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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Palin Cult Kicks It Up a Notch

Note: this item by Ed Kilgore was originally published on July 6, 2009
Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, you have to hand it to her: what other politician this side of the White House could commandeer national attention on a major Holiday weekend, and even override all the Michael Jackson retrospectives? Better yet, her confusing jumble of rationales for the decision to quit her job, and her refusal to reveal her own future plans, have kept the buzz and speculation going strong, for God knows how long.
FWIW, I posted my own speculation back on Friday at The New Republic site, suggesting, with a lot of qualifiers, that her action may just mean she’s gotten too big for Alaska, in her own mind and in the minds of her avid followers around the lower 48.
But I don’t, of course, really know what’s going on, and neither does anyone else other than Herself and maybe the First Dude.
Unsurprisingly, in the absence of hard information, the speculation has largely varied along partisan and ideological lines, and the most interesting thing is that Palin fans are extremely focused on the reaction of her “enemies.” Here’s Kellyanne Conway at National Review:

It may confound old men and spinsters in the media that a mother of five would want to stop the madness and protect her brood from the relentless and vicious attacks by people who literally don’t know anyone like her, but, at some level, Governor Palin should be taken at her word: She’s had enough.
The advent of the blogosphere means there is not a single unexpressed thought left in America. And one would be challenged to find someone more singularly excoriated by people whose opinions, issued from poison keyboards, matter so little (except perhaps to their cats).

Conway has nicely exhibited, in just three sentences, all the fascinating self-contradictions of the Cult of Palin: isolated and irrelevant critics have driven poor Sarah to distraction, and perhaps to retirement. A click away at The Corner, Jim Geraghty takes the same thought a step further into martyrology:

The lesson that the ruthless corners of the political world will take from the rise, fall, and departure of Sarah Palin that if you attack a politician’s children nastily enough and relentlessly enough, you can get anybody to quit.

And at RedState, Erick Erickson throws the cloak of martyrdom over all conservatives:

Unfortunately, by resigning, I think the left and national media will be emboldened to ritualistically engage in the metaphorical gang raping of conservative politicians, particularly those who are female and have children. They’ll decide savaging Palin’s family drove her from office, so the sky’s the limit on the next conservative with kids.

Never mind that the “savaging of Palin’s family” was limited to a stupid Letterman joke and one or two stupid blog posts. It’s all the evil, evil work of “the left and national media,” which has also arranged for the “frivolous lawsuits” and ethics claims that have entangled Palin in Alaska. (There’s a nice parallelism here to the “frivolous lawsuits” that conservatives believe to be the primary source of high health care costs, despite the brave and selfless efforts of private health insurers to compete with each other to hold costs down).
It’s not hard to figure out that some conservatives are talking themselves into attributing anything and everything bad that happens to Sarah Palin to her detractors. That plenary indulgence may well even extend to indictments or other damning events that would sink any other politician. So maybe resigning her office really was a smart move, assuming that St. Joan of the Tundra wants a political future. To her fans, she can do no wrong, and criticism from outside the Cult of Palin simply supplies fresh evidence of her martyrdom.

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