What with the end (and the probable result) of the 2008 Presidential race easier to see than Russia from Sarah Palin's back porch, professional political prognosticators have two choices: post-mortems on McCain's failed campaign or breathless speculation about 2012. And who else but Sarah Palin as the figure who could lead Republicans out of their electoral doldrums? Well, before we go there, we might want to check back on the post-mortem in the Times magazine, in which it's reported that Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt picked Palin because, in no small part, she's photogenic. Could she really ride to the highest office on the collective boner of Republican men?Although, as Kira Cochrane of The Guardian points out, Sarah Palin's been subjected to misogyny and sexism over her admittedly good looks, it's fair to say that part of her popularity with some of her base is part and parcel due to that. Even the National Review's Kathleen Parker thinks so:
But there can be no denying that McCain's selection of her over others far more qualified — and his mind-boggling lack of attention to details that matter — suggests other factors at work. His judgment may have been clouded by ... what? Science provides clues. A study in Canada, published in New Scientist in 2003, found that pretty women foil men's ability to assess the future. ‘Discounting the future,’ as the condition is called, means preferring immediate, lesser rewards to greater rewards in the future.
As far as Parker's concerned, her experience has been that Sarah Palin's pretty factor has done more than wow crowds, it got her on the ticket. I would quibble with that assertion, but then, I saw the same interviews Parker did, and it certainly wasn't Palin's grasp of the issues of importance to this country that netted her the position. At this point, there's a general acknowledgment that, Palin or no Palin, the Republican party is in shambles. They're losing seats in the House, they're trying like hell to prevent the possibility of the Democrats achieving a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and they're likely to lose the Presidency. The uneasy coalition of big-government social conservatives, small government fiscal conservatives, and neo-con foreign policy hawks is unraveling, and something is going to have to be done. With the way this race is ending, John McCain isn't going to return to the Senate as a party hero who gracefully failed to hold onto the Presidency for his party, he's going to return with a measure of disgrace for the bad decisions that many, many conservatives are already decrying. He's not going to be a party leader, and he's not going to be the one credited for exciting the party's base this year. Sarah Palin is. And, if she goes all the way, the pretty factor will still be a part of it. Few people that Sarah Palin isn't running in 2012. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder rightly notes that her supposedly off-the-cuff comments about how she'd run the campaign differently — from Wright to robocalls — are a clear signal to the base that her campaign for the nomination and the Presidency will be different. He argues that with 4 years to bone up on policy issues, fund raise (which she'll be doing a lot of) and wink at voters, she'll be a strong contender for the Republican nomination in 2012, especially if her competition turns out to be the guys that couldn't beat John McCain this time around — Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. (Some of his commenters, however, seem to be thinking with their dicks, not their brains.) Jonathan Chait at The New Republic agrees that Palin might well get the nod in 2012, riding the very wave of anti-elitism, anti-establishmentism that John McCain tried to mine against Obama. In that light, attacks by the conservative intelligentsia — McCain's Georgetown cocktail party circuit — would strengthen her appeal to anti-elite voters (the people who think her folksy thing and George Bush's represent something admirable). He adds:
And no GOP challenger will enjoy anything like her popularity or name recognition. Everything she needs to run a primary campaign is available: elite operatives eager to advise her, conservative media eager to tout her, hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers eager to donate to her and knock on doors on her behalf.
Heck, I've read enough to know that the "conservative media" bit is completely true, and she's inspired more people to show up and rallies and shout "Traitor!" than McCain ever did, could or wanted to. Gerald Seib at the Wall Street Journal piles on even more, noting her popularity with the base and the fact that most of her weaknesses this year were fed by the McCain camp's insistence at keeping the press at bay and having her compete with Obama's big rallies rather than connect with voters in more intimate settings. That last bit is stretching it, but this part's pretty true:
On Nov. 5, she will be either vice president-elect or the best-known young figure in a Republican party that will be angry, disenchanted with its existing leadership and probably ready to rebuild around a conservative core that loves her. Either way, she is and figures to remain the biggest fund-raiser in her party, which is a sure way to win friends and allies.
So, sorry guys. I don't think she's going back to Alaska to hole up and govern this winter. Of course, there's one person that publicly disagrees with the assertion that Sarah Palin is as busy setting herself up for 2012 as she is running for the VP in 2008. That person is Sarah Palin. She told Brian Williams in their recent interview "As for furtherance in a political career, I'm not even thinking about that." Who knew moose shit smelled so much like bullshit? Fair Game? [The Guardian] Tragic Flaw [National Review] Palin In 2012: The Argument [Marc Ambinder] Prediction: Palin in 2012 [The New Republic] No Matter Who Wins, Palin Will Be a Force in GOP [Wall Street Journal] Palin: I'm "Not Even Thinking About" Future Political Career [The Page] Earlier: Finally: The NY Times' Post-Mortem On The Still-Breathing McCain Campaign