Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has decided not to run for the presidency in 2012. In her statement she writes:
After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for President of the United States. As always, my family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision. When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order.
The order she refers to, “God, Family, Country” comprises a bewildering conflation of priorities, recklessly emphasizing the personal over the civic.
Palin works from the assumption that one enters public service not to uphold the constitution, not to defend the nation, not to enrich the lives of citizens, but to honor God.
Whose God, you ask? That’s a great question in a society as religiously diverse as our own. From Palin’s vantage point the answer to that can only be: my God and my interpretation of God. Which, chances are, won’t be your God and your interpretation of God.
This type of reasoning has roots that extend back deep into the Puritan heritage of this country. Yet it is important to recall that since the times of let’s say, Roger Williams, this reasoning was challenged by dissenters who were every bit as God-fearing as the Puritans. That is to say, in American history there have existed significant faith-based motivations for fearing public servants who claim to serve God.
Taking the Silver Medal in Palin’s hierarchy is “family.” Her emphasis is perhaps psychologically understandable, given the ferocious battering that the Palin clan, most notably the children, has endured in the press over the past few years.
Yet once again, a politician does not seek elected office to better his or her family. The inverse proposition seems more likely: those who chose to serve do so to the regrettable emotional detriment of their loved ones.
As for the last of Palin’s priorities, it should have been her first and arguably her second and third as well. Americans are certainly allowed to believe that their God is much more important than their country. But those Americans perhaps ought not run for high office.