Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

The “Mystery” of Sarah Palin’s Unpopularity

I could sit here and explain to you all of the things I disagree with about Jennifer Rubin’s assessment in Commentary of why Jews don’t like Sarah Palin. But that would be repetitive, since both David Frum and Matt Yglesias do a fine job of refuting Rubin’s arguments both substantively and superficially, respectively.

However, I will point out the bizarre obsession many conservative pundits have with trying to analyze why Republican politicians are hated or merely disliked by large swaths of the population.  There seems to be a trend in which someone will finally, finally!, pull back the curtain on why Sarah Palin, for example, remains deeply unpopular with a large portion of the American people. And as if one might be able to use the force to change those minds.

I know it’s hard sometimes to understand how other people don’t feel the same way you do about something, as when Dave and I and our friends in DC were certain that Obama should win the Democratic nomination, and yet 17 million plus people had their hopes hung on Hillary. That was frustrating.  But I also understood that there are natural impulses and beliefs that folks have, and sometimes those just have to play out.

So, why do so many people dislike Sarah Palin? Jews or otherwise? Because she’s a conservative, and no more than 50% + 1 of the country’s citizens are conservatives too.  And because after eight years of George W. Bush appealing to the uneducated masses, it seems more folks have gotten wise to the idea that we might want our president to be more than an average person (even if she has the unique (!) qualification of also having raised children) but the smartest most analytical person available for the job.

There’s no mystery there at all.

L-Che, Revisted

Well, I hadn’t gone so far as to say Liz Cheney was going to use her current bully-pulpit to run for office anytime soon, but Michelle Cottle makes a good point:

She has a toxic last name (for now). But she’s bright, attractive, and (at least when I chatted with her several years ago) exceedingly personable. Plus, she’s a chick (with five adorable kiddies, no less) in a party that’s desperate for XX voters.

As far as the horses in the current GOP stable go, she’s got potential.

Imagine: Liz Cheney versus Sarah Palin in the 2012 Republican primary.  Or don’t. It may be too scary!

On Sympathy and Truth

There’s been a lot of talk today about Gallup’s newest poll about Sarah Palin’s decision to resign.  Let’s break Gallup’s findings down:

A new USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Monday night finds a core of 19% of U.S. voters who say they are “very likely” to vote for her should she run, and an additional 24% who are somewhat likely to do so, giving her a decent reservoir of potential support to build upon. However, nearly as many voters (41%) currently say they would be not at all likely to vote for her.

Well, not good, not bad. I guess you could call that a break-even.

By way of comparison, when Gallup in 2005 asked a similar question about Hillary Clinton running for president in 2008, 52% of registered voters said they were at least somewhat likely to vote for her, including 28% who said they were very likely to do so.

Predictably, most Democratic registered voters (70%) say they are not at all likely to vote for Palin. While most Republican registered voters (72%) say they are likely to vote for Palin, only about half of these (35% of all Republican voters) can be considered solid supporters who say they are very likely to support Palin at this time.

Okay, Palin’s body of support isn’t as great as Clinton’s was four years ago, and Democrats are still pretty opposed to her.  Republicans, though, continue to view her pretty favorably, and even then, many are not stalwart members of the party faithful. There’s a bit about how she may have a future in a non-electoral, but still political role, and then this:

Palin’s announcement last Friday may have taken many political observers by surprise, but the data show her decision to resign the governorship did not affect most Americans’ opinions of her. The poll finds 70% saying their opinion of Palin has not changed as a result of her resignation. Though this is clearly the minority of Americans, more say their opinion of her has gotten worse (17%) than improved (9%).

I’m not really sure how you can read that as anything but negative.  If one is to build a base for electoral support, one needs to be expanding those who view you favorably, rather than keeping it stagnant or even losing some. Moving on:

Palin was a relatively unknown political figure when tapped to be John McCain’s running mate, but she quickly energized the GOP ticket, drawing large crowds to their rallies during the presidential campaign. But news coverage of her quickly took a negative turn and many in the political world came to view her as a drag on the McCain campaign.

Palin herself has argued that she has been unjustly attacked by the news media, and most Americans seem to agree. The new poll finds 53% describing the news media’s coverage of Palin as “unfairly negative,” while just 9% say it has been “unfairly positive” and 28% say it has been “about right.”

When Gallup asked a similar question about news coverage of Palin shortly after the Republican National Convention last September, Americans were more evenly divided in their views, with 33% saying the coverage was unfairly negative and the plurality of 36% saying it was about right. At that time, 21% thought the media were being unfairly positive toward Palin.

Okay fair enough. I’m not particularly surprised that some folks think she’s been treated unfairly and feel a bit sympathetic.  Hey! I totally disagree with the woman’s political views (whatever they are, because they seem a bit amorphous) and think she’s bonkers, but even I think she deserves a little sympathy.  She’s clearly going through a tough moment in her life, and doesn’t really know how best to navigate the waters.  And people have begun to voice their negative opinion of her much more vehemently, so that could be adding to the sympathy factor.

So now we’ve both read everything there was to read in the GAllup poll.  Many liberal blogs have used the poll as evidence that Palin’s support isn’t much to start with, and this move didn’t really change her standing with Democrats or Independents, constituencies that she would need to court in order to actually win the White House (if not the Republican nomination).  I would also argue that with her numbers worse than Hillary’s, it looks even more dire.  Hillary was a polarizing figure whom I was pretty sure had little chance of swaying opinion about her too much — you were with her, or you were against here.  With Palin’s numbers hovering way below Clinton’s, I feel much the same way.

That doesn’t mean something can’t change, but it seems unlikely — and that’s even if she’s planning on running for president.

I write all of this to bring up this completely asinine “analysis” from Chris Cillizza, in which he mentions the percentage of Gallup poll respondents who think Palin’s been unfairly maligned by the media:

The Gallup numbers affirm something of a blowback against Palin’s detractors. Can Palin take advantage of this groundswell of sympathy to fundamentally alter the way she is perceived by Independents — just 34 percent of whom want Palin to take on some role as a national political figure — and by the smart set in Washington?

Are you serious? That’s your takeaway from the long rundown of that poll?  Why bother to ask such a silly question? How about mentioning more than just the 34 percent of Independents number and look at how opinion of her hasn’t moved at all?  Just because someone feels sympathetic for a public figure doesn’t mean that’s going to fundamentally alter the way he or she votes.

It seems to me evidence of just how ridiculous political coverage by a paper like the Washington Post has become.  When its reporters decide to come up with the most unlikely, hypothetical, and contrarian questions for the sake of argument, it’s no wonder why they’ve become a sinking ship.

I suppose it’s something small, but it’s symptomatic of the other things that have gone on at the Post of late:  the firing of Dan Froomkin, the antics of Dana Millbank, the “salon” scandal that appears to have been the work of the Post’s new publisher, not to mention the hiring of Bill Kristol and other transgressions, but we really ought to not pile on because it’s likely only to get worse from here.

In his piece on Arianna Huffington’s decision to hire Froomkin as the Huffington Post’s new Washington Bureau Chief, Glenn Greenwald quotes and Huffington and makes a point that I hope reverberates in our histories of the decline of print journalism:

Huffington says that it is Froomkin’s views on the media that, for her, is his primary appeal.  The key to vibrant, successful journalism, she said, is “getting away from the notion that truth is found by splitting the difference between the two sides, that there is always truth to both sides.”  Huffington argues that establishment journalism is failing due to “the idea that good journalism is about presenting both sides without a voice — without any passion.”  The outlets that continue to adhere to that “obsolete” model “are paying a price.”  Froomkin — who has written extensively about how passion-free, “both-sides-are-equally-valid” journalism is the primary affliction of the profession — echoes that view:  “The key challenge is to present an alternative to the ‘splitting the difference’ culture that has infested traditional media.”

Amen.  Asking if Sarah Palin might be able to parlay sympathy into a successful campaign, without addressing the host of other negative factors from the same poll, isn’t even ‘splitting the difference.’ It’s deciding to be contrarian for its own sake, thinking that because Sarah Palin walks like a sitting duck and talks like a sitting duck she can’t possible be a sitting duck.  That’s what all the pundits would say!  She’s brilliant! She’s garnering sympathy! In the face of all evidence to the contrary we still have to pretend like this woman is anything other than a farce.  It’s ridiculous.

The Right Stuff

Never thought I would be linking to the American Conservative, but Daniel Larison has some sharp thoughts on Palin which deserve an airing:

I don’t think I ever feared that she would run for President in 2012. If she ran, she would lose the nomination to someone else, and if she didn’t she would have gone off into the sunset with all of the other losing VP candidates. Palin was never as threatening to the left nor as wonderful for the right as both sides imagined. Her resignation will prove to be a good thing for her, her family and Alaska. Her tenure as governor has been so lackluster that it might be fair to say that Palin never demonstrated her worthiness for the office so much as in her departing from it.

There’s certainly something to be said for that. I recall being very nervous in the first week or so, perhaps even longer — I think it ended definitively when she said “In what respect, Charlie?” — but coming to the realization that Palin wasn’t going anywhere.  Then, she and McCain botched the last few weeks of the campaign, lost the election, and I really didn’t lose any sleep over her.  In the same way I think it’s ridiculous for people to make statements about Hillary Clinton having the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination in her pocket, it was silly to believe that Palin would walk away with the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.  There’s too much ambition among presidential contenders to allow one person — particularly one who had already been called a “whack job” by her own campaign staff — to glide effortlessly to the top of the presidential ticket.

As Larison points out, she hasn’t really shone as governor of Alaska; I’d bet that if McCain hadn’t put her on the ticket in 2008, some future event would have ended her political career anyway.  She doesn’t seem cut out for the national political limelight.  And that’s where I sort-of start to disagree with Larison, who blames her supporters most of all:

Never has a major political candidate been so poorly served by her own supporters. To quote that Russian proverb again, “The yes-man is your enemy, but your friend will argue with you.” Palin was surrounded and cheered on by almost nothing but yes-men, because once anyone tried to offer any kind of criticism that person seemed to become persona non grata in her circle and in the wider conservative world pretty quickly. That is why a reasonable column offering advice and encouragement to Palin could be met by so much insane fury from so many of her supporters. It will be very difficult to explain to later generations what it was that the Palinites saw in her that made them so fervent and enthusiastic.

[Snip.]

After the first week or so, likeability became much less important once we started finding out something about her record. What came to be so annoying about her was not so much that she performed poorly in interviews, had no policy knowledge outside of issues related to oil, and had an unremarkable record as governor (except when she was jacking up windfall profits taxes to redistribute liberate the money from oil corporations), but it was that her supporters seemed intent on never acknowledging her errors, refused to hold her accountable when she made misleading statements and began making virtues out of her weaknesses. Whether or not Palin could have become a much better candidate, there was no way that things could work out well for her or the country with supporters like this.

I don’t entirely disagree.  Indeed I think what hurt Palin, and at times made her so irritating to lots of independents and liberals, was this notion that she couldn’t be legitimately criticized.  Say what you will about people having a love affair with Barack Obama, but a great many of his fervent supporters (myself included) have been able to criticize him.  Not to mention that the reasons Obama caused such a stir was because he seemed to herald and new, hopeful, diverse age, while Palin seemed to be doing everything she could to call up old divisions of class and upbringing.

But — I think Larison is far too generous in supposing that Palin had the intellect and the cojones to go all the way.  I’m hard pressed to believe she would ever have been capable of mastering the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy that a true contender for the presidency needs to know.  Handlers have attested to her lack of desire to prepare in any meaningful way for the debates or for interviews — a fact which was evidenced early on in the VP debate when she basically told Gwen Ifill that she wouldn’t be answering questions that night; instead she would be saying what she had memorized, “straight to the American people” or whatever it was.

And I guess this is where I take a heavy dose of satisfaction when it comes to the career of Sarah Palin.  The plain fact of the matter is, it isn’t easy to be a politician, whether on the local, state, or national level.  It’s not the cakewalk lots of would-be candidates and armchair pundits make it out to be.  That doesn’t mean that to be a good national figure you need an Ivy League pedigree or a famous last name.  But it does mean that not every ambitious person who managed to get elected mayor of their hometown and, by a good stroke of luck, governor (a sparsely populated and easy to govern state at that) will end up being able to take the heat at a higher level.

Being a Senator or a Congressperson is a grueling job; you’re away from your family, traveling constantly, pressed by gotcha-anchors and reporters on camera and off, managing offices, boning up on policy, shaking hands, holding hearings, etc. etc.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  It’s not fun.  And it’s certainly not for everyone.

Whenever I hear about people saying we need to throw the bums out of office, clamoring for more regular-guys running the country, I get steaming mad.  Not because I don’t think there are plenty of ineffective and corrupt people currently holding office, or because I don’t believe there are good and decent people outside of government who could manage the job.  But because it’s simply ridiculous to think that every Sarah Heath is going to make it.  They don’t.  Think of all the people who’ve held office in this country, who even made it to the pinnacle of elected office — governor, Senator, what have you — and found themselves wanting.

I keep thinking of that anecdote, I believe relayed by Noam Scheiber of the New Republic, from Sarah Palin’s first campaign manager .  The woman recalled telling Palin that she could be governor of Alaska one day, and Palin responded by saying she wanted to be president.

News flash: a lot of folks have said that before.  And so far, only 44 have gotten there yet.  A good deal more have had the chance to run, but many never made it even that far.  I don’t know what it takes — a unique blend of a million different attributes, not least of which is your ability to explain, if not fully understand, the policy implications of what you’re saying — but I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin never really had it.

Back in the Game

Well. Long time no see.  I’ve been out and about, traveling and working and generally ignoring my blogging responsibilities.  And just when I was about to post, Sarah Palin had to go and resign — an act about which I really feel ill-equipped to write, given how I live in a pretty logical world while she seems to be slipping ever-more into an illogical one.

That, and I’ve spent the past ten months trying to get the blog’s Sarah Palin tag down to normal size.  Her resignation virtually assures her continued presence as the biggest tag here.

So, expect some Palin musings soon, as well as a manifesto in defense of Al Franken.  I’m sick and tired of reading about people dissing him as nothing more than a comedian.  Yes, that means you, Amy Klobuchar.

In What Respect, Alan?

Alan Colmes (Alan Colmes!) reveals that Jay Leno made a similar joke about Sarah Palin’s daughter getting knocked up, way back during the campaign:

“Gov. Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before! Now he has really done it.” — “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

But of course at that time, Palin was too busy getting into pissing matches with others members of the “mainstream media” and rallying up “real America,” so she didn’t have a whole lot of energy to expend on what Leno or Letterman or Conan or Colbert or Stewart or the entire cast of Saturday Night Live was saying about her on late-night television.

Department of Thin Skin

We feel a lot of love in our house for David Letterman, so perhaps I’m not the best judge of what some have construed as wildly inappropriate jokes about Sarah Palin and her family.

John Cole, for example, was angry that Letterman could have joked that Palin’s look is akin to “a slutty flight attendant” because that sort of sexist joke isn’t funny when it’s about Hillary Clinton, so it’s not funny when it’s about Sarah Palin.  But when I think about all of the off-color jokes Letterman, Conan, Colbert, Jon Stewart, and the like tell night in and night out, about all sorts of people in public life, I really can’t find the energy to get all that worked about it. If we are going to get angry about what people say on television, let’s direct it towards Fox News, you know?

Letterman has, in any case, given a lengthy apology/defense of his comments, which seems like a good thing to me, so I hope this can all get put behind us:

A quick word about Bristol Palin, however.  As far as I’m concerned, she’s fair game.  The girl has been on TV as much as anyone else these days, and is now serving as an ambassador of sorts for a teen pregnancy prevention group.  If she has decided to cast herself to the public, especially on a topic that “made” her famous, then I’m not really sure it’s up to any one, comedian or not, to bite his or her tongue.

I get Cole’s point (and believe me, I love Balloon Juice, and am generally in agreement with him and his other bloggers) about the comparisons to Chelsea Clinton, but it’s not like Chelsea was running around at 18 giving interviews to anyone that asked.  When Republicans were making the worst kind of jokes about her, she was much younger — and there is a tremendous difference between mocking an adolescent or young teenager and mocking one who has entered adult life.

But what do I know.  I’m just a young woman with a feminist streak.  I’m supposed to be horrified by off-color jokes like Letterman’s.