Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sarah's Solo Act

Are the Republicans really going to hitch their wagon to Sarah Palin in 2012? The same Sarah Palin who ran John McCain’s campaign aground with her neoconservative platform and her vitriolic personality? Democrats must be holding out hope that they are.

It’s more likely that the Republican Party will stay its current course, which is to drift aimlessly in the doldrums until they figure out which way the wind is blowing. Will the Americans people reject Barack Obama forcefully enough to swing back to the far right, or is the moderate stance the best way to go? It’s too early to tell and while Sarah Palin’s grabbing a lot of attention right now, it’s interesting to see that she is on her own. Nobody from the GOP is eager to back her, not yet.

If the economy heats up and the Democrats are able to maintain control of the House and Senate in 2010 the Republicans might have to embrace Palin and her tired old family values act. It’s all Palin has, but it was also all Bush had. It’s all a matter of selling it. The GOP just has to figure out if that’s how they want to be defined.

The problem with Palin is that she quit the only job she ever had that mattered. Being the mayor of Watchamacallit, Alaska doesn’t even look good on a resume if you’re applying for an assistant manager position at Applebee’s and the knock on Palin’s political experience during the 2008 campaign was valid because she hadn’t been governor long enough to demonstrate an ability to see an administration through its first term. Now she’s quitting before she can stick that feather in her cap.

It’s interesting because Sarah Palin really blew her own horn with regard to her political experience. She seemed genuinely convinced that her short stint at the helm of the least populous state in the US qualified her for the top job in the country. She proudly boasted that her experience was more significant than Barack Obama’s but since she bailed on that job in order to cash in on her popularity you have to wonder what her priorities are.

Sarah Palin will probably be much more formidable this time around but they don’t make a smart pill. If they did, the GOP would have been sneaking them into W’s applesauce for the last 10 years. Palin might actually have the coaching to avoid making a fool out of herself with Katie Couric but she’ll always be one unscripted question away from talking out of her ass. It’s also important to note that she’ll be facing a lot more scrutiny if she has the audacity to take a run at the presidency.

As a VP candidate pulled straight out of left, or perhaps more accurately, right field, Palin didn’t have to endure the slings and arrows of her own party. McCain had already earned the nomination and Palin was little more than window dressing. She just had to look good, exude a little vitality and quietly pander to the religious zealots on the far right.

The problem is that Sarah Palin didn’t want to take a back seat. She dressed in expensive suits, wore jackboots and became an unrepentant media whore. Sarah Palin resented John McCain and opposed his platform. McCain’s advisors publicly expressed outrage and disgust over the way Palin conducted herself. She was a shrill conservative harpy who frightened a lot of McCain’s longtime supporters.

There are a lot of people in the GOP who don’t want to see a return to the Rovian agenda and McCain’s failure on 2008 seemed to make it clear that the time was at hand to step away from religiosity and focus on important issues like taxes, spending and a reasonable approach to security; things McCain stood for back in 2000 when he lost his party’s nomination to George W. Bush. Had the McCain of 2000 campaigned in 2008 he might have won, but the older McCain compromised his personal values by embracing the Christian zealots he once vilified. He thought he had to pander in order to win.

The problem the GOP had in the past election is that the loyal Republican base lost faith. A lot of people felt like the Republican Party had lost its way and they voted for Obama. McCain, who had once been a fierce critic of George W. Bush, rebuilt himself in Bush’s image and Sarah Palin reinforced the message. Her only attribute, aside from her relative youth and camera friendly looks, was her appeal to the far right and with McCain resorting to the fear-mongering Bush, Cheney and Rove artfully employed to silence critics it was too much for reasonable people to bear.

Palin overreacted to David Letterman’s joke about her daughter’s unplanned and unexpected pregnancy. It was a poor joke, not by way of tastefulness but simply in execution. Sarah Palin turned a typical late note groaner into a crime against her family. She milked it for publicity and as the limelight started to fade she bellied up to the podium to announce that she was going to quit her job. Palin might even be convinced that it’s for Alaska’s benefit, and given her intellectual acumen she might have a point, but the fact remains that she was elected to serve a four year term. It was the only term to which she had been elected and couldn’t even follow through on that.

She spun it to sound as though her popularity has put Alaska in a tight spot, but she isn’t the first governor to return to her post after a failed VP bid. Senators and Congressman do it all the time. It’s an accepted part of the process. The problem with Palin is that she’s not content to ride off into the Alaskan sunset and bide her time. She doesn’t want to do her job. She’s too damned important.

If she does manage to become president it’s unlikely a more prestigious gig will reveal itself but vanity plays a big enough role in politics. This country doesn’t need somebody whose only motivation is vanity. The GOP doesn’t need to waste what little credibility it has by supporting her.

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