There are three possible explanations for this, none of which end with Sarah Palin in the White House.
The first is that Sarah Palin is really and truly sick of politics and has decided to hang up her spurs. It is disappointing to those of us who have stood by her, but it certainly isn’t a poor reflection on her personally. Not everyone is cut from the material that allows them to stand in front of the media glare that comes from running for national office, especially when the person in question is a Republican and their family comes into the crosshairs.
The second is that she has decided to focus immediately on running for President in 2012. This suggestion is not a serious one: any person with a whit of sense knows that resigning without even a full term completed takes her completely out of the equation. If she cannot finish a single term, or handle her national travel while finishing out her term, how can she combat the full force of the Obama machine? Only the most foolhardy or clueless would consider this the path that Palin is taking; it is thus no surprise to find Chris Cilizza peddling it as a viable theory. If it is true, it demonstrates that she lacks the political judgment to run a national campaign in any case.
The third is that there is another shoe that has yet to drop, whether scandal, undisclosed health or personal issue, or other. It is probably pointless to speculate on these matters until they become known: if another shoe is set to drop, then drop it will, and we should expect it soon. The longer time goes past without word of it, the less likely it is that it exists.
The takeaway from Sarah Palin’s resignation today is that if you’re a Republican (especially but not only a woman) with children under the age of 18, don’t bother.
Seriously, what’s the point? John Roberts’s kids became a talking point, and he was nominated to an appointed office. Sarah Palin’s freaking maternal records became a subject of debate — what reporter would come up to a man, say, like her husband, and say to his face, “Isn’t it true that child isn’t yours?” No jury outside the Bay Area would find him guilty or liable for literally dragging the little worm’s face across fifteen feet of concrete. Barry Obama’s medical records release was a one-page note from his doctor — “All’s Well! Thanks for asking!” — and we’re talking about the heartbeat keeping Joe Freaking Biden from the Oval Office.
Anyone remember all that talk about Sasha and Malia’s likelihood of teenage sex based on race, age, and economic strata? How about Al Gore’s kids? John Edwards’s? Can you remotely imagine any mainstream news reporter even giving air or print time to the theory that Chelsea Clinton had had multiple abortions, regardless of the truth? Can you imagine any of those politicians’ children, if born with Down Syndrome or autism or anything remotely equivalent, being a hate object and being called a political prop?
Had I the talent, looks, charm, and ambition to run for political office (which I do not), I’d have learned over the last year not to do so. My children and my wife mean too much to me. My opponent’s teenaged daughters could be running a lesbian brothel and there wouldn’t be a peep; my daughter could be caught kissing a boy and there’d be rumors he’d knocked her up and I forced her to get an abortion, and those rumors would get mainstream press play.
This isn’t even to get into the insanity of a State ethics system that allows complainants to make repeat, baseless charges against an official, incur no costs, and watch as the official runs up hundreds of thousands in legal bills for which she is personally liable. This is nauseating, stupid, and proof that we’ve crossed some line: Republics work. Things like this are why pure democracies don’t.
If Palin has decided she doesn’t want her family to be in the crosshairs, and is therefore getting out of politics, I understand. If she thinks that she is going to become President, or achieve some higher office as a consequence of this move, she has another think coming. If the Left continues to believe that she will try to be a political figure, they will continue to launch ethics investigations, and ex-governors can’t defend themselves as well as governors can. In any event, the Left will now be encouraged to try the same tactics on the next up-and-coming Republican star, or perceived one.
I may be naive, but it seems like it could work for her if she’s planning a presidential run. It seems to me that Sarah Palin is the only possible candidate the Republicans have who shares an essential quality with Obama: she gets the conservative base excited and riled up to a near-religious degree. That’s an intangible quality, and you either have it or you don’t. I don’t think the Republicans can even hope to beat Obama if they can’t find a candidate with that kind of charisma. So, for Palin, the real question should be, will this work for the base? I think it will. They’ll see her as a small town woman viciously wronged by the political and media elite, including those in her own party. I think this will arouse even more sympathy for her and increase her appeal. Whether this is good for the Republican Party on a national level, however, is something else entirely.
Sarah Palin is the most divisive political figure in America. She has been for the past year. Just the other day — before we knew of her impending resignation announcement — a few friends and I discussed some points made by Jim Geraghty on a particularly loathsome series of articles and statements by major media and online figures with pretenses of rationality.
For my part, I argued that there’s really little difference between the reaction to Palin and the reaction to other good-looking conservative women — as exemplified by the recent Playboy scandal and the litany of examples provided by the online left over the past few years. But perhaps what is different, in Palin’s case, is the assistance of the mainstream media. And in this case, I don’t blame them as much as some do. Palin is great for magazines. She sells. She’s sexy, controversial, and has plenty of local enemies to give quotes. A third of America loves her to death and a third wishes she would die in a fire. That’s gold, Jerry.
I confess, I don’t understand the motivations of some of this hatred. Palin is by all accounts a fairly normal politician; if anything, it’s hard to see the ideological differences between her and, let’s say, Mike Huckabee, who charms many on the left (heck, even Stewart and Colbert). This makes me think it’s a lot more about style than substance, about who she’s decided to be, about her accent, and about that wink. It’s all just a matter of personal reaction, exaggerated by personal experience — I have a friend who also decided to give birth to a child with Down Syndrome, and so the accusations that Trig Palin is nothing more than a political prop of his mother is the sort of thing that make my skin crawl, even when they come from individuals known far and wide for their ability to spew inhuman excrement from their keyboards. Maybe others don’t have this experience, but hypothetically, if Michelle Obama had been confronted with the same situation and made the same choice Palin did, my admiration for her would be astronomically higher, and I don’t hesitate to say that questions about her pregnancy would be considered unacceptable across the pro-life right. But that’s beside the point.
The divisiveness Palin represents could be a reason to think she’s not done with politics, or as Erick Erickson rightly draws the distinction, only done with electoral politics. She’s on the cusp of a massive book tour and her popularity among Republicans remains very high:
Palin’s biggest strength is her enduring popularity among the Republican base. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that while she remains divisive among the general public, some 84% of white evangelical Republicans, and 80% of conservative Republicans, give her high marks.
But as Jonah Goldberg notes, and Ace echoes, this is just not a decision that will bolster her support among these corners. With all the freedom it grants to work politically in the lower 48 and escape the multiple frivolous complaints lodged against her in Alaska, that freedom comes with a major penalty: she now legitimately will lose any political experience arguments against any other potential primary candidate in 2012, and certainly against President Obama. It is just not conceivable to view her as a national candidate for the presidency matched up against others in the race.
Resigning at the end of her term in 2010 — I could see that. She’d have as much elected experience as Romney, and the race for the presidency takes two years anyway. But now? I think the idle chatter about an impending scandal is just that — she’s been so heavily monitored over the last year, I think everything that’s there has already been turned over. If it is a scandal, I’m more likely to believe it’s something involving one of her children rather than Palin herself. She withstood the attacks, the vile innuendo, the Photoshops, and the pornos (yes, pornos, multiple) for the last 10 months, after all. I doubt the problem is a lack of personal toughness from the self-described “mama grizzly.”
Personally, I now think she’s really had enough. She has, in the past, always spoken of preferring motherhood to politics. Regardless of Mark Halperin’s smart points to the contrary, I believe that’s the path she’s taking. She’ll raise a ton of money for like-minded Republicans on the circuit, her book will sell well, she’ll continue to inspire affection from devoted fans and anger from her enemies, and Andrew Sullivan almost certainly won’t stop writing about Trig whenever she pops up to do an interview. But this is not 1962, and she is not Richard Milhous Nixon. Absent another successful run for office down the road, I can see no situation where Palin is ever in the serious conversation for the presidency.