I know I am invoking the wrath of Conservatives4Palin.com just by writing this, but I think this opinion piece in The Telegraph, which was brought to the attention of the blog, desperately needs a clarification.
Tim Stanley writes in The Telegraph about Sarah Palin's participation in the culture war surrounding Chick-Fil-A:
Then there was Sarah Palin’s intervention into Chick-fil-A-gate. In what could be the definitive conservative moment of the last few years, she posted a photo of herself on facebook eating at the anti-gay marriage chicken restaurant. Here was Palin’s appeal distilled: an ordinary woman out with her husband, doing what ordinary Americans do, looking ordinary – yet making a profound political statement at the same time. And she used social media to let the world know about it! That photo has “political science PhD thesis” written all over it.
Why haven’t we seen Romney in a Chick-fil-A, or Cheney, Bush or McCain? Some will reply that such cheapness is beneath them, that they are too busy being statesmen in Washington. But most Americans don’t live in Washington, aren’t members of Congress, don’t have a beautiful family home in Alexandria, don’t holiday in the Caribbean twice a year and don’t enjoy that fantastic Congressional healthcare. But they do eat at Chick-fil-A. And so, apparently, does Sarah Palin. That’s her appeal. When you use the word “Palin,” folks immediately know what you mean. And while some of the adjectives used might include “extreme,” they don’t include “snobby” and they probably will include “authentic.” Palin's strength and weakness as a Veep candidate in 2008 was that she came across like a real person. Some people want to be governed by real people, some don’t.
I think Stanley is missing the real story here. Palin was just one of many conservatives who went to eat at Chick-Fil-A, her attendance is not that exceptional. The conservative who has taken a much more actively leadership role in this culture war is one who is much less incendiary and less prone to bomb throwing: Mike Huckabee.
Mike Huckabee announced plans for Chick-Fil-A appreciation day on his Facebook page on July 22nd. What is important to note about Huckabee's stance is how he was clearly concerned about civility when he promoted the event:
I ask you to join me in speaking out on Wednesday, August 1 "Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day.” No one is being asked to make signs, speeches, or openly demonstrate. The goal is simple: Let's affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.…There's no need for anyone to be angry or engage in a verbal battle. Simply affirm appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up on Wednesday, August 1 or by participating online – tweeting your support or sending a message on Facebook.
And it worked, Chick-Fil-A has reported record sales. Whether you agree or disagree with Huckabee's stance, you can't deny that this was an effective and civil way of making a political point.
It was the exact opposite of the usual Palin method. Huckabee didn't say that people who don't eat Chick-Fil-A were un-American, he didn't suggest that liberal elites look down on those who enjoyed fast food. He also didn't go the Rush Limbaugh route and refer to the mayors who initially spoke out against Chick-Fil-A as "Stalinist". It's unclear how many legs this story would have even had if Huckabee hadn't made a point to push for the event.
Palin may have done a photo-op but it was Huckabee who is showing the cultural influence he wields.