Monday, February 08, 2010


In a post called "Sarah Palin Needs Help," Nate Silver gets this pretty much 100% wrong:

George W. Bush ... was at least smart enough to surround himself with a team of exceptionally competent strategists, advisers and consultants. He was smart enough to recognize that it takes a village to get oneself elected President, and ideally one a bit less isolated and insular than Wasilla. Palin hasn't figured that out yet; her ability to become the Republican nominee and have a fighting chance in the general election will depend on her ability to do so.

Nate lists some allegedly horrible mistakes Palin has made, starting with Hand-Gate:

... this was something that was bound to play into every negative caricature of Mrs. Palin. Somebody needed to take Palin aside and tell her: Honey, this is going to make you look ridiculous. Can't you write on a notecard instead?

Somebody needed to tell Palin that, if she were hellbent on quitting as Alaska's governor, she at least needed to take the time to develop a competent exit strategy and a coherent farewell speech....

Somebody needed to sit down with Palin and consider whether, for a candidate who gets significant leverage out of the sense that she's been persecuted by the mainstream media, becoming a correspondent for one of the mainstream media networks was going to be helpful to her in the long run....

Somebody needed to tell Palin that using the term "death panels" was probably not going to help her personally at a time when she was trying to demonstrate to her critics that she could be credible about policy....

Is Nate paying any attention at all? All this is working for her. And it's no surprise, really.

The "mainstream" (???) media operation for which Palin works, along with the rest of the tea party movement and GOP noise machine, has utterly rewritten the narrative. Almost nothing done by a right-winger now is considered "extreme" or amateurish, because the entire political spectrum, except for lefties/liberals, now accepts the notion that tea party activism is in the American grain and is therefore a good thing, a necessary corrective to the real "extremism" -- which is what's coming out of the Obama White House. Obama's agenda, deficits, bailouts, etc., are "extreme" and therefore everything his critics do is not extreme, no matter how many racist signs are waved, how many guns are wielded, how many conspiracy theories and lies are bandied about.

And as for amateurism, that's not bad, it's charming. Palin's non-slickness may grate on our ears, but that's because we're overeducated urban slicksters, just like those Chicagoans in the Obama White House. The tea parties are wall-to-wall patriotic kitsch and incoherent hokum, but incoherent hokum is new and hip. It's even OK that Palin chose to be an amateur after being a political pro -- she dropped out inarticulately and in a clumsy way, which makes it genuine, and thus very much in keeping with the tea party spirit, which is now generally conceded to be wonderful.

This narrative is all Palin needs, really -- at least until Tina Fey shows up on SNL with words written on her hand. Absent that, Palin has all the help she needs, from her Fox bosses and the other slicksters of the GOP message factory, who are selling her uncouthness, and the teabaggers', as the new authenticity.

(And no, working for Fox News doesn't hurt her, because it's part of the plucky underdog army fighting the evil Obama slicksters; it's David, and it's countercultural -- it's not really "mainstream" according to the narrative.)


AND: Everything I say here also applies to Daniel Stone's Newsweek blog post from Saturday, "Why Sarah Palin Can't Run for President." Stone writes of Palin's speech at the tea party convention:

Palin's fiery rebuke of Washington certainly firmed her base, but it did little to widen her appeal to moderates and independents, two groups without which she'd have a real tough time passing the threshold of electoral votes....

Which is to say that electorally speaking, tonight's speech was a self-inflicted wound for Palin, offering ammo to opponents to argue that she's simply too far right and too niche to win widespread support for national office.

But there's almost no such thing as "too far right" in the new Obama-backlash world. At this point, you're within the pale no matter how far right you go, just so long as you yourself don't call Obama "Hitler" or question his birth story or wave a gun at him (though you're free to hang out with people who do all three).

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