Perplexing Political Punditry: 'Palin's Perfect-Pitch Populism'
by Charles Lemos, Thu Feb 11, 2010 at 02:28:16 AM EST
David Broder, the dean of the Washington punditry establishment, has penned quite the column in the Washington Post:
Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.
Top of her game? Really the top of her game was back in the summer of 2008 at the GOP convention. Since then it has been one more embarrassing debacle after another. She's got her fan base to be sure and it's not an insignificant number but most sentient beings see Palin as an on-going political train wreck. There's an entertainment value in Palin-watching for certain but it's more a morbid curiosity than any deep yearning for her pearls of political insight.
Broder continues on:
Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.
Touch is the right word because any details were sorely lacking. One really has to wonder about David Broder's senility at this point. Full repertoire? Of what? Of meaningless stock phrases such as "commonsense conservatism"? Her national security policy was "we win, they lose." Her economic prescription was more of the same policies that got us in our present predicament.
And there's more:
Freed of the responsibilities she carried as governor of Alaska, devoid of any official title but armed with regular gigs on Fox News Channel and more speaking invitations than she can fulfill, Palin is perhaps the most visible Republican in the land.
That's not necessarily a good thing for the Republican party. In a recent poll by the National Journal of 85 GOP strategists and insiders, Palin was the top response when they were asked, "Which voice in your party would you most like to mute?" Twenty-eight percent listed Palin with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael coming in second, with 12 percent.
That's among the GOP's elite but among the GOP base her support is also faltering. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 71 percent of Americans do not feel that Palin is qualified to be President. That includes a sharp drop in Republican support, where 45 percent believe she is qualified compared to 66 percent who thought she was last fall. Overall, 37 percent have a favorable view while 55 percent have an unfavorable view of the former Alaska Governor.
Still Broder presses onto his inevitable conclusion:
Palin's final answer to Wallace showed how perfectly she has come to inhabit that part. When he asked her what role she wants to play in the country's future, she said:
"First and foremost, I want to be a good mom, and I want to raise happy, healthy, independent children. And I want them to be good citizens of this great country.
"And then I do want to be a voice for some common-sense solutions. I'm never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I'm not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I'm going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don't get it, and big government's just going to have to take care of us.
"I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that. Don't have to have a title to do it."
This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.
But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty -- and potentially, to Obama as well.
Palin did not wear well in the last campaign, especially in the suburbs where populism has a limited appeal. But when Wallace asked her about resigning the governorship with 17 months left in her term and whether she let her opponents drive her from office, she said, "Hell, no."
Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.
I'm surprised that David Broder got through all that without comparing Palin to Reagan but that aside, all of the aforementioned had one talent that Sarah Palin doesn't have: the ability to talk intelligently on a wide range of subjects in depth and with awareness to details. She can spout talking points and not much more. She is a political parvenu plucked from the frozen tundra and a pitiful parody that is a product of her own flamboyant self-invention.