Home/Daniel Larison/I’m Telling You, Palin Has No Chance

I’m Telling You, Palin Has No Chance

Besides, does the most serious human being always win [bold mine-DL]? Did Al Gore? Did John Kerry?

Sarah Palin has something more than intellect. She has the ability to understand, connect with and energize her party.

And considering her likely opposition — Romney, Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee or Haley Barbour — tell me she has no chance. Go ahead and tell me. It’s enough to make one snicker. ~Roger Simon

It’s risky to make absolute statements about anything, and it’s even more perilous to make them about the possible outcome of a nomination contest that still won’t start for another 16 months, but I am fairly confident when I say that Palin has no chance of winning. There, I’ve told him.

I’ve gone over the reasons why she has no chance in as many ways as I can. There are structural reasons (the GOP does not reward insurgents and favors establishment-backed candidates) and organizational reasons (her organization remains minimal and insufficient). Her unpopularity with non-Republicans is enough to give even her most enthusiastic admirers pause, and many of her admirers don’t think she is qualified for the office. As I was suggesting recently, there is probably a higher bar to nominating a woman for President in the GOP than in the Democratic Party, and there would probably be resistance to using a presidential nomination for the sake of achieving a symbolic “first” by choosing a woman. On this point, I would add one more observation: Republicans have an excessive, some might say absurd, admiration for the office of the Presidency, and they are especially enamored of executive power in wartime, and nominating Palin for that office simply goes against too many of their presidential-cultist and militarist instincts that not even Palin’s own militarism will be enough to compensate.

Simon’s question about the “most serious human being” unintentionally points to the reason why Palin has no chance. In 2000, Republicans were presented with a Western “reform” governor with few real achievements to his name, minimal relevant experience, and no obvious qualifications for the position or expertise in any major areas of policy. He was publicly exuberant about his religiosity, practiced an “aw shucks” campaign style, littered his speeches and debates with colloquial language, and seemed not to be embarrassed that he knew little or nothing about most of the rest of the world. Like Palin, Bush was far from being stupid, but both of them seem to take delight in their lack of knowledge, as if it confirmed that their down-home facade was who they really are. Ten years ago, we were told by admiring pundits that voters weren’t interested in wonks or experts, but wanted someone who was “one of them.” Of course, Bush was the farthest thing from being “one of them” as he could be, but in his aggressive pursuit of mediocrity he managed to convince a surprisingly large number of people to entrust him with incredible power. When it became known that Bush liked to make decisions from his “gut,” this seemed to enthrall millions of people and put their minds at ease, as if “gut” decisions were more desirable because they were irrational. And, yes, he won election by slimmest of margins, and then he won one of the weakest re-election mandates in modern presidential history, and almost immediately Americans began to regret that outcome.

We have already given one obviously unqualified Western governor a chance to wreck the country in the last decade, and not even the Republican Party that continues to defend and like Bush is so clueless and self-destructive that it would go to the country with a female version of the disaster we just experienced. The other possible contenders Simon mentions are all flawed and unattractive in different ways, but none of them so fully embodies all of the flaws that made Bush such a poor President as Palin. Most of the public already knows this, and given a chance to choose anyone other than Palin the GOP will turn gratefully to one of the others so that they might have at least a fighting chance in two years.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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