Monday, November 1, 2010

Palin: The Repubs McGovern?

[Yes, a historical parallel, but strictly to explain a concept and not as an assertion. And yeah, that promise I made a few months ago about never posting on Palin didn't pan out, did it? Moving on...]

I really wonder what people in D.C. are thinking about sometimes. If one assumes that the Republican establishment doesn't want Sarah Palin to win the Republican nomination, why on Earth would they dish to Politico about how much they don't want Sarah Palin to win? For people who are presumably smart and competent at politics, this is just a really stupid thing to do. This is the sort of thing that endears Palin's hard-core supporters to her, and one that might even make Republican non-fans of Palin a bit more sympathetic to her. Many Democrats have expressed the sentiment that bile from people like Chris Matthews directed toward Hillary Clinton in 2008 made them feel more sympathetic toward Clinton, so it's possible that Republicans will feel the same way for Palin due to things like this. After all, it's easy enough to call the other campaigns a boys' club when one considers that all the other prospects are white dudes, and when their staffs are talking about actual conspiracies.

My personal theory is that this kind of thing is the only way Palin can win. Most polls (including this one from about a month ago) show her behind at least Romney and oftentimes others too. If ignored by the other candidates, she'll be able to attract her core group of fans, but few others. There are large numbers of Republicans that like Palin but don't want her to run for president, possibly leaving a cap on her support. Something along the lines mentioned in this article, though, will only make other Republicans feel more sympathetic toward her, and these days Republican voters seem to be perfectly willing to throw away races if they feel that the establishment is trying to tell them what to do (such as this example). Palin's antipathy toward the Republican establishment seems to be more or less where most Republicans are these days, and in the absence of someone else for conservatives to get really excited about, I'm beginning to think Palin isn't badly situated to get the Republican nomination. Of course, she'd actually need to campaign and build an operation to do so, which she is probably too lazy to actually do. I guess we'll see. Of course, this has nothing to do with her prospects in the general, which are practically nonexistent. Her marquee endorsements (excluding the sure things intended to up her batting average) this cycle have either stumbled enough to make easy races into competitive ones (Nikki Haley, Sharron Angle), stumbled enough to turn competitive races into losing ones (Carly Fiorina, O'Donnell), or just failed to win the primary altogether (Vaughn Ward, Karen Handel). She has no handle on what the public wants, and that will go double for the inevitably less-Republican electorate of 2012.

If Palin gets the nomination, I think she'll be worse for the Republicans than George McGovern was for the Democrats (or, more accurately, Richard Nixon's distored version of McGovern that he fed to the public). McGovern lost badly because he wasn't a competent-enough politician to dispel the persona that Nixon crafted for him. But his defeat, contrary to conventional wisdom, did not destroy liberalism or the Democratic Party in the mind of the public. Nixon's landslide did nothing for congressional Republicans and within two years the voters were electing extremely liberal candidates to office after Watergate. It did, however, create divisions within the party that still haven't fully healed. I don't really think that Palin's nomination will create enormous cleavages in the GOP, since they'll all support her. Maybe David Frum will endorse Obama in 2012, but you won't see the Chamber of Commerce backing him the way the unions backed Nixon in '72, to name an example. It could, however, completely solidify Palin as the image of right-wingery in the public mind, and make that concept completely radioactive for a generation. After Bush, a Palin nomination would send a message of doubling down on Bushism instead of changing course with someone like, say, a Mitch Daniels. Putting someone avowedly unpopular and lacking in communication skills, vision, and leadership to even a greater extent than Bush ever did is simply madness, and if she is unable to define herself positively, the only definition that will stick is what her opponents say. Palin does have a nonzero chance of winning, but I think the public has already decided how they feel about her, and a public craving steady economic stewardship just isn't going to vote for a half-term quitter. Which is something that would come up--Obama could just make "Strong and Steady" his campaign slogan were the Republicans to pick Palin, to remind voters of Palin's biggest weakness at all times.

Update: She's endorsing Tom Tancredo in Colorado. Congrats, Gov-elect Hickenlooper, I'm guessing.

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.