Why does Sarah Palin seem to command such attention?
Palin, as media critic Howard Kurtz reports, is a crafty person when it comes using the media. Somehow, she is able to get most of the mainstream media to hang on her every word and watch her Facebook and Twitter sites for her latest views as if one were waiting for white smoke from St. Peter’s to announce a new Pope.
Part of the reason that the press and most of the political establishment tend to focus on the former governor is because they want to take her down. Think of blogger Andrew Sullivan and his years-long focus on all things Palin. The media, liberals and moderate conservatives all want to show that she’s a fake, an idiot; not presidential timber.
I would agree with all this, and yet she hasn’t gone away. Why?
I think Palin came along at the right time in American history. If we were in an alternative universe where there were no wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, where there never was a housing bubble or Great Recession, there might have been no Sarah Palin, or at least, Palin would still be an obscure governor from a small state.
Krurtz gives a clue as to Palin’s popularity in this paragraph:
For now, Palin is the accidental multimillionaire who positions herself as an ordinary hockey mom. She struck a note of sarcasm with the Times’ Draper while discussing news organizations: “They’re the elite. They know much more than I know and other people like me!”
She could just as easily be referring to Wall Street wizards or housing lawyers or congressional leaders. “Her message is that all the people who think they’re so smart aren’t really so smart. That’s a message that resonates,” Frum says.
John Ellis, a seasoned political analyst and a cousin of George W. Bush, puts it this way:
“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’”
That’s why the images of Palin hunting and fishing and telling Willow she can’t have boys upstairs may matter more than her policy positions—and separate her from a president with a Harvard Law degree. If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.
That message, naturally, rankles the journalistic elite, which nonetheless serves as a megaphone for Palin’s musings.
In some ways, the smart guys have failed- miserably. And this is not just in politics, but in the media and the economy as well. Palin’s rise is more about a lack of trust in, well anything except Sarah Palin.
And that’s the problem. Those of us that look down on Palin as not being smart don’t get that being smart is percieved as part of the problem. Palin’s homespun wisdom seems a lot more reliable than placing our trust in smart leaders who then procede to lead the economy down the drain. This is a message that the media and liberals must pay attention to, but so-called establishment conservatives (or those who don’t like Ms. Palin) have to be aware of as well. The way to challenge Sarah Palin is NOT to talk about how stupid she is; instead it is about re-establishing trust between the average American and the big institutions that are a part of our daily lives.
That’s why the Democrats got a “shellackin'” earlier this month, and why folks like Mike Castle and Bob Inglis got beaten in GOP primaries. The smart guys could not realize that they were the problem.
In unsettling times such as these, demagogues like Palin are successful because they offer simple answers and shed a light on the ruling elite.
The answer to Palin is to make America function again. It’s to restore confidence in our economic and politicial sectors that haven’t been working well at all.
If we can do that, then maybe Sarah Palin will go away.
Crossposted at Big Tent Revue