Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Queen of America Goes to Washington City

My friend the ambivalent Obama supporter sent me a link to an article from the Washington Post called "Five Myths About Sarah Palin." That sounded like a come-on, but also mildly diverting, so I clicked through. It turns out Five Myths is a series at the Post: "A challenge to everything you think you know." Oh, really?

I felt a sinking feeling when I looked at number one: "Palin cost McCain the 2008 election." Of course, the author says not: "CNN's 2008 national exit poll, for example, asked voters whether Palin was a factor when they stepped into the voting booth. Those who said yes broke for McCain 56 percent to 43 percent." This is a bit unclear. The writer takes it to mean that people "for whom Palin was a factor" (what kind of factor?) weren't bothered by her, but it also means that people who liked Palin voted for McCain -- who were they going to vote for, Obama? -- but not enough people liked her to swing the election. "In the end," the writer concedes, "it's impossible to know how McCain would have performed if he hadn't selected Palin -- politics does not allow for control experiments." So this isn't a "myth" after all, though it isn't gospel either.

Resigning as governor was rash. Ditto: The writer makes a case that resigning the governorship wasn't totally nuts, but not that it wasn't "rash"; it may have saved her political career, such as it is. It's arguable that without the "liberal media" slobbering over her with prurient fascination, she'd have a much lower profile than she does.

Palin and the tea party are destroying the GOP. Not so!
In the wake of Obama's historic victory, she and countless other grass-roots activists could have abandoned the GOP and turned the tea party into a conservative third party. They didn't. They decided instead to refashion the Republican Party from the ground up, pressuring it to live up to its limited-government ideals. Now, two years after Obama's win, Republicans are poised to reap major gains in the midterm elections. Palin and the tea party haven't hurt the GOP one bit.
As the writer concedes, the GOP was in such bad shape after Obama's election that destroying it was the least of anyone's worries. However, as a former governor and vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin is not "grass-roots." Nor is the Tea Party a grassroots movement, with its tycoon funding and the boost it gets from national right-wing media -- and from the supposedly liberal corporate media, which has inflated Tea Party numbers and exaggerated its impact from the start. "Countless"? Hardly. As for the coming midterms, it isn't that the Republicans and their (snort) "limited-government ideals" have suddenly become popular again, it's that the Democrats have alienated many past supporters:
This year isn't getting away from the Democrats because voters are moving toward the Republicans en masse. But the enthusiasm gap is turning races that would otherwise be lean Democratic into toss ups, turning toss ups into leaning Republican, and turning leaning Republican into solid Republican.
Four: Palin is extreme. This is a judgment call, and the writer doesn't make a good case, relying on polls tracking how "the public has moved to the right -- not on just one or two issues but on a whole constellation of them" but that don't, in fact, support his case very well. The Gallup Poll that found a bare majority (51%) of Americans labelling themselves "pro-life," for example, though that one showed a large majority (75%) of respondents still supported legal abortion under different conditions. Only 23% opposed legal abortion absolutely, so the poll mainly indicated confusion about what "pro-life" means. "Extreme" is a null word anyway.

Palin is unelectable. Another judgment call, and since the writer concedes Palin's unpopularity, all he really say to the contrary is that things might change -- Hope and Change, baby, Hope and Change. I myself don't think she necessarily is unelectable; I just hope it never happens.

Bonus round, six: The author, Matthew Continetti, is opinion editor at the ultraright Weekly Standard, which is like being a biggie at Fox News or the Washington Times -- what's he doing in the allegedly ultralib Washington Post?
He's also the author of a pro-Palin tract published by the right-wing Penguin imprint Sentinel HC, a sort of stealth Regnery Publications. The piece is practically an infomercial.

P.S. According to Joan Walsh at, Palin is in California, but the major Republican candidates are avoiding her. That could be because
More than half of California voters in last week's Field Poll -- and two-thirds of independents -- said Palin's endorsing a candidate would make them less inclined to vote for that candidate. A larger proportion of Californians say Palin's not qualified to be president, and yet the state's right-wing faithful could be crucial to a Palin presidential run, with both money and primary votes.