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The Extraordinary Sarah Palin


When it comes to former GOP Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, if any ordinary Republican politician could generate as much contemporary free media coverage, including a new high profile cover story from Newsweek, while a positive full length documentary on their legitimate political career, The Undefeated, was opening nationally on July 15, the Republican establishment and most all of the base would be clamouring for him or her to enter the race for President in 2012. But Sarah Palin is no ordinary Republican politician.

Based upon my own observations, along with some recent conversations with friends, including Andrew Breitbart, who recently spent some time talking with Palin, my image of Palin has been becoming more well-defined of late. Take, for instance, the only real criticism I could find in the Newsweek piece. It jibes with another criticism I’ve observed, that she too often engages her critics directly, as opposed to allowing surrogates to do it for her. Are these valid criticisms of Palin? Along with providing some insight into her – she’s a fighter, it might also tell you much about how you view Palin. If you’re looking for an ordinary politician, Sarah Palin ain’t it.

This formula–bucking Republicans and counting on the situational cooperation of Democrats–made for a fragile governing model, one further attenuated by the fact that political insiders found Palin too sensitive to criticism and too eager to deal in payback. But to the public she was a heroine, with an approval rating above 80 percent two years into her term, making her by far the most popular governor in the country.

Once I put aside any notion of a mostly plastic, glad-handing politician and contemplated how I myself might actually react in this, or that, situation Palin has faced, a clearer image of her as an every man politician began to take shape. There’s a good chance I’d have handled a good deal of the criticism precisely as has she in this, a new media age. And she is far more in touch with the concept of new media, than is almost any other American politician – hence the reliance on Facebook and Twitter to get her message out.

“The mainstream press is becoming less and less relevant,” she said, adding that she would have no hesitation in shunning media outlets she does not trust.

As The Undefeated makes clear (my earlier review here), she’s not in politics because her daddy held office, or won, or was denied a Presidential nomination, or election. She entered politics as an individual because she cared about the relationship between government and the people and wanted to make a difference. Sarah Palin was not schooled by some mostly Eastern U.S. Preparatory and Secondary school system one might think is the only acceptable schooling for serious American political leadership today. In fact, in many ways, that monopoly has all but driven America off a cliff – including under the current administration.

Of course, Ronald Reagan wasn’t a product of it, either, as a matter of fact.

Still, even some of her biggest fans may have a mistaken notion of the kind of politician Sarah Palin actually is. True, she’s a Conservative … but she’s also a common sense pragmatist, not an uncompromising ideologue, as portions of the media would have one believe. As wonderful as conservative ideals are, rigid thinking can not always solve every problem. As her tenure in Alaska demonstrated, first and foremost, Sarah Palin is a problem solver.

The centerpiece achievement was a significant tax hike on the profits derived from Alaskan oil, which pro-industry Republicans opposed, and which passed only because Palin allied herself with the legislature’s Democrats (who insisted, to Palin’s acquiescence, on raising the tax even higher).

So, why are there not more establishment voices calling for such a visible and pragmatic Palin to toss her hat in the ring? My guess is, because she is more one of us, than any political establishment. If you begin to understand – and accept that – you may be beginning to understand Palin and what she represents to so many. Unfortunately, as shocking as it may seem, the fact is, more than fearing the political opposition in the form of Democrats, or Republicans, what America’s political establishment fears most of all is “we the people.” That, in large part, is what Ronald Reagan represented leading to such strong opposition to him from the GOP establishment, as well.

“You know, I rarely use the term ‘bipartisanship,'” she said. “I use the term ‘independent.’ Piper’s middle name is ‘Indie.’ That’s the Alaskan way of life. Seventy-three percent of Alaskans aren’t registered Republican or Democrat, they’re independent. Todd’s not a registered Republican. Most of the people I know, they’re independent people saying, ‘Just use common sense.'”

If there’s a conclusion to be inferred from the Newsweek item, it would seem to be that she is running. Her family seems on board with it and that is the only real obstacle she mentions, after all. However, that’s merely an inference and, as with some other potential late entries, the question remains open. What’s also true of Palin is that, until she says it, assuming otherwise is no guarantee of accuracy.

What is clear is that her road to any presumed GOP nomination would not be easy, or typical. It would likely require a far greater number of people to actually understand Sarah Palin apart from the many characters and caricatures the media has made her out to be. That said, if it did, or does happen, I do believe that, not only could she win the GOP nomination, but she could win the Presidency, as well.

At this point thirty-years ago, Reagan was thought to be both unelectable and unacceptable, even as a nominee. Not only did he go on to win the nomination and Presidency in 1980, his landslide re-election in 1984 remains as a testament to the success of common sense, mostly conservative-based politics capable of reaching across, if not erasing, party lines in America.

I wouldn’t want to have to assign odds as to the likelihood that Sarah Palin could repeat such a hallmark record of achievement in American politics. However, if one thinks it impossible at this point, then one may not know, or understand, Sarah Palin and her appeal, or the American people, at all. After all, both are extraordinary and have proven themselves capable of accomplishing rather exceptional things before.


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