It’s surprising, the amount of sheer hate directed at Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain’s pick for the VP slot. Hate, over and above that directed at George W. Bush, or John McCain himself. Viewed without context, it’s inexplicable, since Palin herself is fairly obscure, and relatively uncontroversial. While Palin certainly has attacked Barack Obama’s qualifications for the Presidency, the attacks were certainly expected, and in line with normal partisan appeals in past elections. Nothing Palin has said, for example, would be surprising to anyone who followed Lloyd Bentsen’s attacks on George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988, or Al Gore’s in 1992. Palin has been absent from the great political battles of the 2000’s era. Not an advocate of the Iraq War, nor a participant in any of the debates on the proper bounds for the NSA, Guantanamo Bay, or any other hot-button issue, can account for all sorts of people expressing such a strong dislike of Palin. Nor the spontaneous admiration by many people for her either.
Politics as conventionally understood, don’t explain why Palin generates such rage by her political opponents, the Media, and the Cultural Left. There are really two main reasons for such rage (and various personal attacks). This post will focus on one reason, which is the eternal struggle in American politics between East and West.
Europeans and Eastern intellectuals often have a hard time understanding what really drives American politics. What they fail to understand is that the conflict between Easterners and Westerners, broadly understood, has shaped American politics since the adoption of the Constitution in 1788.
Easterners, since the first few settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, have wanted expensive land, and cheap labor. Expensive land, since they already owned land, a great deal of it, and hoped to use the land to generate even more wealth. By use of cheap labor. Slaves, Indians in forced labor, and indentured servants (such as Benjamin Franklin), could be used in the fields or nascent factories, producing everything from corn, to molasses, to tobacco, to firearms, for export to England and the Continent. Easterners wanted money spent by the government to improve their own lot, including their ports, cities, factories, and subsidies in one form or another for their export-oriented businesses.
Westerners, from the first, rebelling against the men who ran the first colonies, favored cheap land, and expensive labor. Ideally, the land would be “free,” and taken from Indians who could not hold it, while their own labors would be expensive. Thus the relatively poor Westerners hoped to raise their own station in life. They favored restrictions on imports of labor, and generally despised taxes and regulations that fell upon them and took money from them to interests in the East. The Shays Rebellion, in President Washington’s first term, epitomizes this conflict. Western Pennsylvania farmers wanted no taxes on Whiskey, made from the corn they grew themselves (and far more profitable to ship than the perishable raw corn). Easterners wanted taxes raised, and certainly not on themselves. Thus the conflict.
While other issues such as Slavery, Segregation, and the Cold War have colored the domestic US political struggles, this conflict remains at the heart of what Americans really argue about. Westward expansion, starting before the War of Independence, after the defeat of the French in the French and Indian War, meant a loss of influence and political control for the Eastern elite. Which fought Westward expansion at every turn. Without the threat of French allied Indian tribes posing serious threats to settlers, men and women streamed West to settle new lands and pose competitive threats to the Eastern Plantations and Estates, at least as far as agricultural exports were concerned.
This conflict came to a head, in the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. Jackson’s supporters wanted Westward expansion, which meant spending money on Westward transportation and communication links, and expelling the Cherokee Indians from the Southeast, the current states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Easterners wanted to keep the Indians in place, for obvious reasons. Easterners also wanted the strong, centralized Bank of the United States. The Bank of the United States provided expensive credit, to only the most credit worthy. Which was generally, the Eastern elites, who held title to expensive Eastern Seaboard property. Westerners, who lived often a “cash-less” life of barter, wanted inflationary currency (easier to pay off their debts).
Jackson, as the symbol and leader of the Westerners, was subject to personal attacks familiar to any who’ve followed those on Palin, and fought a number of duels over this matter before assuming the Presidency. Jackson’s wife, the state of their marriage, speculation about his adopted children, and other rather base attacks, even by the standards of the 19th Century, portrayed Jackson as an uncouth, unlettered, barbarous, and vile Westerner, unfit for office and lacking the sophistication of such men as John Quincy Adams. Sound familiar?
That is the case today. Palin, like Jackson, is a Westerner. Thus, she is certain to favor policies that Easterners hate. Such as cheap land. This means, in practice, relaxation of federal regulations restricting the use of federal lands, and a general opening of the lands for resource extraction, including fishing, lumber, ranching, and of course oil and gas exploration and drilling. All of which will shift money and power from the East to the West. Diminishing the power of places like New York City and Washington DC, and raising in importance cities such as Boise, Idaho, or Fairbanks, Alaska.
Palin is also likely to oppose immigration amnesty and “reform” that would allow any more immigrants into the US. Her Alaskan power base consists of mostly Blue Collar and lower White Collar workers, who absolutely require expensive labor (meaning, effectively, limiting the supply of workers) to raise their living standard. McCain’s “radio silence” on the subject of Immigration, Amnesty, and so on, reflects the reality of his mostly Western base, Obama’s promise to enact “Immigration Reform” shows the priorities of his own, Eastern base. Eternally, cheap labor and expensive land.
Palin is also likely to favor greater transportation links to the West, especially Alaska. Anyone who has followed National Geographic Channel’s “Tougher in Alaska” with host Geo Beach, knows that living expenses are quite high in Alaska. Remote villages endure sky-high prices, such as jar of Skippy Peanut Butter at $12. Given the extreme Winter cold, much of Alaska’s cities cannot have water mains (which would simply freeze) and thus expensive water delivery trucks fill home tanks. Alaska’s rail, air, highway, and sea links with the rest of the United States are limited, making exports of their resources more difficult. Just as Lincoln, domestically, was elected in part in 1860 because he favored more railroads to the West, Palin is likely to favor spending more money on transport links to the West and Alaska, instead of Eastern cities. Meaning less money for block grants (aka patronage in Eastern Cities), welfare, etc.
Westerners of course are often characterized as “libertarian” and favoring small government. This is false, Westerners simply want money spent on things they favor, rather than on Eastern cities and the interests of Easterners. This includes regulations. Westerners do not like regulations that hurt their own economic interests, such as forbidding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, they are quite happy to see quotas on imports from foreign agricultural or commodity competitors that lower the prices they can charge and thus reduce their wealth. Westerners almost always favor regulations to make labor expensive (agricultural businesses are the exception here).
[The Pacific Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington, are odd beasts. Part “Eastern” and part “Western.” California’s population center, roughly from Santa Barbara south to San Diego, reflects the oddity of the Pacific Coast. Only the coastal zone is desirable, the inland areas are too hot and dry for comfortable and high-density housing, unlike the East Coast. This makes the coastal counties very “Eastern” and like the metro areas of New York City and Washington DC. Meanwhile, the inland areas of California such as Temecula are solidly “Western.” Oregon and Washington repeat this pattern — expensive coastal areas of cheap labor, high land costs, and interiors of cheap land. To the extent that the Front Range limits Denver and Boulder and Colorado Springs expansion, this also characterizes Colorado, and explains why it is an exception among it’s Mountain West neighbors of Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming. A look at the 2000 and 2004 electoral maps of the Pacific Coast states and say, Utah are instructive. Salt Lake City voted solidly Democratic. As did Los Angeles County, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. The difference between Utah’s overall vote for Republicans in both elections and that of California, Washington, and Oregon’s Democratic votes is that in Utah, the majority of the population lived in smaller cities and suburbs. Thus tipping that state solidly “Western.”]
This conflict is as old as the struggle between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. The struggle, however, in the long run favors the Westerners. The “center” of American population has been moving ever Westward since 1755. Exceptional Eastern politicians and political coalitions may be able to delay this process, but it is only a delay. The Wikipedia link to the mean center of US population shows how people have moved ever-westward.
Westerners, with cheap land and expensive labor, are able to form LARGER families than Easterners. Steve Sailer’s “Affordable Family Formation” formula in action. This forms the other basis for the complete horror that Sarah Palin and her family induces in the Media, Democratic Party, and Cultural Left (but I repeat myself). This will be discussed in greater detail in Part 2.