The Palin formula
Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 6:47 pm
By: By DOUGLAS COHN and ELEANOR CLIFT
The Messenger 09.15.10
?By DOUGLAS COHN
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON – Sarah Palin must be doing something right to turn a failed vice-presidential campaign and an unfinished governorship into a celebrity powerhouse. Whether or not she runs for president in 2012, she has the aura of a leading contender, if not the poll ratings. The intensity of support that her followers express for her does not translate into a majority, even among Republicans, that can envision her as a potential commander in chief.
Should that matter? The fact that Palin’s popularity is more about her showmanship than her record of achievement seems to suit the mood of the country. Conservatives love her and revel in the way she sticks it to the media; liberals puzzle over her and how she dares to lead a feminist movement that is anti-choice.
She didn’t invent the Tea Party and had nothing to do with its founding, but ask any of the tens of thousands who attended Glenn Beck’s rally on the mall who their leader is, and they’re more than likely to say, Sarah. How did she become the beneficiary — and the instigator — of this populist uprising on the Right?
The Palin formula is exquisitely simple. She represents the core Republican stand on issues, and expresses it in pithy Twitter-feed language. She tells the voters that Democrats are taking away our guns, letting illegal immigrants in, taking over health care with Washington bureaucrats, spending all our money and refusing to balance the budget. These are shallow positions in a complex world.
Palin doesn’t do nuance, and she doesn’t subject herself to interrogation in any form. No questions from journalists, not after Katie Couric skewered her during the presidential election.
And above all else, she makes sure she stays in the news with well-publicized appearances and her ongoing Twitter comments. Where more mainstream politicians might prefer to avoid tabloid-type coverage, Palin revels in it. Bristol, her 19-year-old daughter, after an on-again, off-again engagement to the father of her baby, will soon be appearing on “Dancing with the Stars.” Bristol rivals her mother with her ability to capture headlines from a celebrity-obsessed media.
The GOP base loves Palin. She says what they want to hear, and it infuriates the Republican establishment which has seen several of its anointed candidates fall by the wayside after Palin endorsed another less favored candidate in the GOP primary. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is the latest to feel Palin’s lash. Their feud goes back to when Palin ousted Murkowski’s father as governor. Palin’s endorsement of Murkowski’s little known Tea Party challenger, Joe Miller, vaulted him into the lead in Alaska’s GOP primary.
Miller is a Gulf War veteran and a graduate of West Point, so he’s no slouch, but he is far more conservative than Murkowski, who has on occasion worked with Democrats, and who is pro-choice. Murkowski touted the federal aid known as earmarks that she brought to Alaska, but that only made her more of a target for the Tea Party.
It’s ironic because much of Alaska’s growth has been fueled by federal dollars, and when Palin was governor, and before that mayor of Wasilla, she prided herself on how much government money she brought to the state.
But voters have short memories, and as Miller joins other Palin-picked victors from Colorado (Ken Buck), Kentucky (Rand Paul), and Nevada (Sharron Angle), the Senate will have a Tea Party caucus just like the House, and it will embody the Palin formula, keep it simple, never compromise, don’t answer questions, and above all, stay in the news.