Regular readers of this blog probably know that Sarah Palin wasn’t my preferred candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. So I greet her announcement that she isn’t going to run for president without much emotion either way.
But I’ve always been her champion in other ways, right from the start. If you look at the entries here under the category “Palin” on the right sidebar, you’ll see article after article in which, stunned by the vitriol directed at her, I try to puzzle out its origins.
One of my first efforts was called, “It’s the class war, stupid.” A number of my posts were about how and why Palin drew special ire from women on the left, especially feminists (see this and this, for example). Then there was her non-Ivy education.
Here was one of my efforts to sum it all up:
Palin-hatred has mysterious irrational aspects, but it also has explicable and indentifiable ones. And although no single one of them is sufficient to account for the phenomenon, together they have a powerful synergistic effect. You might say that Palin-hated represents the perfect storm, the confluence of flashpoints regarding class, education, beauty, sexuality, Christianity (don’t discount the latter…
So, will the press have Sarah Palin to kick around any more? I think so. She remains an influential figure in the Republican Party and especially the conservative movement, and I see no indication she plans to return to private life, although she could be forgiven for wanting to. She’s still very young (47), and could run in the future.
But I’ve been astounded once more (although I know; I shouldn’t be) by the petty and unjustified venom and contempt directed at her even now, when she’s out of the fray. Not atypical is this one in the Guardian that begins like this:
Long past the time many had ceased caring, Sarah Palin announced on Wednesday night that she was not running for the presidency in 2012. Fox News alone of America’s cable networks thought her announcement was more significant than the death of Steve Jobs. Everyone else reacted with a quick shrug and moved on.
It had become obvious that Palin was not going to be a candidate. The reality is that Palin didn’t stand a chance, so badly has she squandered her political capital within the Republican party over the past year with cheap stunts, such as an on-again, off-again grandiose national bus tour. Her career in national politics as a candidate is over.
But the most shameful piece I’ve seen is by David Frum, supposed Republican conservative. I’ll let his words speak for themselves. They tell us far less about Sarah Palin than they do about David Frum:
Sarah Palin’s political voice had dwindled well before she announced her decision not to run. Now it will sink altogether into inaudibility. She will be no kind of force in future national discussions. She will have no sway over party debates. She will retain some starpower for a little while longer. She may for another cycle or two be able to help certain candidates for certain political offices raise some money. Even that will fade within two more years or four. Her political career was brief, bizarre, and sordid. But now at least it is definitively finished.
Palin will never become a party elder stateswoman. Over the past three years, it became apparent to all but a handful of cultists that her only interests were money and celebrity. She had no concept of public service, and no capacity to serve even if she had wished to do so. Soon even those last cultists will quietly abandon the argument. We talk often these days about makers and takers. Sarah Palin was the ultimate taker. She abandoned her post as governor of Alaska to cash in on lectures and TV. She squeezed her supporters for political donations and spent the money on herself. To adapt an old phrase, she seen her opportunities and she took ‘em.
In the end, she exploited, abused, or embarrassed almost everyone who had believed in her. Most embarrassing of all: she was never even a very good con artist. Everything that was false and petty and unqualified in her was visible within the first minutes of encountering her. The people she fooled were people who passionately wished to be fooled. To that extent, what was important in her story was not the faults and failings of Sarah Palin. There have always been grifters in politics. What was important in her story was the revelation of conservatism’s lack of antibodies against somebody with the faults and failings of Sarah Palin. That’s the story that should trouble us still.
What’s particularly interesting about the Frum piece is how well the last paragraph (with one change: substitute “the US voters’” for the word “convervatism’s”) applies to President Obama. That someone like Frum doesn’t seem to see that should trouble us still.
I would say in closing that reports of Sarah Palin’s political death are greatly exaggerated.