On another subject entirely, Sarah Palin has announced that she will not seek re-election and will be resigning from her office in a few weeks. The GOP really is in freefall. The governor most Republicans like and want to support is apparently dropping out of politics, and Mark Sanford remains in office despite scandal and disgrace. Though there is otherwise really nothing in common between them, Palin is every bit as finished politically on a national level as Sanford is.
Despite all of the talk about the recent Vanity Fair feature on her, Andrew’s
renewed obsessions with every detail of her life raising of important questions, John’s tireless refutations of those obsessions important questions, and reports of the continued support she enjoys from most Republicans, I have felt no need to say anything about her for several months. By the end of the election campaign, I had come to think that she was unqualified for the post she was seeking, and I probably allowed her more irritating supporters to color my judgment of her more than I should have, but once the election was over I would have been pleased to let her get on with her work in Alaska. After a flurry of post-election appearances, she seemed to do just that, and that was fine. 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.
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. The Palin enthusiasm of 2008 will not end up making much sense a few years from now. At least the excitement about a Jack Kemp presidential campaign after 1996 was based in a record with some accomplishments in it.
While I initially gave her some benefit of the doubt, I never pretended to be a supporter, because I could not bring myself to cheer on anyone who would work so closely with McCain, but like many on the right I found something initially very likeable about her. 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.
P.S. I never did understand why so many people on the right liked to refer to her as conservatives’ Joan of Arc. At least in the earthly, political sphere, that meant she was doomed to defeat. Just another example of the sheer weirdness of some of her supporters, I suppose.
Update: This was not clear to me when I started writing this post, but it seems that there are crazy people advising Palin that this is how she can run for President in 2012. John Weaver observes that it doesn’t make sense:
“I’m not smart enough to see the strategy in this,” said John Weaver, a senior party strategist. “Good point guards don’t quit and walk off the court.”
To use a different sports reference, there are no votes in becoming the Vince Young of politics.
Second Update: I keep seeing these odd Richard Nixon references in commentary on this resignation. As Alex Massie notes, Richard Nixon was already a fairly significant, well-established political figure by 1960. Just as important, he was the losing candidate in a close race in which he was the presidential candidate, and so far as I know Nixon never resigned from a major office before his term was up unless it was to take a more prestigious post. To make a Nixonian comeback, it might be helpful if Palin’s career were in any way comparable to Nixon’s.
Third Update: After a commenter appropriately pointed out my stupidity, I need to correct that one remark about Nixon. Obviously, at the end of his career he did resign his office in disgrace. I was referring to the pre-1968 period of his career, but made a silly blanket statement.