The latest edition of New York magazine contains an essential article for fans of the political/media/cultural juggernaut that is Sarah Palin. Titled "Palin, Inc.," it details the ways Palin has built her brand, and her bank account, since leaving office halfway into her first term as Alaska governor (indeed, the article is fairly clear that the desire to make money was the real reason she stepped down).
As you think about the Palin phenomenon, something becomes clear. She, her opponents, and her supporters are locked in a cycle of mockery and affection, disdain and faith, that must keep turning around for her to continue being what she is. Many people have recommended that Palin spend some time boning up on policy -- or just current events -- so that when she's asked questions by reporters she can come up with coherent answers that go beyond, "You know, America and freedom over there and such." But that would be exactly the wrong thing for Palin to do. Imagine if she began to sound informed and thoughtful. She'd no longer have that distinctive Palin-ness that makes her so compelling. Instead, she needs things like her disastrous interview with Katie Couric, or the time she got caught reading notes off her hand at a public appearance.
Because the cycle is always the same: Palin does something that makes her look like a simpleton; the media take note; liberals mock her for being a simpleton; her supporters love her all the more (and buy more Sarah-phernalia), since she's the enemy of the liberal media and the elitist liberals. Rinse, repeat.
On the left, we get a good laugh. Her supporters bond to her more strongly. And she makes more and more money. Everybody wins!
-- Paul Waldman