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Sep/10

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Sarah Palin: Still Not the Front-Runner:

…But right now, in autumn 2010, at what seems like a moment of maximal populist outrage and anti-establishment fervor, Sarah Palin can’t crack 20 percent in primary polling, and Mitt Romney (for all his manifold weaknesses) still has the most plausible path to the nomination. Which suggests to me that concerns about stability, solidity and electability may play a bigger role in the 2012 Republican campaign than many observers seem to think.

I have expressed skepticism of a Mitt Romney candidacy before in large part because he backed a health care plan in Massachusetts which prefigured much of what we saw in the Democrats’ plan. As this may be the peak of anger about the Democrats’ legislation in the medium term I’m struck by the fact that Romney still has polling traction at all. I do remember being very confused as to why John McCain hadn’t been totally discredited when it came out that he’d seriously mulled switching to the Democrats in the early 2000s.

That being said Romney does seem like a candidate who is good on paper, but can never come through on the national stage. Honestly, I really don’t know what the hell is going on.

19 comments

  • RandyB · September 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Romney might be one of those figures like Lieberman, Schwarzeneggar or Specter, who could win a general election, but not the primary of either party.

    I doubt Palin would be nominated because the Republican party doesn’t nominate: a) upstarts; and b) their most offensive possible candidates to Independent voters (they’ve never nominated anyone along the lines of Helms, Gingrich, Armey or Lott, that are despised by many centrists.)

    Palin is Pat Robertson; she’ll poll a consistent 20-25% of hard-core fans without ever expanding her base.

  • panglos · September 26, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Goldwater and Reagan?

  • Author comment by David Hume · September 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Palin is Pat Robertson; she’ll poll a consistent 20-25% of hard-core fans without ever expanding her base.

    i agree with the general qualitative sentiment, but i believe that sarah palin is far more of a cultural phenomenon that pat robertson was. he was never just that big of a figure on the social and political stage. she is.

  • Susan · September 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Insofar as Palin is concerned, I think it’s the yokel shtick that most enchants her fervent admirers and most turns off everyone else.

  • John · September 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I think a lot of Romney’s support, just like most of McCain’s support, comes from the fact that it is “his turn”. Republicans have an annoying habit of choosing the loser of the previous nomination battle for the next one, instead of looking for new blood. I think the “his turn” phenomenon was most of the entire reason why McCain was nominated–that and the fact that the evangelicals played identity politics and stupidly supported the non-conservative Huckabee thereby not allowing Romney to win.

    Romney would make a better candidate than McCain did, but I’m hoping a more conservative candidate emerges. Dammit, George Allen, why did you have to say “macacca”?

  • Black Death · September 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I’m not a big Palin fan, but I think Romney epitomizes the stale, old-style Bush-McCain brand of Republicanism. These are the folks who led the party to disaster in the last two elections. Obama has already dissed Romney for his support of the ill-considered Massachusetts health plan. I have no idea who will get the GOP nomination in 2012, but I hope it won’t be these two.

  • Author comment by David Hume · September 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    I think it’s the yokel shtick that most enchants her fervent admirers and most turns off everyone else.

    huckabee does it better. again, i think you’re on to something, but it isn’t the classic “aw shucks” yokel/country schtick. if palin looked like phyllis schlafly i doubt she’d be as popular.

  • Susan · September 26, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Yes, I too believe that if Palin were unattractive she’d have a much smaller fan base. I think the same situation exists with Christine O’Donnell, who’s also pretty and young-looking. If that weren’t the case, she’d have much less support. Interestingly, people seem to be reacting to the two women in somewhat the same way. Some Delaware voters have said that while they like O’Donnell’s ideas, they can’t see her as a senator.

    As for Huckabee, he has a kind of show biz slickness about him that undercuts the good ole boy image. I haven’t heard people say about him, as they have about Palin, that he “talks just like me,” or “he talks just like a real American.”

    It annoys me that inarticulacy is taken for authenticity, and that intellectualism is somehow anti-American. But there’s always been a deep vein of anti-intellectualism in American culture. Palin seems to be the flashiest recent avatar of it.

  • Stephen · September 26, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    “It annoys me that inarticulacy is taken for authenticity, and that intellectualism is somehow anti-American. But there’s always been a deep vein of anti-intellectualism in American culture. Palin seems to be the flashiest recent avatar of it.”

    I seem to be in the minority here, as I am a fan of Palin. I see her as unpackaged, not anti-intellectual (isn’t attending college a contra-indication of anti-intellectualism? Let’s have a debate!)
    As for being inarticulate, I think she does a lot better than our current President when he is off the teleprompter, yet he is considered to be a great speaker. Maybe she needs better speechwriters. Most people cannot do as well as William F. Buckley, and are less than impressive when speaking off-the-cuff. When it is said that Palin “talks just like a real American” it may be her choice of words, background assumptions, and other things.
    As for her attractiveness, it might help, and it could hurt, as some people might not take her seriously. I think Christine O’Donnell has the same problem.
    Having said that, I do not want her to be the GOP nominee, as I don’t believe the electorate want another president with little-to-no executive experience. I would like to see her on the ticket as VP, though.

  • CONSVLTVS · September 27, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Stephen, you’re not entirely alone. I don’t want Governor Palin on any national ticket, but I can’t hate or despise her. I have too many fundamentalist relatives to hate people for their know-nothing religion. Maybe she can continue fueling the revolt against the Mandarins without capturing the palace herself. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

  • CONSVLTVS · September 27, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Susan, I once met a fellow who told me, “Education is alright as long as you hide it.” To me, he is a genuine American voter archetype (just one…there are more).

    Americans have always been the pragmatic, pioneer types, good with our hands, efficient–and superstitious, narrow, and profoundly anti-intellectual. I guess I’m so used to it, it doesn’t bother me any more. Well, that’s not true. It still bothers me some (I live in Texas). On the other hand, there is absolutely none of what I saw in academic life: intellectual posturing, bookish one-upsmanship–essentially combat by other means. Don’t get me wrong, I relish a good argument. But with some in the universities I felt like Michael Palin in the Argument Clinic. “An argument isn’t just the automatic gainsaying of the other fellow’s assertions.”

  • Acilius · September 27, 2010 at 1:55 am

    I think a big part of Sarah Palin’s appeal is Todd Palin. In the urban centers where most Americans live, it is barely possible for a man who works with his hands to own a house, send his kids to college, or get any respect from the local elite. When the Palins came onto the scene, we were reminded that there still is a part of the USA where such a man can even marry the governor. That may not last forever, and certainly has a great deal to do with Alaska’s economic and geographical peculiarities. Still, it offers at least a small emotional satisfaction to those of us who fear that the American class system is becoming more rigid and more brutal.

  • Author comment by David Hume · September 27, 2010 at 6:13 am

    (isn’t attending college a contra-indication of anti-intellectualism? Let’s have a debate!)

    i suppose an outraged egalitarian reader will excoriate me for this (as happens on occasion), but the vast majority of college graduates are morons. in the period when sarah palin graduated from university the average IQ of a graduate was 110. very low indeed. i have difficulty conceiving that such people could exhibit an intellectual orientation because of their lack of necessary preconditions.

    i thought i’d just get that into the record.

  • Stephen · September 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    “the vast majority of college graduates are morons”

    I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I agree with the general direction. My point is that being of average intelligence does not automatically make someone an anti-intellectual, and attending college implies some respect for intellectual pursuits.

  • Susan · September 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I credit Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh for making “intellectual” a dirty word to conservatives, because they’ve made it a synonym for “liberal”. To me, an intellectual is simply someone who actively pursues knowledge, assimilates it, and thinks about it. There are auto-didacts who are, by my definition, intellectuals, and Ph.D.s who are nitwits. I know legions of both.

    What bothers me about Palin is that she appears–to me anyway–to have absolutely no intellectual curiosity. If it’s true that she was unaware that Africa isn’t a single country, that’s very disturbing in a candidate for national office. Yes, I’m aware that a lot of Americans can’t give you the dates of the Civil War, but most of them, happily, aren’t seeking the presidency.

    I agree that Obama’s not an effective speaker. Even with the teleprompter, I find him mind-numbingly ponderous. But he’s been accorded the reputation of a giant intellect as well as a stellar speaker. And image is what counts, when you get down to it.

  • Susan · September 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I should have added that if you say the things your audience wants to hear, your audience will grant you the reputation of being a brilliant speaker. Palin does that; Obama does it, or did it. As I’ve noted before, Palin reminds me of a cross between Aimee Semple McPherson and Princess Di.

    Another problem for Palin and Romney is, of course religion. Non-fundamentalists, particularly those outside the south, probably find Palin’s public praying, requests for “prayer shields”, and enlistment of “prayer warriors” to her cause distinctly off-putting. Fundamentalists find Romney’s Mormonism acutely disturbing.

  • Polichinello · September 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I credit Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh for making “intellectual” a dirty word to conservatives, because they’ve made it a synonym for “liberal”.

    I credit the intellectuals themselves, and by “intellecutal”, I mean the humanities. They’re the ones who’ve insisted on cooking up what are plainly obscurantist orthodoxies that have no relation to real life. Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh and others might point it out (let’s not forget Rush’s friend, Camille Paglia, who made her name doing the same thing), but they wouldn’t get anywhere if there was actual work being done in these fields.

  • Susan · September 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Ah, yes, Polichinello, I’m reminded by your words of a course title I once encountered in a college catalogue: “Theory of Cunt.” It vanished from subsequent editions of the catalogue, but it shines in my memory as a beacon of dazzlingly bizarre inconsequentiality. I’ve always wondered how an employer viewing a transcript would react to that. Depends on the employer, I guess.

    Seriously, I see no reason to cede the term “intellectual” to obscurantist flakes.

  • Panglos · September 30, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Christie has the next election in the bag- perhaps with Palin as VP
    As Oprah, Beck, and NJ goes, so goes the nation.

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