEDGE ISSUES
by January 20, Tue Sep 02, 2008 at 11:45:13 PM EDT
There have been countless diaries in the past few days on our VP opponent. I apologize if I've missed coverage of this aspect of her past here.
The Times' William Yardley has a fascinating look at Palin's rocky start in local politics http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/03/us/pol itics/03wasilla.html?hp The piece details some of the well-diaried issues such as her questionable economic policies and her consideration of book banning. But the focus of this piece is how she dived into the local election with a campaign of hard-core Christian dogma. It also shows that even in 1996, just two years after Newt's Contract With America, she was a tough campaigner who had already mastered the art of exploiting wedge issues - particularly religion.
For 2008, McCain has chosen a ticketmate with the very skills he deplored in 2000.
WASILLA, Alaska -- The world arrived here more than a century ago with the gold rush and later the railroad. Yet one aspect of American life did not come to town until 1996, the year Sarah Palin ran for mayor and Wasilla got its first local lesson in wedge politics.
The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people -- Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? -- seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.
Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin's behalf.
Ms. Palin and her passion for Republican ideology and religious faith overtook a town known for a wide libertarian streak and for helping start the Iditarod dog sled race.
"Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, `Whoa,' " said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. "But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I'm not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: `We will have our first Christian mayor.' "
"I thought: `Holy cow, what's happening here? Does that mean she thinks I'm Jewish or Islamic?'" recalled Mr. Stein, who was raised Lutheran, and later went to work as the administrator for the city of Sitka in southeast Alaska. "The point was that she was a born-again Christian."
More ugliness after the bump
But her critics say too much growth too quickly has made a mess of what not long ago was homesteaded farmland.
And for some, Ms. Palin's first months in office here were so jarring -- and so alienating -- that an effort was made to force a recall. About 100 people attended a meeting to discuss the effort, which was covered in the local press, but the idea was dropped.
Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.
Ms. Palin also upended the town's traditional ways with a surprise edict: No employee was to talk to the news media without her permission.
"It was just things you don't ever associate with a small town," Victoria Naegele, then the managing editor of The Frontiersman, recalled of Ms. Palin's first year in office. "It was like we were warped into real politics instead of just `Do you like Joe or Mary for the job?' It was a strange time."
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Ms. Palin also began annual trips to Washington to lobby for federal money for specific initiatives, including rail projects and a mental health center. Her running mate, Mr. McCain, has been an outspoken critic of these so-called earmarks and as governor Ms. Palin has sounded more like him, vetoing tens of millions of dollars of local projects sought by state lawmakers.
- snip -
"When I first met Sarah, I would say Sarah was a Republican, with the big R, and that's it," said Dave Chappel, Ms. Palin's deputy mayor for more than two years. "As she developed politically, she began to see beyond the R and look at the whole picture. She matured."
Just as Ms. Palin terminated employees on her way into office, she also let some go on the way out, including Mr. Cramer. When Ms. Palin completed her second and final term, in 2002, her stepmother-in-law, Faye Palin, was running to succeed her. It seemed like a good idea, except that Faye Palin supported abortion rights and was registered as unaffiliated, not Republican, people who remember the race said. Sarah Palin sided instead with Dianne M. Keller, a religious conservative and an ally on the City Council. Ms. Keller won.
The general public seems to be more resistant to wedge issues this cycle. She has already shown that the base is motivated but I think a hard turn to being the Christian Candidate will turn off more of the moderates. Of course if they'll try to present the exciting Hockey Mom reformer image to the wider masses.