Palin's Constituency is Real
Since Sarah Palin's stunning resignation on Friday, I snuck time in among parades, parties, and fireworks to see what the pundits and bloggers on both sides were saying. I believe that her future is being discounted too quickly.
First, I must admit that the press conference and accompanying statement should allow Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien and other comedians to enjoy their vacations, as the jokes are already written upon their return. Paul Begala appropriately quoted Hunter S. Thompson in a Huffington Post blog Friday: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
With that said, the reality is that Sarah Palin speaks to and for a constituency that may only be emboldened by the political obits being written now. They really don't care whether she finishes her term, has any intellectual curiosity, or the leadership qualities that this panel might admire. She appeals to people outside the biggest cities and coastal enclaves, people who believe that the snobby know-it-all elites of both parties don't care about or support their interests.
That group includes some very conservative members of my family and those I grew up around. They were Republican not because they admired Republic politicians or platforms, but because they thought that a smaller government would screw them less than a bigger government. They hate the New York Times editorial page, but don't care for the Wall Street Journal editorial page either. To them, her simplicity is not a character flaw - it is a strength that they think will allow her to slash and burn the government, except in the defense of human life (at least for fetuses) and the homeland. They like the fact that she bucks the system and they admire her disregard of the normal political process - the way one builds a career, constituency, and platform. She appears to be a maverick who will deliver.
The question then becomes, will she be (as Chuck Todd suggested on NBC's First Read this morning) a Pat Buchanan - a highly paid pundit who speaks to a dedicated minority and runs for president to pull the party rightward? Or will she be a formidable presidential candidate? Her maverick, folksy leadership qualities may be counter-intuitive, but they work.
Still, I cannot believe that she will be a formidable candidate for one simple reason: discipline. Her ability to build on top of her natural base is not as limited by her lack of experience or expertise as much as by her lack of discipline. Disciplined mavericks can get things done, but there is no evidence of such discipline during her last twelve months in the spotlight. While she certainly needs more knowledge of foreign affairs, economics, etc., she is in much greater need of discipline. Her announcement itself showed a spectacular lack of it.
If she truly wanted to mount her 2012 maverick campaign for President, she might have simply said:
"During the last twelve months, I've had the opportunity to travel the country and gain greater perspective on the myriad challenges our nation faces today. I find these challenges urgent and believe that my party needs to fight urgently for the causes we believe in: freedom, life, security, limited government and free enterprise. I know that many Americans agree with me that we are headed in the wrong direction, and I have a unique opportunity at this point in history to stand up for them and fight with them for change. But I cannot do this effectively while executing my role as Governor of Alaska. With great confidence in my Lt. Governor, my team, and the direction we have been taking here in Alaska, I am therefore resigning as Governor. I am proud of my people and what we have accomplished, and know that this very difficult decision is the right decision for me and for Alaska. I love Alaska and I love America so much so that I am willing to take what those elite critics on the coasts dish at me. The personal attacks, and I'm sure more will come, are a small sacrifice to stand up the many Americans who will work with me to create change. Thank you, happy Fourth of July, and God Bless the United States of America."
Instead, the undisciplined maverick used 2,325 more words than necessary - perhaps so that she could be more folksy. The effect was vindictive, contradictory, and strange. I think that Palin will build a constituency and I think she will run for president. But I am certain that without greater personal and professional discipline, she can never win.
Posted by: maureenmoir | July 8, 2009 9:22 AM
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