Opinion Sarah Palin is back, and smaller than ever


HR King
May 29, 2001
By Paul Waldman
June 13, 2022 at 1:27 p.m. EDT
When Sarah Palin quit her job as governor of Alaska in 2009, midway through her only term, it was plainly because she thought she was destined for even greater things. She had become a national celebrity as John McCain’s running mate, she had heard the cheers of joyous crowds, and she had visions of TV offers and endorsement deals and her own ascension to the Oval Office. Who had time for the mundane responsibilities of governing?
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Thirteen years later, Palin is back. And she’s smaller than ever.
In a special primary election to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R), the state’s only House member, Palin is placing first among dozens of contenders (though counting is ongoing). She appears to have secured her slot in a runoff. Although there are other strong candidates, if all goes well for Palin, she could be heading to Washington soon.
So look out, America, because she’s really going to shake things up! If by “shake things up” we mean add one more member to the House Far-Right Bananapants Caucus, sending out tweets to troll the libs and jockeying for Newsmax appearances.
It’s not quite the heroic triumph she had planned.
Although Palin might be irrelevant as a potential lawmaker and of limited interest as a low-rent provocateur, there’s a good case that she was the seed from which the current Republican Party grew. She revealed the nature of what would become Donald Trump’s base, and our country is still dealing with the results.
The GOP “establishment” that elevated Palin, and then was horrified by her and eventually cast her out, has been so diminished in the intervening years that for all intents and purposes there is no longer any meaningful conflict between that establishment and the base. The base won the fight.
In so many ways, Palin really was Trump before Trump. Ignorant, unprepared, gleefully characterizing denizens of small towns as the “real America” (thus denigrating people in cities and suburbs), she was possessed of a similar kind of chaotic charisma. Some people hung on her every simple-minded word, while others gaped at her and said, “Can you believe this?” But nobody could look away, at least for a while.
Although Palin and McCain lost that 2008 campaign, by the end it was clear that she was the one drawing crowds and attention. Far more than McCain, who for all his “maverick” mythmaking was deeply respectful of institutions, she showed what the Republican base truly wanted: anger, resentment and a project devoted to tearing it all down while Owning the Libs (though we didn’t yet call it that). Every time a political ad features a gun-totin’ young Republican mom talking about showing the socialists who’s boss, it’s walking the trail Palin blazed.
Yet today it’s almost impossible to imagine Palin becoming a leader in the way it had first appeared she might. The fact that she turned out to be far less compelling after extended public exposure is part of the reason. More important is the way Palinism turned out to be only a part of what is now the Republican formula.
While her brand of politics was shocking and compelling in 2008, today it’s the GOP baseline. Most every Republican, even those for whom such positions don’t come naturally, has to be an election-denying, lib-trolling, socialist-loathing culture warrior. When everyone is doing it, those who have little else to offer other than the superficial version don’t have a real claim to leadership.
If Palin gets to Congress, she’ll be just one of many members of that GOP chorus, alongside the likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.), whose purpose is to go on right-wing media, say outrageous things that liberals will condemn and separate gullible conservatives from their money.
As disturbing as these characters might be, they won’t be running the Republican Party in the future. They are more like hype men: They’re not the main attraction; their job is to keep the crowd worked up and excited, but they’re fundamentally supporting players.
Instead, the ones to watch are more serious, more focused, more ambitious and much more frightening. It’s people such as Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri who are working to craft a new model of ferocious authoritarianism for America — one where you don’t just make snide remarks about your enemies; you mobilize the power of the state to crush them.
Palin wants a part in that project, and she might get one. But it won’t be as the leader of a movement. And even if she’s a bit player, she can still congratulate herself for helping bring us to this awful moment, when the survival of our democracy is in serious doubt. She has already done more than her share of damage.

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HR All-American
Mar 29, 2002


HR King
Gold Member
Jan 30, 2008
My guess is she’s broke, so she needs to create some attention by running for office. With MTG, Boebert, and all the other crazies in today’s GOP she wasn’t moving the needle anymore.
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