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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Is Palin Toast?

Seems like a lot of the ink, bytes and air time being lavished on coverage of Sarah Palin’s latest stunt are focusing on the wrong question, which is” Why did she quit?” The more interesting question is “Is Sarah Palin over?”
Yes, we will be seeing lots of her in the months ahead, as she cranks up her campaign and runs around the country trying to raise dough for her legal fees and Republicans whose support she hopes to win. And the media will give her lots of play, just because she is a political bomb-thrower. But it seems to me that she has just added a lethal dose of doubt to her narrative. In his CNN.Politics.com commentary, “The Politics of Self-Destruction,” Paul Begala nails it nicely:

For all her whining about the ethics complaints brought against her, Sarah Palin is not the victim of the politics of personal destruction. She’s the victim of the politics of self destruction.
I have no idea why Palin decided to quit, so let’s just pretend she was telling the truth: She believes she can make more of a difference on the issues she cares about as a private citizen than as the chief executive of the Last Frontier. My guess is a lot of Alaskans wish she’d said that when she was trying to become governor, but what the heck.
…The speculation is that, rather than returning to being a private citizen, Palin aspires to the presidency. Good luck. She quit her job as city councilwoman to run for mayor of Wasilla. She quit her job as mayor of Wasilla to run for lieutenant governor. She quit her job as the head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to run for governor. And now she’s quitting her job as governor to … be a private citizen? Right.

It appears Palin just handed her opponents — in both parties — a powerful meme, that she is a quitter, and one much more interested in her own career than public service. Sure, they could make the argument before, but now it is a slam-dunk. Hard to see how she can fashion a credible answer to the question that will surely dog her at town hall meetings, along the lines of “Why should we believe you will be a good President when you never finish the job?”
True, the American public has a short memory, as Nixon proved. Speaking of Nixon, Palin’s “I’m not a quittter” is disturbingly reminiscent of Nixon’s ‘I’m not a crook,” as will undoubtedly be depicted in creative YouTube clips before long.
Palin’s theatrics don’t do her party any favors, as Begala points out:

It is a paradox of the modern Republican Party: If they hate government so much, why don’t they leave it to those who can use it as a tool for national renewal? Republicans say government would screw up a one-car parade, and then when they get into government, they set about proving their theory right (e.g., Katrina, Iraq, the economy, etc.).

DLC president Bruce Reed affirms the observation in his current SLATE.com article, “Quitters Never Win: In Sarah Palin’s GOP, the leaders keep quitting and the troubles don’t“:

Look at the 2009 toll so far. One 2012 Republican wannabe, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, announced he would not seek re-election next year. One of the top woulda-beens, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, quit his job to join the Obama administration and left the country and the hemisphere.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter quit the party. Last month, Nevada Sen. John Ensign had to resign his Republican leadership post to spend more time with his sex scandal. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford resigned as head of the Republican Governors Association. After this week’s disastrous AP interview, Sanford soon may have to step down as governor as well. As his Argentine mistress said, you can’t “put the genius back in the bottle.”
When did the GOP become such a bunch of quitters? What ever happened to the party of Larry Craig and his you’ll-never-take-me-from-this-stall-alive spirit?
…Time after time, quitting has turned out to be the “worthless, easy path” that Sarah Palin insists it isn’t. What makes her sudden resignation especially troubling, though, is not the flawed strategy so much as her jubilation and relief in putting the statehouse in her rear mirror. Palin’s resignation is a symptom of what’s crippling the Republican Party of late: Governing has become an unwelcome distraction.

Palin should have learned from McCain’s fiasco in threatening to withdraw from the Fall debate with Obama that voters don’t have a lot of respect for politicians who reneg on their agreements. Certainly it’s another reminder that, as Begala puts it “The Republican Party was once a solid, serious, stable group of people…Now it’s got more flakes than Post Toasties.” At the very least, Alaska’s Democratic Party just got a huge gift.

One comment on “Is Palin Toast?

  1. Kuyper on

    I think you’re missing the point. The people who dislike Sarah Palin and consider her a quitter don’t matter — we wouldn’t vote for her anyway. The people who do like her, the Tea Baggers and the Southern cracker trash vote (right now the most cohesive segment of the Republican Party), will support her no matter what she does because she is able to tap into their paranoid worldview. Recent polling bears this out — 7 out of 10 Republicans would vote for her for president. And it’s not like there are all that many viable candidates for the Republican nomination, not when Romney, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich head the list. Given the absence of alternatives, and the radical right’s dominance of the GOP, I really think she has a shot.

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