Is it too early to start speculating about the 2012 GOP presidential primaries? Of course not! The race promises to be a chaotic free-for-all of backbiting and recrimination, flip-flops and opportunistic conversions, feigned outrage and vicious attacks over meaningless non-issues. Throw in the fact that the force within the party with the most energy right now – the teabaggers – are not exactly known for their restraint, and it should be a hoot.
I've long held that if Sarah Palin runs, her campaign will surely be the most entertaining train wreck to hit American politics in decades. But when I read Nate Silver’s case that her chances of winning the nomination are actually pretty good, I was reminded of something fundamental that Palin has going for her. Way back in 2007, I wrote a two-part piece on the importance of narrative to a presidential candidacy. I argued that no one on the Republican side was really telling a story about why they were running, while on the Democratic side, only one candidate – a certain young whippersnapper from Illinois who at the time was a serious longshot – had really thought through what his narrative was.
Looking ahead to 2012, if there's a candidate who has a good story to tell, it's got to be Palin. You might call her story "10 Things They Hate About You (and Me)." It's a well-worn tale of cultural resentment, one saying that those elitist/socialist/godless/coastal/immigrant-loving/not-real-American bastards took over the country and are driving us to ruin as they sneer down their noses at you. It has the three essential parts of the campaign narrative: it says what's wrong with the country; it says where the candidate wants to take the country; and it says why the candidate, and only the candidate, is the person to do it. Palin has always practiced a very personal politics, one that portrays her as a martyr endlessly suffering an onslaught of slings and arrows from the kind of people you just can't stand – if you’re a real American, that is. If it turns out that she doesn't know a thing about policy, well that's because she's just like you – not some soulless policy wonk, but a real person. If it turns out that her teenage daughter got pregnant, it's not because her rhetoric about abstinence is a joke, it's because she’s just like you – she knows what it's like to have family struggles. And all the attention to her soap opera life just confirms that the liberals hate her, which is the best credential a Republican can sport.
This is Palin's story, and she's sticking to it. She's not going to try to reinvent herself as a policy wonk. And why should she? None of the other likely candidates has any story at all.
You may also like
You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)