Will she or won’t she? Will Sarah Palin throw her Facebook page into the ring for the 2012 Republican nomination? Can she win the nomination? And if she gets it can she be elected?
The conventional wisdom says no on the last two. That’s the same conventional wisdom that has been wrong about Palin from the start.
For much of 2010, Sarah Palin was the candidate of the talk radio political culture. Talk radio puts a high premium on demeaning, disdaining and discrediting. That has been Palin’s stock in trade. The irony: now both her longtime establishment conservative critics and some conservatives who fear she would lose badly to Obama are using the tactics of demeaning, disdaining and discrediting on Palin.
George Will, the intellectual high priest of establishment conservatives, told the Politico that if Palin got the nomination the GOP wouldn’t remain the party of ideas. Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash said Palin has been playing the victim so often she’s “becoming Al Shartpon, Alaska edition.”
Charles Krauthammer dug the dagger in deeper: “When populism becomes purely anti-intellectual, it can become unhealthy and destructive.” Palin’s longtime booster, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, responded to Krauthhammer and Will in typical talk radio political culture: by trying to discredit them: “Krauthammer used to write speeches for Walter Mondale,” he sniffed. “Yeah. Howard Baker was his choice in ’76 or ’80, I forget which. George Will was a late arrival to the Reagan revolution.”
The Republican establishment was never fond of Palin, but was happy she fired up the base. She was considered such a potential front runner early last year that her first major speech became a major news event carried live on cable. I was on a CNN talking head independent voter panel to give my reaction. Palin still gets media attention but her political star is waning. Unless it was a slow news day it’d be hard to imagine a cable network carrying it in full live today.
So should you count her out?
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.