In a somewhat odd speech, Sarah Palin informed the public that she was resigning as governor of Alaska. With Sanford’s recent adventure, this has been a rather weird time for Republican governors.
Palin’s speech was certainly interesting. She seemed to be speaking without notes and apparently with only minimal preparation. On the positive side, she seemed to be saying what she really felt which is a rare thing in politics.
Not surprisingly, the response has been largely along ideological lines. The folks who dislike her are claiming that she is either getting out ahead of a scandal or looking to head down to the lower 48 to start her bid for 2012. Those who like her think that she is doing what is right for Alaska and that she is a victim of various malign forces (such as the media and the Democrats).
While I found her speech to be rambling and a bit strange, she did make a point that I found rather interesting. To be specific, she seemed to be claiming that being in politics had caused trouble and that in order to get things done, she had decided to resign. This made me think of Socrates‘ remarks in the Apology:
Some one may wonder why I go about in private giving advice and busying myself with the concerns of others, but do not venture to come forward in public and advise the state. I will tell you why. You have heard me speak at sundry times and in diverse places of an oracle or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me when I was a child; it always forbids but never commands me to do anything which I am going to do. This is what deters me from being a politician. And rightly, as I think. For I am certain, O men of Athens, that if I had engaged in politics, I should have perished long ago, and done no good either to you or to myself. And do not be offended at my telling you the truth: for the truth is, that no man who goes to war with you or any other multitude, honestly striving against the many lawless and unrighteous deeds which are done in a state, will save his life; he who will fight for the right, if he would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and not a public one.
Socrates’ view does have a degree of plausibility. Good people who get involved in politics seem to end up compromising away their good intentions or being unable to take action if they stick with their values. People who act outside of politics do often have a greater opportunity to avoid compromise and sometimes can get more done. It will be interesting to see what Palin does. Will she, for example, become a spokesperson for the pro-life movement? Or is this, as some have suggested, just a clever ploy to get lined up for 2012?
Another point worth considering is that Palin is actually acting in accord with the professed ideology of Republicans. One standard line that Republicans often use is that government is bad. Naturally, this caused me (and others) to wonder why they would be so eager to be involved with what they consider to be the problem. In this case, Palin is acting in a way consistent with that view: she is leaving the (alleged) badness of government.
As to why she is really leaving, time will be an indication. If she stays out of government, then it would seem that her speech was sincere. If she ends up running for another office, then the sincerity of her words can be called into question.
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