Jonathan Rauch has a truly superlative piece on how George Wallace is the true god-father of contemporary Republicanism. The side-by-side comparison of Palin quotes with Wallace quotes is striking, but you need to read them all to see just how striking it is, so instead I’ll excerpt Rauch’s thesis and summarization:
Wallace’s national appeal came neither from the racial backlash he exploited nor from his program, such as it was. “It was a deep sense of grievance,” Carter says — a feeling that elites “are not only screwing you over but at the same time they’re laughing at you, they’re looking down their noses at you.”
First, with the important exception of race, not one of Wallace’s central themes, from his bristling nationalism and his court-bashing to his anti-intellectualism and his aggressive provincialism, would seem out of place at any major Republican gathering today.
Second, and again leaving race aside, any Republican politician who publicly renounced the Wallace playbook would be finished as a national leader.
Third, by becoming George Wallace’s party, the GOP is abandoning rather than embracing conservatism, and it is thereby mortgaging both its integrity and its political future. Wallaceism was not sufficiently mainstream or coherent to sustain a national party in 1968, and the same is true today.
I disagree about the importance of race, I believe, to paraphrase Lee Atwater, that the rhetoric on the issue has simply become more abstract. But other than that, this is right on target.