Who needs credibility when you've got Sarah Palin? - Macleans.ca

Who needs credibility when you’ve got Sarah Palin?


Her book is called Going Rogue and it is already a bestseller weeks ahead of appearing on the bookshelves. This is no small feat and is indicative of the fact that Sarah Palin is the most spectacular politician in the Republican party—and possibly the United States. Her book is just thin edge of the wedge, too. Not only will she make millions doing speeches and grow her profile by acting ‘mavericky’ on Facebook and other outlets, she will dominate fundraising efforts for her party in the upcoming electoral year. Should the GOP make any gains in the 2010 mid terms, she will be in a position to reap the credit and her name will leap to the top of Republican field for the presidential primaries in 2012.

Clearly, she energizes the Republican base and excites the Beck-Limbaugh-Hannity-O’Reilly populist crowd. It matters little to them that she cannot conduct an in-depth interview on policy matters with reputed journalists. All she has to do is control the medium, as she did in Hong Kong and as she does with her Facebook interventions. No one challenges her knowledge because she plays her star quality to the hilt. Her somewhat-glamorous looks and her unpredictability make her irresistible to reality TV–types who want to see a show. Surely, her 400-page book will contain even more revealing glimpses of the hockey mom from Alaska.

All this is aimed at deflecting the negative attention cast on a retired governor who failed to complete her first term and left amidst controversy and declining polls. Her poor performance as the running mate to the hapless John McCain will be less of a factor than her track record as governor of Alaska. It will become obvious in the coming weeks that Palin has outgrown Alaska. She is now out to conquer middle America from the usurper-in-chief in the White House. All this will be great material for pundits on cable news shows and Tina Fey on SNL.

The base and the far-right in the media will applaud their new darling and attempt to compare her glamour with that of Barack Obama. It leads one to wonder whether this is in fact the ideal scenario for the White House. A focus on shallow glamour could effectively drown out some serious and credible voices in the GOP, most of whom have already retreated from the spotlight. Where is Mitt Romney these days? Can Newt Gingrich get any traction? And what about moderate and fiscal conservative Tim Pawlenty, the outgoing Minnesota governor? Remember Bobby Jindal? Compared to the antics of Sarah, these guys are as boring as they come. And in a match up with Obama in the polls, they will not be seen as serious contenders. Palin, the thinking on the far right goes, would do better.

But here is the problem for the Republicans. The Palin Republicans may be boisterous bunch, but they are a definite minority. Americans are by nature an optimistic people. Appealing to fear, pursuing divisive and polarized politics, and always attacking without providing an alternative vision is not the way to electoral success. It gets people out to Tea Parties and boosts Fox News’ ratings but it does not appeal to mainstream America. This blog has argued all along for a moderate conservative alternative to Obama because it elevates the debate. It also offers the best promise for success for the Republican in the medium- and long-term. In the end, Sarah Palin will probably never even become a candidate for the presidency. Yet, as long as the Palin Republicans dominate the political scene in the GOP, the truly worthy candidates will be left to rot on the sidelines. Obama’s strategists could hardly have hoped for a better scenario.