Hold on. Not so fast. She’s going, but probably not away.
media have been out to analyze and take down Sarah Palin in her
resignation with the same speed and fury with which they raced
to….well….criticize and take down her candidacy from the time she was
announced by John McCain as his running mate (remember that: Sarah who?!). Few other events could have seized reporters and headlines when they were saturated with Michael Jackson coverage like this
did, but she knew that. And so taking a move from President Barack
Obama’s own playbook, Palin issued an impromptu bombshell on Friday
afternoon, on a holiday weekend.
with a pen, keyboard or microphone (okay, everyone) has pronounced on
this story in some way. It has been a primer on the state of current
politics and journalism, taking in all this analysis,
sometimes informative, some annoying, some entertaining. Rather than
add to the bulk of opinion pieces with my own take on ‘the meaning of
it all’, I decided it
would be way more fun to indulge in a distillation of some media
spirits. And see what state that puts us in….now that we’re leaving
‘It’s Her Own Fault’
New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat blames Palin for getting into this mess in the first place. “She should have said no,” he begins and declares that those five words could well be her epitaph.
Intriguing thought, how things may have gone had she turned McCain down
at the time. But Douthat doesn’t linger with ‘what might have been’ for
long. “A Sarah Palin who stepped down for the sake of her family and
her media-swarmed state deserves sympathy even from the millions of
Americans who despise her.” What? Rubber-stamping…as de facto hostility among the American electorate…the animus major media crafted? Do millions of Americans despise her?
suggests that if Palin were exactly who her critics believe she is,
embodying “every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to
apocalyptic Christianity, she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting
figure….” Okay, he admits this is a caricature, but making a snarky remark and then dismissing it as hypothetical doesn’t excuse the blow. (Though Wm. F. Buckley once remarked “that
it is not enough for conservatives simply to be intelligent or
sophisticated. They have to project these qualities, conspicuously and
convincingly, in order to get past the visceral prejudices of elite
opinion-makers, who generally regard conservative ideas as some
combination of boobish, evil, backward, boring, dangerous, and
simplistic. Overcoming these prejudices is, if not a prerequisite, at
least a very helpful vehicle for receiving a fair hearing on the merits.” And Sarah Palin defied that particular wisdom…)
In fact, they never knew what to make of her, so the media made much of it up as they went. Which actually necessitated Palin doing the same, says National Review editor Rich Lowry. “It’s
fashionable to opine that the culture wars are over. Palin proves that
they still burn hot. Her very existence is a cultural provocation.
Before she had been on the national stage five minutes — before the
Katie Couric interview, before the Tina Fey parodies — she had earned
the eternal enmity of the liberal elite for the affront of who she was:
a working-class, pro-life woman with decidedly red-state mores.
Conservatives loved her for the same reason. She had a true magnetism.
The more she repelled one side, the more she attracted the other.”
she had been as ignorant as they portrayed her, they wouldn’t have
needed to persist in hammering that point. If she were a real hick,
yahoo and laughable wannabe….they would have laughed her off, especially
after the November election. But she posed too much of a danger to the
elite-leftist feminist agenda, because she landed on the national stage
as if from mars as one not in their image (or control) but the dreaded ‘Other’: the quintessential feminist who did it all, and, arguably, well. And even with an unexpected pregnancy, a Downs syndrome child, who she chose to bear. They could not bear her.
‘She Chose Wrong’
This may be a parody, but only sort-of. And it’s a great one. “Not
only were we offended at the sheer effrontery of McCain’s pick: How
dare the Republicans proffer this déclassée piece of Wasilla trailer
trash whose only claim to fame was that she didn’t exercise her right
to choose? [She did: She chose wrong.] Where
were her degrees from Smith or Barnard, her internships at PETA, the
Brookings Institution, or the Young Pioneers? We were also outraged
that the Stupid Party had just nominated a completely unqualified
candidate nobody had ever heard of, a first-term governor of Alaska
whose previous experience consisted of a small-town mayoralty…
so the word went out, from that time and place: Eviscerate Sarah Palin
like one of her field-dressed moose. Turn her life upside down. Attack
her politics, her background, her educational history. Attack her
family. Make fun of her husband, her children…Hit her with everything we have…”
And here, he zeroes in on the not-funny truth at the center of these attacks: “In Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, ‘the fourth rule is: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.’…Did Sarah stand for ‘family values’?
Flay her unwed-mother daughter. Did she represent probity in a
notoriously corrupt, one-family state? Spread rumors about FBI
investigations. Did she speak with an upper-Midwest twang? Mock it
relentlessly on Saturday Night Live.”
And on ‘serious’ news sites. Where they reported her press conference remarks, colloquial as it was: “We
have so many people who offer advice, but I’m going to continue to be,
whether some of ‘em like it or not, pretty darn independent, and not
get wrapped up into a strong political machine that hasn’t been
extremely successful in some ways,” she said on Fox News Channel. "I
want to work, right now, for people who are going to work in office or
out of office for the right things. Those principles that built up
America, those who are inspired by the values of America, and will not
deride or apologize for the values we hold as Americans. I’m gonna work
for those people.”
The Globe piece called her speech “rambling”, and so it was at times. And tight and nervous and unconventional, though she’s been nothing but that. She wanted to get it over with in a hurry, evidently. One of her aides mused that Palin can’t
get out of there fast enough. Taking into account the sheer volume and
intensity of repeated, unrelenting, frivolous ethics claims filed to
keep her on the defensive and out of cash, who can blame her?
The media. "I
don't know if there's gonna be another shoe to drop," said Stuart
Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report. "But this one wasn't
merely a shoe. It was a boot and it landed with a thud…The
criticism has been that she's rather thin in the resume, and [that] she
doesn't seem particularly serious or thoughtful," he said. "This kind
of act, I think, only adds to that impression. It doesn't help her
mystifying," said ABC News political analyst Cokie Roberts. "It was a
bizarre statement. It didn't make a lot of sense, and it doesn't seem
to be the kind of thing someone would do if someone was running for
‘If She’s Running for President’
Who said she was? The media. Or so they speculated.
“Strange though it might seem to many outsiders, it is not unthinkable
that she could capture the Republican nomination in the 2012
that is, that she wants it…Should she seriously be interested in a
presidential bid, it is hard to see the cause for urgency. And nothing
she actually said seemed to hint at such a bid; instead, she stressed a
desire to protect her family from intrusive attention, which would only
grow much more extreme were she to run.”
After taking a deep breath, the New York Times relaxed a bit. “So
in the end, this could simply be one of those it-is-what-it-is moments.
Ms. Palin was weary of being governor, and, facing constant ethics
complaints, she saw her family being chewed up by bad publicity and
decided to trade those things for the opportunity to work on her book
(for which she received a lucrative contract), tour the country giving
paid speeches and consider offers from television or radio to become a
highly paid commentator.”
But go another paragraph or two further…
one friend remarked, Ms. Palin is facing potentially high legal bills
because of the ethics and other investigations — all frivolous, she
said — that were one product of being thrust into the national
spotlight.” Well, not exactly. They were the product of forces bent on withering her appeal and unraveling her base of support.
this perspective, the decision was simple and sensible: Less stress,
and more national attention and money. A year from now, perhaps, she
will find herself in a position where she wants to run, or is being
pressed to run, and may do it. Or she may find that being a big player
in her party and the conservative movement — you could see candidates
making a pilgrimage to her doorstep for her endorsement — might be
Actually, this is the more interesting type of speculation. “John Ridley of National Public Radio says she has the potential to be a Republican "kingmaker."
was never going to be president of the United States. But who's got all
the sway in the Republican Party right now? It's the political pundits;
it's the talk show hosts; it's the people who are not responsible to an
electorate," Ridley told CNN's Campbell Brown. "I would not be
surprised if around 2011 people are circling around Sarah Palin,
saying, 'please, anoint us for the road to the White House.' She's
never going to be president but possibly a kingmaker."
Or a revolutionary.
After that Fourth of July weekend announcement, “every presidential
hopeful should realize that in the next election Sarah Palin — or
someone like her — could be the vehicle for another revolution. The
distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and
conservatives, are being overshadowed by that between what we might
call the “Court party” — made up of the well-connected, the people who
feel represented by mainstream politicians who argue over how many
trillions should be spent on reforming American society, who see
themselves as potters of the great American clay — and the “Country
party” — the many more who are tired of being treated as clay.
of July 4, 2009, Sarah Palin is the leader of the Country party. The
fact that she did almost nothing to earn that position underlines that
party’s nature and power.”
Does Palin have a political future?
“Palin can steep herself in foreign policy, become an advocate for
issues that people actually care about — like special-needs children, a
cause for which savaging her would be difficult — and help a national
Republican party that is in no position to turn away any volunteers,
let alone one for whom thousands cheer at events.
has a future in politics or public policy or both — if she wants one.
That’s a broader question than the possibility of a presidential run in
2012 or beyond. If she does pursue the presidency, she’ll have to earn
it, but her cost of admission to the race should be no greater, and her
burden of proof no higher, than those of the other governors — or the
one-term senator/community-organizers who have come before her.”
Which brings us back to Ross Douthat, and what he takes away from this experience. “Here
are lessons for any aspiring politician who shares Palin's background
and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your
religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will
be distorted to better parody your family and your faith.” By necessity, or expediency….a nice word for the politics of destruction?
commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female
commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You'll be
sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You'll
endure gibes about your "slutty" looks and your "white trash
concupiscence." And eight months after the election, the professionals
who pressed you into the service of a gimmicky, idea-free campaign will
still be blaming you for their defeat.
of this had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had
everything to do with Palin's gender and her social class. Sarah Palin
is beloved by millions because her rise suggested that the old American
aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be
“But her unhappy sojourn on the national stage has had a different moral: Don't even think about it.”
What a message. But it needn’t be taken as conclusive and de facto. There is also the rare media voice crying in the wilderness….must this be our political reality? “In
helping to convince Sarah Palin that her road forward in national
politics would demand even more sacrifices and pain than exacted from
most politicians, the media did nothing to encourage women or people of
modest means to participate in politics. By sidestepping her critics,
Sarah Palin is now moving to another playing field where she has more
control over the rules of the game.”
And in the politics of the day, it’s all about power, and control.
Sheila Gribben Liaugminas is an Emmy Award winning journalist who
reported for Time magazine for more than 20 years. She blogs at
InforumBlog.com and on MercatorNet