- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2010


“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” The Republican establishment would do well to learn from William Congreve’s famous line in “The Mourning Bride” (1697) and even more from the accurate reading of his line: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

“Stop Sarah Palin” is the battle cry of establishment Republicans, according to Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei in Politico: “Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin.”

While Mrs. Palin is no Ronald Reagan, she does possess many of Reagan’s attributes, which she could turn loose on the Republican establishment.

Sarah Palin and Ronald Reagan appear poles apart in their backgrounds, but appearances are deceiving. Before coming to the center stage of national politics, Mrs. Palin was a small-town mother of five and governor of Alaska, and Reagan, a Hollywood actor and governor of California. But these and other dramatic differences mask surprising similarities, which could merge at the intersection of time and circumstance for Mrs. Palin, especially if the Republican establishment continues to scorn her.

Critics contended that Ronald Reagan was nothing more than a third-rate Hollywood actor who lacked the intellectual depth and educational training to serve successfully as president. Now they say much the same about Sarah Palin.

Reagan jumped high over this low bar of expectations, leading an insurgent conservative movement into the White House. Already two years away from 2012, Mrs. Palin has become the “rock star” of conservatives and the Tea Party movement, drawing crowds far larger than Ronald Reagan ever dreamed of drawing at this stage in his career.

Mrs. Palin appeals to the very same people Reagan appealed to, including conservatives of several persuasions - economic, political, religious and social. She is the one person in the Republican Party who has burnished credentials in all spheres of the conservative coalition. Her every word commands center stage on television.

Reagan was not a “policy wonk.” Neither is Mrs. Palin. Like Reagan, she does not devote herself to the minutiae of public policy details, but rather, she leads by instinct, based upon her guiding principles of right and wrong. When Reagan’s advisers tried to prep him for presidential debates by reading thick manuals, he refused. Rather, he brought to the debates a set of well-honed conservative principles. So far, Sarah Palin looks like she is cut from the same cloth.

Reagan and Mrs. Palin have “skin comfort.” As former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said of her Republican National Convention address: “Her timing was exquisite. She didn’t linger with applause but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke. She delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid. She didn’t have to prove she was ‘of the people.’ She really is the people.” Likewise, Reagan exuded that same comfort with his persona whether delivering major speeches or dealing with members of Congress.

Reagan and Palin beat the odds. Coming from the small town of Dixon in the midst of flat Illinois cornfields, raised by a very religious mother whose training led him to become a Sunday School teacher of grade-school boys, a graduate of a tiny and little-known religious college, Eureka, Reagan hardly had the pedigree to become president of the United States. Neither does Saran Palin. Her small-town background, a degree from the out-of-the-way University of Idaho and sportscaster start - the same as Ronald Reagan’s first job after college - hardly qualified her to become mayor of Wasilla or governor of Alaska or a vice-presidential nominee.

In 2010, no prospective Republican presidential candidate has collected more IOUs than Sarah Palin, whose endorsements and encouragement have propelled many otherwise unknown candidates and likely losers into creditable and more often than not victorious races for office. Reagan collected his IOUs in 1980 after traveling the country on behalf of conservative candidates.

Time and circumstance merged for Ronald Reagan. They could for Sarah Palin, too, especially if the Republican establishment scorns her as it did Reagan, knowing, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

Charles W. Dunn is a professor of government at Regent University.

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