Wednesday, July 8

The Saga of Sarah.

I guess I don't have much to add to the continuing astonishment over Sarah Palin's decision to say "no mas" and vacate the Alaska governor's mansion except for this: I'm disappointed. I was seriously hoping that the Republican Party, in its current state, would continue to hold up Palin as their Great Oh-So-Very-White Hope for the next three years, just long enough to nominate her to go up against Obama in the 2012 presidential election, at which point she would flame out and put the GOP right back at square one in terms of rebuilding their national stature. God, what a fun ride that would've been. I was fully prepared to go deep cover and volunteer for Palin's 2012 Alabama primary campaign if it looked like that scenario might come to pass.

But it's not going to. My knee-jerk reaction to Palin's announcement the day before Independence Day, like a lot of people's, was that she was unloading her gubernatorial responsibilities so that she could devote herself full-time to the business of laying the groundwork for a balls-out 2012 presidential run. With her brand name beginning to take on some tarnish from Todd Purdum's unflattering Vanity Fair profile and the resulting infighting with McCain's people, she was going to metaphorically stomp off to her room in a huff, sulk for a few months until enough people in the Republican base came groveling to stroke her hair and tell her how pretty and awesome she was, and then burst forth in February 2011 (or earlier) with a recharged ego and a refreshed arsenal of lame down-home witticisms, determined to yank the reins away from President Hussein and reclaim America for the real Americans.

But if she really wanted to do that, why not just wait a few months and announce she wasn't going to be running for another term as governor? Why quit in the middle of her first term? If one of the big knocks on you as a vice-presidential candidate is that you have minimal political experience, why throw away the opportunity to gain any additional experience if you don't have to?

"Sarah Palin isn't smart in what we might call conventional ways," writes TBogg in a short but highly incisive post from earlier this week, "but she has grifter smarts" -- or, as Holly characterized it, "middle-school, mean-girl, locker-room smarts" -- and that elementary cunning was enough to lead her to a conclusion many of us arrived at months ago: There's no way she's ever going to get elected president. Her favorability ratings began tanking within a couple weeks of her acceptance speech on the floor of the Republican National Convention last September, and while dyed-in-the-wool religious conservatives thought she was the greatest thing since sliced bread (and still do), independents quickly decided they wanted nothing to do with her (and still don't). Reports say even her fellow Alaska Republicans had started to turn on her, to the point where she might not even have been able to win a primary challenge in a potential re-election bid -- and when you can't even hold together a Republican coalition in one of the reddest states in the country (Democrats haven't broken 40 percent in a presidential election in Alaska, much less won outright, since the 1960s), your prospects for building anything resembling an effective base of support nationally are in deep ka-ka.

So why'd she do it? Let's go back to TBogg:

. . . [Palin] knows that she can make a better living working the wingnut welfare circuit preaching to the already converted than she can in politics.

He also quotes Jill from Brilliant at Breakfast:

If she were about helping other working mothers and parents of special-needs children and health care for all and a stable job base, she could have been a credible contender for first female president. But alas, she is only an aging beauty queen, a Mean Grrrl who in politics has found a way to extend her reign as Prettiest Girl in High School to use people (or states) and then throw them away when they stop feeding her massive ego . . .

That description stops just short of summing up what I think is a central truth about Sarah Palin, a truth that clues us in to both why she quit her gubernatorial term in midstream and why she'll never be president. For all the talk about all the things that made Palin such a refreshing novelty on the national political scene over the past year or so -- her gender, her good looks, her unusual family, the exotic locale from whence she sprang -- she's not actually unique at all: She is George W. Bush, only female and cute. Like Bush, her most substantial political experience was a governorship of modest responsibilities, and whatever renown she'd acquired was primarily for superficial reasons (good looks = Bush's famous family name). Without much of an actual track record or stated policy slate to speak of, the neocon wing of the Republican Party decided on her as a blank slate upon which they could project their hopes and ideals, an assignment that she, like Dubya, tackled with gusto. But through it all she's expressed the same intellectual incuriosity that Dubya demonstrated throughout the entirety of his presidential term -- they both know what they feel about this issue or that issue, their minds are made up, and they're not interested in acquiring any additional information about it, especially not anything that would challenge the worldviews and prejudices they'd already spent so many years setting in stone.

Seriously, does a woman who can't come up with an answer better than "all of 'em" when asked a question as simple as "what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read" sound like she gives a flying fuck about becoming knowledgeable on the major issues of the day? Does she sound like someone interested in doing anything other than what Bush did as president -- i.e. bringing in "advisors" who will tell him/her exactly what he/she wants to hear and nothing more? Palin's legions of right-wing fans may not demand any more than that from her, because her willingness to "go with her gut" in the absence of any debate or time-consuming deliberation is one of the things they most admire in her, just as they admired it in Bush before her. But the rest of us, as evidenced by the 2008 election outcome, have come to our senses, and have started demanding a little more from the person who holds the most powerful title in the free world.

Evidently, even people in Alaska are starting to demand that as well, and that, as much as anything, is why she resigned so abruptly: The job got too hard, too many people didn't like her, she wasn't having fun anymore. So she quit, just like she quit a series of colleges and a position as head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. She's going to lay low for a while, then write a book (or have one ghost-written for her) and probably get a talk show on Fox News, re-establish her position as the spokesperson for the great not-so-silent not-quite-majority of aggrieved Tea-Party-throwing, Obama-hating ultraconservatives without actually having to get elected to anything, and thereby become the only thing she ever really wanted to be all along: a celebrity.

Is that an overly harsh assessment? Probably, but as hard as I try, I just can't find one shred of evidence that Palin has any stomach for the difficult and sometimes spirit-sapping work of actual policy-making, consensus-building, or governing. Leave out the sob stories about catty Vanity Fair articles or tasteless jokes late-night talk-show hosts have made about her kids; in the end, that stuff's got very little to do with actual politics. It's got more to do with the travails of simply being a celebrity, and while Sarah Palin may look like she's selflessly falling on her sword and giving up the limelight for the good of her family or her state or whoever, she'll be back. Only as a pricey lecture-circuit choir-preacher or Fox talking head, of course, not as someone poised to make any direct, tangible difference in what goes on in Washington.

But that just kind of makes the Saga of Sarah -- to the extent that there is one -- only that much more pointless and wasted in the end. You will have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore, sooner or later, but only if it's on her terms, and in a capacity where she doesn't actually have to put anything on the line. She'll say stupid things on big stages, people who should know better will give her more air time than she deserves, but in the end history won't remember her as anything even resembling a transformative figure; the Saga of Sarah won't end up being remembered as anything more than a year in its political life that America won't ever get back.


Josh M. said...

Man, I should write a left-of-center blog. Here's my post for this week:

"Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Sarah Palin."

Yep, looks like all the rest of 'em.

Democrats seem to have forgotten how to write about Democrats.

Doug said...

Mmmhmm . . . this is the part where I ask when was the last time you wrote a political post that didn't lay into a Democrat. (Followed by some variation on the "I don't come to where you blog and knock the broom out of your hands" crack.)

Josh M. said...

I've only had a couple of political posts since Obama took office - but really, that's not the point. Complaining about the majority is par for the course; it's when the majority can't stop focusing on the minority that things seem a bit off.

You have the White House, you have 60 in the Senate, you seemingly have it all - and yet every single liberal blogger I read (and there are a few) can't stop talking about Palin this week. Like they couldn't stop talking about Limbaugh. Like they couldn't stop making "teabag" jokes.

It's this constant "focus on the other guy" approach, when I'd honestly like to read a reasoned defense of what the actual guys in charge are doing. When Bush went right, I tried to defend it. When he went wrong, I certainly owned up - and I ended up not voting for Palin's ticket because (in part) I felt it was too much of a W. continuation.

I wish some of the liberal voices I respected - yes, you included - would either say "Obama is doing a good job, and here's why," or offer criticism and not just deflect it to the Republicans.

JasonC said...

I heard that the real reason she is leaving is to replace Biden as the VP. Apparently, Obama thinks she is a "hawttie!" and "wants a piece of tail like that on his staff".

Doug said...

Josh, if Hillary Clinton just up and resigned tomorrow after only a few months as secretary of state, and was making implications that her career in politics was over, that'd be a news story, right? Something you'd expect a lot of blogs and news outlets on both the left and the right would be writing about?

If you disagree with, or can mount an argument against, something I've written here, you're always welcome to say so. But as a writer, there are few things that piss me off more than someone coming over here and telling me what or what not to write about.

Josh M. said...

I'm not even close to telling you what to write about - I'm just saying what I'd like to see.

Yeah, I think Palin deserved coverage, but there's only so much blood to squeeze out of that lemon. We're sitting here almost a week after the announcement, I've read what probably amounts to half a million words about it, and the constant drumbeat is just deflating (and, again, I'm far from a Palin supporter).

It has certainly convinced me that liberals are much more upset about Palin's resignation than conservatives are.

ljvocke said...

Pretty windy Palin diatribe. You must suffer from PDS.

You won, she lost. Isn't that enough?

I love this from the Purdum piece -[More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]

Yep...something you hear randomly all the time on the street, especially in Alaska. (sarcasm alert I)

One party rule that you seem to relish in...a long and storied history of success thoughout mankind. (sarcasm alert II)

Here is a liberal & a feminist blogger who sees thru the smear that you've swallowed whole. She is no rank & file dolt.

Holly said...

I'm not even close to telling you what to write about - I'm just saying what I'd like to see.

....wait, what?

Reed said...

The thing that I think is most fascinating about the Paris Hilton - shit - I mean Sarah Palin saga is that there are so many people within the right wing cocoon that believe that if only she was at the top of the ticket, the GOP would have won. They think that America adores her. Their reason for supporting her has little to do with what she can do as president or even really her policies, because who can tell what any of those are outside of the religious stuff? They like her because they think she would win. That's the reason they actually give (this taken mostly from reading lunatics on message boards - I am not trying to imply that this is the mainstream conservative point of view). It really highlights the "team spirit" mentality many bring to politics here. They vote for the elephant or donkey, not even for the candidate. These people are the reason Sarah Palin still exists (there are plenty on the other side as well, and most of them voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary).

I guess I'm saying, to rebut Josh just a bit, that Palin matters not because of anything she is, but because of the space she represents in our politics. The Paris Hilton reference I made above is apt. She's a know-nothing celebrity, yet she's still important to far too many people. If nobody on the right would continue to support her, she would cease to exist on the left. But she exemplifies just how deluded some people are. They believe she would beat Obama head to head in 2012. That's insanity.

Josh M. said...

"....wait, what?"

Saying "I'd like to see you write this" and "Write this" are two completely different things.

"If nobody on the right would continue to support her, she would cease to exist on the left."

Sorry brother, but I don't believe that - at least, not anymore. She's achieved "boogeyman" status for many liberals. The story of the evil hockey mom will precede many bedtimes for years to come.

MykieSee said...

Deleted from my bookmarks.

RedCrake said...

Look, I'm a relatively conservative guy and I don't necessarily agree with everything Doug says about Palin in this post(honestly I'm just tired of hearing about her in general now), it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to take a pass on all the wonderful, perfectly hilarious posts on this site just because of the occasional political commentary that offends one's delicate sensibilities.

Holly said...

You hear that, Doug? DELETED FROM BOOKMARKS, son. That'll learn you to write what you want on your own website.

Doug said...

Ehh, maybe it's time to bust this one out again. Maybe I'll make it an annual thing.

RedCrake said...

Wow. That post pretty much covers everything we've seen in these comments. Are you a psychic?

SpartanDan said...

Your loss, Mykie. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Plaid Avenger said...

Judging by the level of wingnut sensitivity here.....

...maybe Doug's hit this silly nail on the head?

Conservatives, we'd love for nothing more than you to find an adult to nominate in 2012.

Buck said...

Do no count Sarah out of anything yet. She will rock the house in 2012. Mark my words. She has a solid 20 to 25 percent that would follow her into hell and she is not about to let them down.

And tell me what other candidate from the Republican party more accurately represents it?

Sarah Palin is a pathological liar with no interest at all in governing and a master at self promotion.

That is the 21st century GOP in a nutshell.

ljvocke said...

I still have Doug bookmarked. He's an Olbermann kind of way. Besides, I'm here for the football.

I voted for Paul, so you governmental nannies can kiss my ass.

I am always amused at the Palin derangement mindset out of the leftist dolts. Absolutely hilarious.

Total Democratic seems many of you nutters are all for that.'d think Detroit, Chicago, California, et al, might open your eyes a bit.

I personally hope for opposite parties in Congress/Executive branch. Gridlock is better than what we have had. I love vetos & filibusters. Unfortunately, the judicial branch has been playing the rule making game. Sotomayor-hah, that Ricci decision was egregious, but she's in like Flynn to make her activist mark.

Palin is evil, but Pelosi & Reid are good guys. And fucking big a moron is he?

I'd vote for a 9 year old before these pandering fools if the kid could balance a checkbook and the Constitution allowed it.

You idiots better be shorting the dollar while you still have a few. Clownbucks, here we come. Learn Chinese. Buy Krugerrands.

Gen. Stoopnagle said...

Yeah. That's why I don't like her either.

I'm really surprised that any shade of conservative could in good conscious get behind a quitter? It sort of seems antithetical for any group that used the "cut and run" critique.

Why is it all I can think of is Fred Thompson when I hear Sarah '12?