When former Alaska governor and former vice-president nominee Sarah Palin addressed a national Tea Party gathering earlier this month, she invoked the name of the late President Ronald Reagan, as sentimental conservatives are wont to do. "Happy birthday, Ronald Reagan," she beamed early on.
When she addresses the annual convention of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc. in Las Vegas on April 6, will she wish "happy birthday" to an even more influential player on the world scene - Jesus? According to some theologians, April 6, not Dec. 25, is the actual date Jesus was born. But the thought that Palin would give a shout-out to Jesus in front of a collection of liquor dealers in Vegas is too heretical to consider seriously.
But what will she say? Will her talk be more boilerplate railing against elitism, the liberal left and the alleged ineptitude of the Obama administration, or will she actually talk common-sense solutions, bedrock conservativism and individual freedom, her other frequent themes? If she dwells on the latter three themes she'll do so in front of a group that, ironically, has a sorry record on their behalf.
The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc. is an outgrowth of the 21st amendment to the Constitution of the United States. That's the amendment that repealed Prohibition. It also laid the foundation for the three-tier system of wine and spirits distribution in the U.S. This scheme requires a third party - the wholesaler - to handle distribution of alcoholic beverages between producers and retailers. The government, in effect, gave wholesalers the key to the cellar door, and they've been reluctant to share it with others ever since, especially in recent years, as wineries turned to direct shipping of their releases to consumers as a way to build audience, remain solvent and embrace freedom. That would seem to be the American way, emphasizing competitiveness and liberty, but the wholesalers don't look upon the three-tier system as an irrelevant relic of Prohibition, but as their justification to continue to make big bucks under the pretense of preserving state rights.
Her appearance before the group, therefore, gives Palin a high-profile platform on which to declare her independence from such potent lobbyist groups as the wholesalers. How she does it will be dicey, but I'm here to help:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. Isn't it wonderful to be in Nevada, the silver state? Too bad you didn't get the gold, but every four years there's another chance. I know.
"Nevada, home of the Rebels. I like that. I bet Nevada is receptive to rogues, too. And just look at that pirate ship over at Treasure Island!
"Wow, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers, what a great bunch of guys, going to work every day, supporting their families, digging out of all that snow in Washington, D.C. Congratulations!
"You know, I have to confess that Todd and I don't drink much wine or spirits. We just never seem to agree on whether to have a cabernet sauvignon or a zinfandel with our moose stew, so we stick to soda. I'm not Thomas Jefferson, you know.
"But our family does appreciate your hard work. You employ thousands of truck drivers and sales people and clerks. You bring a measure of happiness to countless American families every day. You support good works in your communities.
"When members of the leftist media establishment wondered why I'd speak to such an obstructionist and litigous group, they just assumed it was because of the $75,000 or $100,000 or whatever it is I'm getting paid - the ink on my palm got smudged - but I can tell you that has nothing to do with why I'm here today.
"It's the pirate ship! Just kidding. I do have a serious message to deliver.
"I'm here to speak up on behalf of the family farmer. That's what most vintners are. They work the soil, grow a crop, harvest it and send it to market. That's the way it's been since the nation's founding. If you're going to believe in common-sense conservative principles as strongly as I do, you've got to get out of the way of that farmer heading to market. Think of the guy and the gal making wine as the original Scott Brown - people with a pick-up and a passion. As I've said before, competition makes us work harder and be more efficient and produce more. So get out of the courts, get out of the state legislatures, get out of the business of building roadblocks, and mostly just get out of the way of those guys and gals in their trucks.
"I know, I know, your whole intent is to protect the interests of the wholesalers and the brokers of wine and spirits, not the strength of the family farm. But this is a time for some tough action. It's not business as usual in America. The American public is agitated and angry. Americans are looking for real solutions, not a bunch more talk in the courts and legislatures. I'm asking you to do your part for the good of the country.
"No, I'm not suggesting you quit. I'm asking that you find a way to better represent those smaller wineries. Use as much imagination and industry getting their wines on shelves and wine lists as you do for those big factory wineries. And if that doesn't work out, well, I hear the Obama administration is hiring a whole bunch of former lobbyists. Ha, just kidding!"