Politics, like rust, never sleeps
Boulder Weekly deadlines are such that in order to write an analysis of Tuesday’s election for today’s paper, I would have had to hand it in two days before the polls opened. Analyzing why things happened two days before they actually happen is a tough gig. And the only thing worse than having your story appear under a “Dewey Beats Truman” headline is having your column appear under a “Here’s why Dewey beat Truman” headline. So instead of dwelling on the past while it’s still prologue, and since politics, like rust, never sleeps, I thought this would be a good time to make a brazen prediction about 2012. Sarah Palin is going to be the Republican candidate for president in 2012. She will win the nomination the same way Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008 — by winning the caucus states and staying competitive in the big primary states. Winning a caucus state (like Colorado) requires a large cadre of passionate sup- porters and dedicated volunteers. They can also keep you competitive in a primary state.
Does the phrase “Tea Party” mean anything to you? A lot of Democrats reading this may welcome a Palin candidacy on grounds that it would guarantee the re- election of Barack Obama, just as Barry Goldwater’s 1964 candidacy guaranteed the election of Lyndon Johnson.
And a lot of Republican big shots think so too, according to the website Politico.com. Last Sunday it reported “top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment” don’t think she can win and intended to start a “stop Palin” campaign as soon as the election was over.
It won’t work. In politics, the saying goes, “You can’t beat somebody with no nobody,” and the field of establishment-certified GOP candidates for 2012, while not exactly nobodies, has a distinct charisma deficit compared to Palin. Charisma counts for a lot. It’s all but impossible for a candidate who doesn’t have it to beat one that does. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
So if Palin wins the nomination, can she win the election? You betcha. Yes, she can (which is differ from saying, “Yes, she will”).
Huh? (I hear you say). The rap against Palin is she’s too conservative for the country, her appeal is limited to the far right and religious right, her negatives are too high, she’s a knuckle-dragging, right-to-life extremist, most voters don’t think she’s qualified to be president, and she’s too inexperienced, dumb, and ignorant to govern.
Now change the personal pronouns in the foregoing sentence from feminine to masculine, and you will have a concise, one-sentence summation of how most Democrats perceived Ronald Reagan right up to Election Day 1980.To be sure, Palin had some real shortcomings show during the 2008 campaign. Don’t expect them to be there in 2012.
Two years is a long time in politics.
It’s plenty of time in which to reinvent yourself — especially if you’ve already been at it for a year.
Since she resigned as governor of Alaska — a move that was widely derided as dumb at the time — Palin has given about 100 speeches all over the country, most of them at Tea Party rallies or on behalf of Republican candidates. In the course of doing that, she has acquired a lot of chits and a ballooning contact list, both of which will be invaluable in 2012.
But there’s more to it than that. The sort of speaking tour Palin has been on (and will continue to be on) is like a grand tour of the continent. It’s educational. Palin is learning how to campaign and how to participate effectively in the national political conversation.
America is getting to know Palin, and more importantly, Palin is getting to know America. Unlike 2008, Palin will be at the top of her game in 2012.
But the question remains, is she too conservative to get elected? Is she another Goldwater? Or is she another Reagan?
Reagan proved that unapologetic conservatives can win national elections (especially when they are running against endlessly apologetic liberals).
I see a lot of Reagan in Palin. So does Michael Reagan, Reagan’s son. After she gave her speech at the 2008 Republican Convention, he wrote in his column, “Dad’s back, only this time he’s a woman.”
Ah, yes. The gender thing. With Palin, it’s kind of like the race thing was with Obama.
Race played a pivotal role in getting him elected. Obama got a lot of votes from white Americans who weren’t color blind. They voted for him because they sized him up, race included, and said, “It’s time.” Race wasn’t their only consideration, or even the most important one, but it was the deal closer.
It could be the same for Palin with gender. By itself, gender won’t get her elected. But if her candidacy takes off, it could close the deal.