Palin’s Problem

It is hard for Conservatives to not like Sara Palin. It is not so often that there is such a match between Conservative ideology and charismatic appeal. Sarah Palin is a political rock star. She demonstrated this by her ability to raise funds and draw crowds for candidates in the mid-term elections a few weeks ago. Though the historic Republican sweep cannot be said to be her doing (there was substantial help from President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), Palin deserves credit for vigorous labor on the behalf of candidates. She certainly was able to make substantial deposits in her bank of political favors, ready for withdraw later.

It is also easy for Conservatives to feel protective of Palin. She has been unfairly depicted as being a dim bulb by people of limited wattage themselves. This line of political attack is part of a broader critique of middle-class America by the self-anointed elites of the blue states. However, is precisely because Palin has been somewhat successfully caricaturized as unserious that she should spend more time as a policy wonk and less as a lightning rod.

Palin should learn from the experience of Ronald Reagan. He changed careers from actor to politician, and was dismissed as “just an actor’’ for his entire political career. Overtime the criticism lost its saliency because Reagan led a large state for eight years. Palin unfortunately withdrew from the governorship of Alaska, probably for personal financial reasons. The decision may benefit her family, but not her prospects for higher political office.

Reagan spent years providing regular radio political commentary where he thought through his ideas and nutured his political voice. Sarah Palin has exploited the new social media with a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but in not quite the correct way. She needs to twitter less, and use Facebook more as Reagan used radio.

Palin would be well-served by thinking through and regularly writing serious political pieces on Facebook and perhaps even delivering her ideas on a regular podcast. Palin has the star power, she needs to persuade others that she can back up with policy credentials. She should use social media in much same way as Congressman Paul Ryan does: less for political attention and more for explaining ideas. The public elected a novice pretty political face for president in 2008, who hid is political radicalism. In 2012, the public will be more concerned with ideas.

Palin took a step backward this week with Sarah Palin’s Alaska: a show on the TLC channel. If the show had focused entirely on Alaska in documentary fashion, it might have helped Palin.

Instead of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’’ the show would be more aptly named “Alaska’s Sarah Palin.’’ There was beautiful scenes of Alaska and Palin’s family in Alaska. Unfortunately, program devolved too much into a reality show. Sarah Palin may be attractive to look at walking in shorts around her expansive new house, but the view of her family was just too intimate. It was not that there was any pathological present. On the contrary, the Palins were dealing with children and other family issues, much as we all do, in an appealing – if contrived – manner.

However, we want leaders who, as in Kipling’s phrase, “can talk with crowds and keep [their] virtue, [and] walk with kings’’ while not losing, “the common touch,’’ there needs to be an emotional distance for leadership. Sarah Palin’s Alaska shrinks that distance.

There is a saying that no man is a hero to his valet. Similarly, it is hard to entrust weighty issues to your next door neighbors, no matter how appealing. Palin’s show is making her more a neighbor we might like, and less a leader we would believe in.

One Response to “Palin’s Problem”

  1. Ted says:


    Governor Palin is a courageous person, no doubt. In view of her massive following, if she would simply, briefly, tweet about the upcoming case before the US Supreme Court next week, it would change the course of American history.

    November 23, 2010 marks a fork in the road for the future of America of more than historic proportions — perhaps on par with events leading to the Civil War. To date, virtually all federal and state courts where actions have been brought seeking decision on the meaning of the Constitution’s Article 2 “natural born citizen” clause as a prerequisite for Barack Obama to be a lawful President and Commander in Chief of the United States (Mr. Obama having been born to a father of British/Kenyan nationality and father not a citizen of the United States), have been shut down, never getting beyond the issue of standing. To date, courts have very strategically (narrowly if not artfully) characterized and applied law and legal procedure steadfastly to prevent the question from ever rising to the merits — this on a host of different types and classes of plaintiffs, causes and defendants — admittedly under the most intensely implicit (if not more) pressure to do the same.

    The national media (some say our 4th branch of government) has aided and abetted the avoidance by mischaracterizing this as a “Hawaii birth” a/k/a “birther” issue which is nothing more than a “red herring” in that the issue for Article 2 “natural born citizen” is Mr. Obama’s father. Moreover, the legal community has aided and abetted the avoidance by mischaracterizing the 1898 Supreme Court Case, Wong Kim Arc, which dealt with the meaning of “citizenship”, not the meaning of “natural born citizen” under Article 2.

    November 23, 2010 may very well be the last chance for the Judicial Branch realistically to take up the issue, this on a case of legal standing solidly presented by Attorney Apuzzo and Commander Kerchner. If the Court finds no standing here, by a narrow interpretation of the same or otherwise, coming after all the rest of the “no standing” cases, it is doubtfull this important Constitutional issue can and will be resolved in any court of law. The question will nevertheless continue to fester, at tremendous national cost, never to abate, potentially to reach crisis stage, and in any event to undermine the structure of our Constitutional Republic.

    It is more than chilling and says volumes that NOT ONE member of Congress will publicly speak on this or, better yet, since the Congress of the United States has more than a vested interest, opine if not as a “friend of the court” at the Supreme Court, in the court of public opinion — BEFORE the Supreme Court convenes on November 23, 2010.

    The world is (should be) watching!

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