There seems to be something of a debate about whether, with John McCain's defeat looking likely, Sarah Palin will get the GOP nomination in four years. I think it's likely, as I've said before, but some of Larison's commenters got me thinking.
I think the reasons such a thing are likely are several fold: for one thing, we've seen in this election that conservatives are not only outside the mainstream--they actively loathe it. Right now, the evidence is pretty strong that Sarah Palin is a drag on the ticket. Voters feel that she isn't ready to be president. This is not actually a new finding. And, wouldn't you know it, some conservatives like Kathleen Parker and David Frum, being of sound mind, actually said so, and got thousands of letters in hate mail for their trouble. Neither Parker or Frum is anything but a staunch conservative, and they were voicing what about 55% of the country thinks. And they got pilloried for their efforts, and nobody seemed swayed.
So, the fact that Palin is seemingly unelectable doesn't seem to be a problem for these folks. Maybe after some distance from the election they'll reflect and realize that Palin was a huge mistake, but is there really any precedent for this? George W. Bush is loathed by every group but Republicans. He's still generally popular there, despite presiding over the Iraq War, Katrina and the financial meltdown. Something tells me that these folks aren't generally the most reflective people around. All Palin has to do is make herself a Fox News fixture, make lots of appearances and help candidates raise money, and continually tap into class resentments and I think she'll be a lock. There's just a large block of Republicans who believe that Sarah can do no wrong.
Now, she'll have no institutional support in 2012. In fact, I suspect that many pillars of the institutional GOP will wind up sitting the election out, or perhaps even supporting Obama. Nevertheless, the grassroots support will be there. It will be 1972 all over again. And there is no question that Palin wants it, as her ambition is plainly evident and uncoupled with even a veneer of caring about common folks. In other words, she's like Bill Clinton, only a much worse liar. I also suspect she'll bound forward, ignoring the polls showing she's unelectable, because denying reality is a staple of hers. Just check out Andrew Sullivan's "Odd Lies of Sarah Palin" series, or her response to the Troopergate report coming out. This is a woman who no doubt already feels entitled to the presidency (because of her small town upbringing or some other asinine rationale) and will vigorously pursue it.
And, getting back to the title, the reason why I think she'll lose is because I don't think she'll really improve in four years. She's just not a worker, which might be why she went to six colleges. She already believes she's qualified to be president, and she no doubt has her cocoon of wingnut cadres who effusively praise everything she does. Why become informed about policy when you already draw huge adoring crowds, especially when it's not in your nature? Contrast this to Joe Biden, who worked hard to become a foreign policy expert after he lost in 1988. She'll have a bit more experience, but her experience right now doesn't really seem to be worth a damn. I struggle to see how splitting the spoils of oil companies is going to help us figure out the financial crisis, and that's about all she's got to offer.
Update: Jon Chait agrees with me. That's all I need to hear.
Update 2: This conservative take on why Palin would be a poor political leader is very, very sharp. She undoubtedly would be a poor political leader, but the current right is too blinded by resentment to realize this and they'll pick her anyway.
The Man, The Myth, The Bio
- East Bay, California, United States
- Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.