On this 4th of July holiday, amidst all of the celebrations, let’s take a moment to note the passing of Sarah Palin’s political career; it was just 17 years old and in the last year briefly captured our attention and a few hearts along the way. The cause of death is still unknown, but it’s clear the wound was self-inflicted.
Forget all of the “political analysis” that’s filling the internet about what a smart move this was because it’s bullshit. Yesterday, Sarah Palin drove a stake right through the heart of her presidential prospects. She might become a talk show host, she might go on the radio, become an advocate for causes and a fixture on the speaking circuit. She will not, however, ever be a credible candidate for president again.
Sarah Palin did not cost John McCain the election, but she made the trainwreck worse. Outside of the hardcore movement conservatives who respond to her emotionally, the rest of us saw a women ill-prepared for the national stage, uneducated and unsophisticated about the critical issues of the day, and emotionally and intellectually immature. Questions about her judgment made questions about John McCain’s judgment a legitimate campaign issue. Throughout the fall, her standing among the American electorate dropped faster that an SUV gas gauge on the highway as each exposure made it clear that the woman who would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office was a scary prospect indeed.
Ms. Palin might have had a chance to run in 2012 if she had gone back to Juneau, governed effectively, spent as much time as possible on the lower 48 fundraising/political circuit (admittedly no small feat for a sitting Alaska governor) and brought in a faculty to provide a three-year crash course on the policy issues and political skills (message discipline, interview skills, etc.) that she tried to skip over last year. That way, when the spotlight came back around, the public would see a Sarah Palin ready to govern the most complex country in the world during one of the most complex periods in world history and she would have built up a record and political organization to support a campaign.
A very tough, narrow road to walk, admittedly, but the only one I can think of that would have possibly undone the damage she did among the 75 percent of us who found her varying degrees of scary. If she could persuade a third of us that she was qualified, she could have been a contender.
Instead, she has done the one thing I can think of to effectively cement her image as a capricious and emotionally immature personality; she’s elected to simply walk away from her job as governor with 18 months to go. And to do so because it’s become a burden.
Ms. Palin may or may not chose to try to run for president in 2012 or thereafter. If she does, however, her entire campaign will be defined by a single question that she can expect to hear over and over and which – for her – there is now no correct answer:
“Governor Palin, you abandoned your responsibilities as the governor of one of our nation’s smallest (other than geography) and least complex states; what makes you qualified to serve as President of the United States?”