There is a quote that is sometimes misattributed to Winston Churchill: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25,you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain”. As it turned out for me, when I was 25, my heart told me that I needed to start thinking. I grew up in a conservative Republican household. When I asked my parents what the movie the Wizard of Oz was about, my dad said it was about how government couldn’t and shouldn’t give you what you already have or can gain for yourselves. When I was 5, my parents had me call into a TV station’s kid election to vote for George HW Bush. Later, college hit, as did the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. My 20th century American history professor spent 10-15 minutes each class railing against these wars, and when we finally got to studying President Reagan, he called Reagan the worst President in American history. Being naive, I partially bought into these views. I didn’t pay attention too closely to politics, but I did vote. In 2004 as a college senior, I cast votes for both President Bush and Senator Obama. As a community health graduate student, my professors touted universal health care while bashing free market ideas like health savings accounts. This influenced me too, and I ended up voting for the Green Party gubernatorial candidate in the 2006 elections because he supported Universal Health Care.
Fast forward two years to 2008, when I was 25. With Illinois’ open primary system, I vacillated between voting in the Democratic or Republican primary before deciding to vote in the Republican primary–not for any particular reason. I looked at the candidates’ websites the night before the election, then went in the next morning and voted for Senator McCain. This was February of 2008. I didn’t pay attention again until August 29, 2008 when Senator McCain announced Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I had no idea there was a Republican woman prominent enough to be picked to be a VP nominee. I have to admit, during the campaign, I was probably more of a Palin fan than a Palin supporter. She was a runner, former high school point guard, and flutist–just like I was. Plus, I was fascinated by her ability to wear high heels all the time and still smile as much as she did. However, I did substantively appreciate that she took on corruption,understood energy independence, and was strongly pro-life. It wasn’t until the McCain-Palin ticket lost that I truly became a student of her record and a strong supporter. The more I learned about her record, the more I realized she was the opposite of every politician I’d seen growing up in Illinois. She was a fiscal conservative and a corruption fighter. She couldn’t be bought. In fact, she didn’t allow lobbyists in her office. She focused on openness and transparency. Above all else, she had something I’d never seen in a politician–character. She turned me into a full fledged conservative.
When she resigned from the governorship, I took me time to wrap my brain and my heart around it. After she released her now famous “death panel” Facebook post though, it all made sense. Following that time, she was the leading voice against the Obama agenda–from healthcare to spending to Israel to energy independence. She was our Continental Army Commandress in Chief a la George Washington. She wasn’t ruling over us, nor was she passively supporting our efforts. She was actively fighting with us. To me, this is why she should have been president. When the War of Independence was fought and won, it was George Washington, who fought with the people, who was selected to be president. It wasn’t the James Madisons, Thomas Jeffersons, or Patrick Henrys who did great things in their own rights, but they weren’t fighters. Governor Palin was and is a fighter. Not only that, she had the record of reform and the courage and willingness to take on the tough issues. When she said she believed in fundamental restoration of America, I believed her, and I trusted she would usher in restoration if she was elected.
When she announced yesterday that she wasn’t going to run for office, I was stunned and horribly disappointed for our country. While I may not fully understand her decision, I do respect it. I know she made it prayerfully and considered her faith and family foremost. I would have expected nothing less. She would have made a great candidate and an even better President. No one would have been more willing to hold her opponents accountable to their record in debates while keeping the focus on President Obama. No one would have been able to speak against crony capitalism and for reform with a record to back it up like she would have. No one would have been able to instill a sense of optimism and American exceptionalism in the American people like she would have. No one would have had the political courage to slash spending, address entitlement reform, and transform Washington like she would have.
Since she’s not running, I’ve decided to vote for Ms. Potato Head in the 2012 GOP primary. I’ll take the best from some of the candidates and create my own. I’ll take Ron Paul’s embrace of personal liberty, Rick Santorum’s pro-life stance and support for Israel, Gary Johnson’s budget cutting, Herman Cain’s charisma and optimism, Newt Gingrich’s ideas, and Michele Bachmann’s femininity and create my own Ms. Potato Head candidate. Even with the best of these candidates, they don’t equal 1% of the candidate and president that Governor Palin would have been. No one has her record. No one has her consistent stance on the issues. No one has her character. It’s a shame. In all honesty, I’ll likely plug my nose and vote for someone in the primary and the general elections, but I won’t work my butt off to get someone elected like I would have for Governor Palin. I’m not resigned to disappointment or bitterness. Bitterness is swallowing poison and expecting someone else to feel the effects. The greatness of America has always laid in the “We the People”. No political leader, elected or not, changes that.
There’s still a bit of an open wound though, but time heals all wounds. On August 28, 2008, I barely cared about politics or the trajectory of the country, now these are among my greatest passions. Even though it doesn’t seem I’ll have the opportunity to vote for a “President Palin”, I have Governor Palin to thank for helping me discover a passion for America. I’ll be forever grateful for that.