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Why Critics Are Wrong About Palin

Morgen on July 6, 2009 at 12:55 am

While these represent the first words I’ve ever written about Sarah Palin, in general I’ve been a supporter since the GOP convention last summer. Count me among those who thought she was the best thing about the McCain ticket. If selecting Palin wasn’t McCain’s only good decision it was certainly his best. Not only did she inject some much needed vitality into a lackluster (and ultimately hopeless) campaign, she offered a glimpse of a much more dynamic and promising future for the conservative cause.

So of course I was surprised as everyone else was by her announcement last Friday that she would be resigning as the Governor of Alaska. But after reading and watching her announcement, I can’t say that I share the sense of disappointment expressed by most conservative commentators. Partially because on a personal level I am relieved for her and her family. It’s clear that the constant stream of attacks had really weighed on her.

But more importantly I think it was a good strategic decision on Palin’s part. Here’s why. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve entered a new era of electoral politics. You don’t have to look any further than the current state of the RNC apparatus to realize that traditional party institutions and methods are rapidly declining in relevance. For better or worse, the proliferation of internet communication technologies and a 24/7 media culture have ushered in a new era.

Call it the era of politician as celebrity.

I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think the phenomenon of the Obama campaign was a one-time anomaly. Not only did the campaign include all the necessary elements of reality TV, the show is of course ongoing. And it’s guaranteed to be renewed through at least 2012 .

This was of course the true genius of the Axelrod campaign. He took a candidate with a carefully crafted backstory (and few significant accomplishments), and harnessed the power of a friendly media and Web 2.0 to create a level of popular obsession that most celebrities can only dream of. (Is there anyone in the world with more media mentions than Obama in the last 12 months? Not by a long shot I’d bet.)

And as much as we hate to admit it, we have our own reality TV star in Sarah Palin. And the simple truth of the matter is that she had very little to gain by serving out her term, and a heck of a lot to lose. At least in the realm of popular opinion, which is increasingly all that matters. Between dealing with the frivolous accusations of ethics violations, and fending off the self-serving snipes from her conservative critics, all the while trying to fulfill her (mostly unnoticed) responsibilities as a mother and a Governor – she had no realistic chance at advancing her image and esteem beyond her core base of supporters.

And frankly, I think she is suffering from the bane of every celebrity: overexposure. Within the span of just a few short months she went from relative obscurity to suddenly representing the hopes and dreams of conservatives all over the country. In the process she was put under a constant media spotlight, and came under relentless attack from elements of the left and right. And let’s admit it, many of her own supporters have developed an unhealthy obsession with everything she says or does. (A fact which has been cynically used by many bloggers to drum up traffic by covering all things Palin.)

2012 is a long time from now. I think the best thing Palin could do would be to duck out of the spotlight for a while, focussing on her family and perhaps expanding her grassroots network using new media such as Facebook and Twitter. The value of these types of tools for generating support and fundraising will increase exponentially in the next election cycle. And this is a golden opportunity for her to get a head start on this.

But even if she doesn’t heed my advice and ends up taking a job in television, for example, it will only prove my point. Whether sooner or later, the Sarah Palin show will continue. And I’m looking forward to the second season.

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Category: Politics |

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