Another guest poster now: Danielle Blake on Sarah Palin’s presedential ambitions.
She couldn’t name a newspaper she reads. She thought living in the closest state to Russia gave her foreign policy experience. She didn’t understand the role of Vice President of the United States, the role she was running for. She quit halfway through her first term as governor of Alaska. You’d be forgiven for thinking this Palin’s first name was Michael and not Sarah.
Yet Sarah Palin remains firmly in the public eye, and is considered to be a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Why is someone so obviously unfit for office given any attention at all, let alone seriously considered as a potential presidential candidate? Ironically, it is the very media Palin regularly expresses contempt for (she refers to them as the ‘lamestream media’, and bans the press from her public appearances) that ensures she stays in the spotlight. These days the purpose of American cable news is not to inform or fact check but to maximise ratings, and so to them, the most controversial VP pick in history is manna from heaven. This is why, despite poll after poll showing the American people can’t stand Palin, the media continues to hype her as a serious and important figure. Even in the print media, so-called journalists follow her every tweet, Facebook post, and speech as they degrade themselves and their profession by keeping this irrelevant, childish, ignorant person in the news.
Is she likely to run? Initially, after her stunning decision to resign in July 2009, the consensus was Palin was finished in politics. Who after all, would vote for a quitter for president? And surely someone unwilling/unable to handle a governorship would not seek higher office? With a resignation speech from Bizarro World – by quitting she was fighting; only ‘dead fish go with the flow’ i.e finishing the job one is elected to do is a sign of apathy; she was tired of all those bothersome ethics investigations (not because she was guilty, of course, but because she wanted to save taxpayer money) – Palin gave yet more notice that she was incapable of leading. Soon after, Palin realised that she would make far more money and maintain a higher level of exposure by hitting the ‘wingnut welfare’ circuit, where many conservatives have been given jobs and money on the basis of ideology, not any discernable talent. Sure enough, after a brief absence from public life she resurfaced as a contributor to Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing propaganda machine Fox News; she published a ghostwritten and fact-free autobiography, and charged extravagant amounts to give speeches and read crib notes off the back of her hand.
This might suggest a woman more interested in lucre than laws; who prizes the trappings and status of power over the actual exercise of it. But make no mistake – Palin has been very active, if incoherent, in pushing her right-wing agenda. She has her own political action committee, SarahPAC, which fundraises for and donates to candidates who fit Palin’s idea of conservatism. She has made several high-profile endorsements, albeit to little effect. She has jumped aboard the Tea Party bandwagon and set herself up as the representative of thousands of other angry white people mistakenly outraged at what they believe is outrageously high taxes, out of control spending, and a socialist takeover of America. It looks very much like she is positioning herself for a run at the nomination.
If she did run, would she win? In 1964, Barry Goldwater infamously declared at the Republican convention: “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice! Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Due in no small part to his uncompromising conservatism and that kind of extremist rhetoric, Goldwater went on to lose the election in a huge landslide to Lyndon Johnson, a lesson evidently lost on the current GOP base. For all the American right’s harping about the US being a ‘centre-right’ nation, they make the mistake of putting emphasis on right, not centre. There is a great swathe of Americans who dislike extremism or at least the appearance of it on either side, as Goldwater and George McGovern can attest. These are the Americans a candidate must win to win the White House. So if history is anything to go by, if Palin were to run and win the GOP nomination, the result in the general election would be a crushing landslide win for Barack Obama.