Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Palin's Future

CNN has already begun girding its loins for a Republican loss, running an extensive article (following on the more bitchy previous columns in many outlets about Palin "going rogue" and "off message") about what Sarah Palin's political future is, should the GOP lose on Tuesday.

The end result comes, again, back to a possible major schism in the party. She's a flashpoint at a moment in the history of our country where the potential rise of a three party system (assuming the Dems win on Tuesday) is really closer than I ever believed possible.

On the one hand, there are the "thinking" Republicans. Your George Will. Your Victoria Jackson. (wait, scratch that) Your Peggy Noonan. Your David Frum. These people are smart. They're not walking, talking You Betcha catchphrases. They are measured and considerate people who happen to slant conservative in their bent. And they have made it clear that should Sarah Palin become the standard-bearer, they cannot bear that standard. (see what I did there)

These people will need candidates and a party in 2012 and even as soon as 2010 conceivably. If Sarah Palin becomes the face of the New Republicanism, these people will see themselves as ballast, no longer required on a foundering ship. People like David Brooks recently took Palin and many of those that find her to be a wonderful breath of fresh air to the party to task, saying that they now supported a "counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices...."

People like this do not want to support a party that paints anyone with an education or who lives in a city or has a job that requires functional brain activity as being an elitist. Mostly because, if so, all these people - staunch, unwavering conservatives with brains - are suddenly elitist and generally unwelcome under the New Republican tent. If this is truly the direction the party is taken, I believe these people will strike out and seek new ground. Libertarians? Maybe. Or maybe they will try to bring disenchanted conservative Democrats into the fold and become a true Centrist party. Either way, I think it would be wonderful for America. But what of the New Republicans then?

Well, there is an entirely different group that think Palin should carry forth her folksy, Wasilla Main Street message, win or lose, and be the shining light that will lead true Republicans out of the post-Reagan era wilderness they current find themselves lost within.

"Palin, as best I can describe it, exudes a kind of middle-class magnetism. It's subdued but nonetheless very powerful," Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes recently wrote. "Whether they know it or not, Republicans have a huge stake in Palin. If, after the election, they let her slip into political obscurity, they'll be making a tragic mistake."

Personally, I cannot imagine a party with Sarah Palin as its standard-bearer. What would be the tenants? What would such a party stand for? The thought to me is equal parts terrifying, head-scratching and laughable. But others clearly are very taken with her outsider, maverick message, whether or not it is true or genuine. However, there seems to me to be a fundamental flaw with the idea of THAT Sarah Palin becoming the figurehead of the New Republicans, and it is this:

But one thing is clear: If Palin wants to mount a serious bid for her party's nomination in 2012, she has a lot of groundwork to do.

She has yet to form relationships with many key conservative groups at the local level, whose support would be instrumental in ultimately capturing the Republican presidential nomination. She knows few party chairman in the key early primary states where the race will likely be decided.

"She needs to get out there and get to know conservative leaders at the national, state, and local level," Viguerie said. "She needs to introduce herself in a way she hasn't had the opportunity to do so far."

Essentially, even Palin's strongest and staunchest supporters concede that in order to mount a serious challenge in 2012, or even to continue to be a national player of significance, Sarah Palin is going to have to meet the people and learn the game. Everyone agrees that she cannot simply go back to Anchorage, hole up and wait for primary season in 2011. She has to meet people, gladhand financial backers, get schooled in media diplomacy and all the trappings of being a successful political candidate.

And therein lies the dichotomy I cannot wrap my head around and that confuses me about considering her to be "the future" of anything. Sarah Palin's primary appeal at this point has been her maverick, outside-the-establishment vibe. She is small town straight-talk. But in order to become a viable candidate, she has to shed that skin and grow a new, slicker one. She has to become an insider when her greatest appeal has been that she is an outsider. And that is what nobody has yet adequately explained to me about the future of Sarah Palin: how do you stay relevant in politics when your relevance is dependent upon you not being part of politics-as-usual?

Good luck, New Republicans.


Sidecar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Warm Apple Pie said...

Friend sent me a check yesterday with "Palin-Jindal 2012" printed above the "pay to the order of" line.

Perhaps the Potatoe should do an initial vetting of Bobby Jindal, 37 year old governor of Louisiana and an Indian-American.