- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 August 2010 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 04 August 2010 05:00
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The United States for all of its size is a place where given the right circumstances a person can go from being an unknown to becoming a national name in minutes. There are very few places where that can happen, but as they say, “only in America.” That was certainly the case with the former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. She was even, long before the rest of the nation ever heard of her, something of political phenomena in her own state. She went from being mayor of the small town of Wasilla to governor in just two years. But as we know now, that was nothing compared to what happened after that. She so impressed candidate John McCain that she become his running mate in the 2008 Presidential election.
It wasn’t an easy campaign, but it had its moments, and while some say she contributed to John McCain’s defeat and delighted in recalling her missteps, she didn’t end the campaign by being a footnote. Instead, she had made a name for herself and acquired a loyal and growing following. Today, in something that would have surprised everyone on the night of November 8, 2008, including Palin, she has become a national political force. Just how strong a force is still a bit of a question, but she is not someone that cannot be easily ignored.
To some she is still dismissed as just a “celebrity.” She is a name with a little star power, an ability to give a quick canned speech, and someone capable of providing a sound bite in time for the next news cycle. But to others, including a number of candidates seeking election this fall, including, oddly enough, John McCain, her endorsement is more than just window dressing. It matters. She can fill a rally, and when she says “we need (fill in the blank with whatever candidate she is supporting)” a large following are ready to take her lead.
So what is the appeal of Sarah Palin?
To borrow a couple of references Palin popularized, both the “the mainstream media” and, another catch-all label, the Washington “political class,” hate her with a passion. That’s part of her appeal right there. They delight in belittling her, but every time they do it seems as if her popularity with her supporters gets just that much stronger. A lot of Americans, particularly working class Americans, often feel as if many in government are talking down to them. Palin for her part is able to capture this very anxiety. She may not be elegant in her speaking style, she may drop an “ing” off of a few words, but she doesn’t bob and weave like a professional politician. What’s more there isn’t anything remotely condescending in her remarks or her style.
While her analogies don’t make much sense to many in Washington, whether its field dressing a deer or cleaning a catfish, these are references that make others smile with delight. I would also add that like her or not, her style is still entertaining, not forced, and the occasional stumbles, notes written on her hand, or some other minor misstep, seem to endear her to her fans just that much more.
Palin has a unique combination. She has become both a political force and a celebrity. But more importantly, going into 2012, whether Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Lindsey Graham, or some of the other hopeful GOP hopefuls like it or not, she is also a player. She has a following none of them can match and a glint of star power they can only dream about. Now, the question is will she be a candidate for President? It’s not impossible, though arguably, Palin, in her role as semi-outsider, is more powerful than she would be as a candidate. But that could change. She is actually seeking advice and counsel on developing her own economic proposals and is working on developing a better understanding of foreign policy issues. And perhaps most noteworthy she is ratcheting up the quality and depth of some of her speeches and comments.
She has time, not much, but some, and for now, she is on the primary and general election trail, raising money, giving endorsements, making friends, and collecting IOUs by the dozen. The other prospective candidates in 2012 aren’t nearly in such demand.
Most of the GOP and the same goes for the Democrats, still don’t know what to make of her. They don’t fully understand her attraction, but most have gotten past the stage of dismissing her with an off hand comment. Going into the 2010 midterm elections, followed by the 2012 elections, she is a force to be reckoned with. And oh yes, she really can field dress a moose in ten minutes. I would never belittle a candidate who has that skill set in her background.