Why Republicans Should Thank Me And Democrats Should Hate Me
I’ve been thinking about something for a few days and before I get to it, I’m going to let Ross Douthat (of all people) set the stage for what I have to say:
In every twisted, wretched, ruinous relationship, there are moments so grim, flare-ups so appalling, that they offer both parties a chance to step back, take inventory, and realize that it’s time — far past time, in fact — to go their separate ways.
For the American media and Sarah Palin, that kind of a moment arrived last week.
It began just hours after the tragedy in Tucson, with a tweet from Markos “Daily Kos” Moulitsas, the éminence grise of the liberal blogosphere. “Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin,” he wrote, linking to a map that Palin’s PAC had put up last fall, placing targets on various Democratic districts, Gabrielle Giffords’s included. It didn’t take long for the media to seize on his attack and run with it. Forget a nation’s grief and Giffords’s struggle to survive: What America really needed, the nation’s pundits and TV producers decided, was a noisy debate about the possible link between Jared Lee Loughner’s crime and Palin’s martial campaign rhetoric.
Given how little connection Loughner seems to have to any kind of right-wing politics, this conversation looked increasingly ridiculous by midweek, and even a little bit obscene. But instead of letting the frenzy die away, Palin decided that what the country really needed was for her to use the day set aside for mourning Loughner’s victims to make a speech complaining about her own victimization. (Or as she put it, rather more pungently, the “blood libel” being leveled by her critics.) Which, needless to say, gave the press exactly the excuse it needed to continue its wall-to-wall Palin coverage for another 48 hours — and beyond, perhaps, given that she’s slated to appear on Sean Hannity’s show Monday night.
Now I’ve never thought Sarah Palin was ever seriously going to run for President, and I want to emphasize “seriously” here. As dim as she is, she’s smart enough to know that she doesn’t want all the work and responsibility that goes with being the Leader of the Free World. What Sarah Palin really wants is to be Brand Palin. She wants to be ubiquitous White Trash Oprah (although I’m fairly sure that is not exactly how she would describe it) on the covers of magazines, on TV, talked about and admired. Lacking Oprah’s ability to feign empathy as well as interest in other peoples lives on TV, Palin saw her road to fame and fortune (mostly fortune) in a similar career that involves feigning empathy as well as interest in other peoples lives: politics.
Having gotten a taste of the bright lights, big city as John McCain’s Hail Mary pass, there was no way Sarah Palin was going to go back to her jerkwater state and actually work for a living. So she quit her day job and devoted her attention to giving platitude-drenched paid speeches, cameo appearances on Fox News, the TLC show and the book tours that got her out on the road, flying in private jets, and staying in nice hotels, all paid for by someone else. But the only way that Palin keeps the political/celebrity gravy train running is to remain interesting to people as a potential presidential candidate because of our fascination with the idea that the ten-car pile-up that is her life and her every utterance could one day affect our lives. Take the will-she-or-won’t-she presidential aspirations away and what you have is a middle-aged snowbilly J-Lo sucked into a wheezing career death spiral as more and more people come to realize that there isn’t a whole lot of there there.
With her brand damaged by the existence of the map, the Giffords interview mentioning it, and the Giffords shooting that resulted in people like myself following Noonan’s Law (“Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to“) Sarah Palin made the unforced error that was her self-pitying home video, and then compounded the error by being dumb enough and panicked enough to release it on the day of the Tuscon memorial. Throw in the bizarre “blood libel” quote and game, set, match.
As Douthat points out in his column, Sarah Palin was never going to win the nomination and the Presidency. Too many people hate her including people in her own party; hard as it is to believe, registering as a Republican is not the same as signing a suicide pact. With her future now in disarray, Republicans won’t feel the need to defend her or donate to her campaign (hedging their bets, they are conservative by nature) and they can get on to the serious business of picking what they hope will be a viable candidate to run against Barack Obama. Democrats, on the other hand, don’t have the comfort of knowing that their opponent is going to be a surefire walkover.
This is the law on unintended consequences. Sarah Palin’s campaign map becomes a road-map for her downfall. Hanging it around her neck provided a clearer path for Republicans out of the wilderness.