Two things, replied Sarah Palin: integrity and work ethic.
The former 2008 vice-presidential candidate Palin, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, and National Review’s Jonah Goldberg addressed the Fifth Annual Americans for Prosperity RightOnline conference in Las Vegas June 15-16, praising and exhorting conservatives in the new media.
Palin blasted the traditional media, noting the failure of same to vet properly Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, jokingly noting that the media paid more attention to her wardrobe than the contents of Obama’s autobiography. Obama is the first president who did not believe America is an exceptional nation, Palin said, but one wouldn’t know that from the way the media covered him.
Palin also strongly encouraged the crowd not to spin away the GOP’s failures the same way the left and its media allies are trying to spin away Obama’s failures.
Malkin told the crowd, the title of the conference is RightOnline, not RepublicanOnline or RomneyOnline.
To both speakers, the key allegiance of a journalist is to the truth and to conservative principles, not blind allegiance to one party or faction.
Their comments hit a chord with me personally, as it reflected how I tried to conduct myself in 13 years at the Texas Capitol. Crony Capitalism is Crony Capitalism, even when conservative politicians are the ones letting the contracts.
Over the years, I caught a lot of flack when I blew the whistle on lobby sleaze. But in the end, most of the initiatives that were sleazy blew up, at great political cost for conservatives. The politicians involved would have been better off had they listened to the warnings. Other times, they did heed the warning, and Texans benefitted as a result.
A good example is so-called “tuition deregulation,” which allowed universities to raise tuition without legislative approval. Tuition skyrocketed, and the taxpayers of Texas had little to show for it. Palin blasted a culture that encourages students to go deep into debt to get useless degrees in obscure, politically correct subjects. I blew the whistle on this boondoggle back in 2003 and predicted tuition would skyrocket with few benefits for the state. I caught hell at the time, but a large number of legislators who voted for it consider it their biggest mistake in office.
Our Republic is predicated on the idea of an informed public. Our system works best when the public has access to good information on what is really going on. “If we don’t tell them the truth, then our country fails,” Palin noted.
The shrinking mainstream media combined with the traditional slant of the national media has resulted in fewer and fewer Americans tuning in. New media can fill that void.
Goldberg referenced Alexis DeTocqueville on the influence that local newspapers had on America. Goldberg noted that in Great Britain, there are several newspapers and each has a point of view (The Guardian leans left, The Telegraph is conservative, etc.) America used to be that way, but during the mid-20th Century, a so-called “mainstream” leftist media culture evolved. New media allows journalism to return to its roots, Goldberg argued.
Palin talked about how Matt Drudge became a citizen journalist and brought to light stories the regular media wanted to ignore. She noted that happens every day at blogs nationwide. But she warned that the key test of a conservative media outlet’s success is the size of the target on its back. “The more effective you become, the bigger target you become for the left,” Palin said.
Malkin noted that the left is actively working to criminalize conservative dissent.
Palin paid tribute to the late Andrew Breitbart, who often was quoted saying that anyone with a cell phone can be a journalist.
Texas has dozens of local governmental units – all with taxing power. And almost no one pays attention to them. The field is ripe for citizens to keep government honest and limited, all across this nation.
One key caveat from Malkin, however: include humor. She described humor and satire as a great way to reach younger political activists.
In an era where the media is shrinking and fewer Americans trust it, the mission field is right for citizens to pick up the slack. As Palin noted, it doesn’t require a degree. Just a smart phone and a computer.