Friday, July 10, 2009

A Vitriolic Good Bye

Those involved in marketing know that every product has a life cycle. Some of those cycles are short (pet rocks) and some are long (Twinkies). A study reported last month found that life cycles of cultural items are affected by how rapidly they rise to popularity. In general, a quick rise to popularity will mean an equally rapid drop, while a slow rise translates to a gradual drop. We call the former phenomenon a fad.

During the 2008 campaign season I wrote five posts that mentioned Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whom Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) selected as his vice presidential running mate. Only one of those posts discussed Palin in any detail. I steered clear of advocacy, because I wasn’t happy about McCain and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Palin.

2½ years after becoming Alaska’s Governor, Palin announced last week that she will resign the post later this month. It would appear that Gov. Palin’s rapid rise to fame is following the standard model of product popularity discussed above. That is, she appears to be a fad.

The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan says good riddance to Palin in this article. While Noonan offers some very worthwhile insights, the overall article comes across as rather harsh. I have read Noonan for years. She is a staunch Catholic and Republican. Sometimes it seems to me that she holds these two organizations in similar regard. Perhaps this helps explain the hard words Noonan has for Gov. Palin.

Palin, writes Noonan, “hurts … the Republican brand …. Really, she is the most careless sower of discord since George W. Bush, who fractured the party and the movement that made him.” Although Palin is “a gifted retail politician,” she “wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough” and she “never learned how the other sides think, or why.” Moreover, Palin promoted this lack of insight as a badge of “authenticity.”

It seems that Palin is such a heretic to Noonan’s style of Republicanism that Noonan would like nothing better than to have Palin excommunicated from the party. Does Noonan feel the same way about Palin’s supporters? Her article seems to imply as much.

One of the things that bothered me about Palin from the outset was that she seemed to be little more than a pawn in the game of identity politics — a game which many conservatives decry as un-American. It was Noonan that wrote last September about conservatives viscerally sensing that Palin “is really one of them.” But the fawning, protective approach that some conservatives took to Palin creeped me out as much as did the Obamaton cult worshippers.

In the same article, Noonan pretty much said that Palin was nothing more than a useful cog in the McCain campaign’s political machinations. She wrote, “Palin's friends should be less immediately worried about what the Obama campaign will do to her than what the McCain campaign will do.” Noonan’s prescience on this matter seems to have been quite accurate.

Speculation as to the ‘real’ reason for Palin’s resignation is omni-available, so you can go elsewhere for that kind of salaciousness. But I think that it is completely preposterous to assume that Gov. Palin will ever be able to win any statewide or national election for the rest of her life. It’s even questionable as to whether residents of her home town of Wasilla would re-elect her to her former mayoral or council position. So I hope her reasons for resigning are pretty good.

Whether Ms. Noonan likes it or not, there are a lot of people in the GOP whose brand of Republicanism is more in line with Sarah Palin’s than with John McCain’s or Noonan’s. There’s not enough of them to bring a candidate in their mold to national office on their own, but there’s enough of them that the GOP can’t win a national office without them.

Interestingly, this statement could be turned around and applied to all of the major factions in the GOP. That ought to be food for thought as the members of various inquisitions within the party run around attempting to excommunicate heretics from the party.


Frenchell said...


Bradley Ross said...

Like you, I've been quite conflicted about Palin. There were a lot of things that resonated with me about her. At the same time, I was astonished at how someone so inexperienced could be so quickly vaulted to such a prominent perch. (Obama is another example of this sort of premature promotion.)

I suspect she's finished as a politician, but I think she'll stick around for a long time as a pontificator and standard bearer of sorts. People like James Dobson on the right or Al Sharpton on the left seem to fill this sort of role.