Sarah Palin’s surprise

UPDATE 7/7: Parable of the Doubting Ace

PREVIOUSLY: From my latest American Spectator column:

“Her national political career is done,” NBC’s David Shuster declared, even before reports of her plans to resign had been confirmed. Other media types joined the rush to write Palin’s political obituary, with a Greek chorus of “conservative” commentators transparently eager to agree that her resignation represented proof that Palin is both unelectable to and unfit for higher office.
Of course, she had just exposed as fraudulent the pretended omniscience of the commentariat. None of them had predicted Palin’s resignation, and yet their latest oracular pronouncements — Ed Rollins told CNN she looked “terribly inept” — were treated as authoritative.
The punditocracy can’t predict Palin because she shares neither their perspective nor their assumptions. Her ascent to political stardom has been treated as a fluke by most of the GOP establishment for the simple reason that she doesn’t slavishly follow the standard script of Republican politicians.
Of course, in recent years this script usually has ended with “…and then the Democrats won,” suggesting the need for a re-write. . . .

Please read the whole thing. Sunday morning, I was driving back from Lake Weiss — where we’d shot our fabulous annual Fourth of July fireworks show — when the editor called asking me to write the column.

Of course, not all the commentators rushing to write finis on Palin’s career were of the Ed Rollins/David Schuster variety. Both Ace and Allahpundit hastened to endorse the pundit consensus.

I’ve got MSNBC on my office TV and the mid-day newsette just referred to Palin’s “baffling” resignation. It’s not baffling. Palin explained her reasons, and her reasons sounded entirely plausible to me. What baffles the pundits is the fact that it was (a) unexpected, and (b) doesn’t fit the established script for presidential hopefuls.

The people who pronounce themselves “baffled,” and who conclude that Palin has made a stupid move by resigning, are leaving a couple of things out of their calculations. First, Palin is a Christian who, in the past, has made straightforward reference to the will of God. What she believes — what she must believe — is that if it is God’s will that she become president, she will. Therefore, the conventional wisdom of the commetariat and all the advice from political “experts” are just so much noise to her.

Second, Palin’s closest adviser is her husband, Todd. He is not stupid. He is also not a man who will show up on TV and blabber his every thought for the sake of creating the impression that he knows everything.

Just because you don’t know what Sarah Palin is doing doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know what she’s doing.

UPDATE: Karl at the Green Room refers us to Ace’s NSFW thoughts on “magical thinking” in politics:

This is fucking insane and it must stop. I will not be bullied by this ludicrous magical thinking brigade who insists that only Nice and Positive Words must be uttered or else one is contributing one’s Evil Energy to the Wrong Side.
It’s insane. . . .
Stop jumping to claim some one is not just wrong but actively malicious.

Very good, very true and very timely. On the other hand, there is this: In politics, perception has a way of becoming reality, and one way to win — as Obama has recently demonstrated — is to promote the impression that you are unbeatable, and that your victory is inevitable.

First, the winning candidate wishes to create that perception within his own campaign. It does wonders for morale — as also for fund-raising and volunteer recruitment — to believe that your team is the winning team.

Next, the campaign team then works to create that perception of electoral inevitability in the minds of voters. Bandwagon psychology has a powerful effect in politics. Undecided “swing” voters are especially vulnerable to the vote-for-the-winner appeal.

Finally, the campaign team desires to convey the perception of electoral inevitability to its rivals. If the belief that you’re on the winning team has a positive morale factor, the belief that you’re on the losing team obviously has the opposite effect.

You saw this very clearly in the Democratic primary contest last year. Team Hillary had been fostering the perception of inevitability ever since the beginning. However, once she began to stumble — when Tim Russert tripped her up with a debate question about drivers licenses for illegal immigrants — and Obama pulled within range, a fearful defensiveness took hold in the Hillary camp. After Obama won the Iowa caucuses, you couldn’t find a single member of the campaign press corps who really thought Hillary could come back to win. (See Josh Green’s memorable account of what went wrong inside the Hillary campaign.)

OK, so let’s relate this back to Ace’s defense against “magical thinking” by (some) Palinistas:

I do not mind being called wrong. I do, however, greatly mind being called a traitor, of harboring a secret agenda I hide from you in order to advance the MSM’s interests, etc., and all the rest of this insane bullshit. . . .

Ace is entirely correct in saying that this is bad sportsmanship: X disagrees with me, therefore X is an enemy of All That Is Good And True. On the other hand, the fanaticism of Palin’s supporters, and the fury with which they attack Palin’s critics, constitutes evidence of why Ace is wrong.

Sarah Palin inarguably possesses the kind of charisma that inspires fierce loyalty. This is a valuable political resource and, if could be harnessed and channeled into productive organized activity, could easily carry her to the nomination in 2012. “If” is the key word there.

So there is, then, some rational substance in what Ace calls the “insane bullshit” of (some) Palinistas. Conservatives who derogate Palin’s aptitude for the presidency, or who disparage her in terms of “electability,” may be damaging the prospects of the one candidate most likely to achieve a quick reversal of the GOP’s fortunes, by defeating Obama in 2012.

Further, while Ace is obviously not angling to “get invited to these famous DC dinner parties,” there are people whose career ambitions and political elitism are very much implicated in the anti-Palin agenda. Because of Palin’s populist appeal (something that seems innate, rather than conscious on her part), she attracts followers who are sick and tired of The Republicans Who Really Matter.

As is always true in any engagement between populism and elitism, the elitists always have the most articulate writers on their side, while the populists seem to be full of incoherent rage. But the rage of the populists does not mean — repeat, does not mean — that they have no legitimate grievances, or that they’re all a bunch of lowbrow yahoos.

Instinct counts for something in politics. Having been around the Beltway GOP for nearly 12 years now, I agree with the populist instinct that the national Republican leadership has succumbed to political elitism — a deadly temptation in small-d democratic politics.

Like the Buchanan Brigades of 1992, or like the Tea Party movement, the Palinistas represent an effort to get the GOP establishment to acknowledge the party’s conservative grassroots. If they sometimes commit rhetorical overkill — including demonizing everyone who is not a True Believer — this should be understood in context.


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