President Sarah Palin
After watching her speech at the Tea Party convention, Andrew Sullivan thinks those of us who think Sarah Palin is unelectable as president of the United States should “think again.”
The media, too scared be tarred as elitists, will never demand policy specifics from her; there is a huge constituency out there (rightly) outraged by Washington corruption and she now has the critical mantle of the rogue outsider; she can channel Christianism and fuse it with the slogans of phony “fiscal conservatism”; she will blame every lost job on Obama; and she will accuse him of betraying the troops and befriending America’s enemies. Behind her are the Cheneyites.
Above all, she is capable of generating a personality cult – much, much more so than Obama, because she can harness Christianism to her divine destiny. The power of this kind of appeal – of a charismatic, beautiful woman, an icon of the pro-life cause, persecuted by the evil elites, demonized by libruls, and commanding the biggest military on earth – should not in my view be under-estimated.
Given that I never thought Bill Clinton or Barack Obama could get elected — because of personal sleaze and lack of experience, respectively — I could be wrong. Strong orators with an ability to generate mass enthusiasm can go a long way. Then again, at least Clinton and Obama demonstrably had well-above-average IQs and a wonkish love of public policy.
Still, I’m dubious of the idea that the media “will never demand policy specifics from her.” Thus far, at least, they’ve shown no such reluctance. Indeed, they’ve shown open disdain for Palin in a way they haven’t done for someone of her stature since Dan Quayle’s heyday.
Further, while Palin’s charismatic and attractive, her appeal seems to be quite limited. Last week’s CNN poll showed “43 percent of American have a favorable view of Palin, while 46 percent have an unfavorable view.” Such high negatives would seem to make a presidential bid difficult. Then again, “That’s up slightly from a 39-48 margin in early August.”
It’s worth noting, too, that Palin’s Tea Party pals, Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, had dismal showings in the Republican primaries two years ago, earning roughly the same number of delegates as my dog, Molly.
Still, I’m surprised at the amount of steam that the Tea Party movement has maintained — even after some of its original instigators, such as the Red State gang — have jumped off the bandwagon. So maybe I’m underestimating the appeal of a genuine populist with Palin’s skills.