Sarah Palin will not run for president in 2012

Ending months of speculation, the former vice-presidential candidate rules herself out of the race.

Sarah Palin has announced that she will not enter the presidential race, ending months of speculation.

In a letter to her supporters, the doyenne of the Tea Party movement said:

After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for president of the United States.

As always, my family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision. When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order.

Her will-she-won't-she antics have overshadowed the race so far. She even upstaged frontrunner Mitt Romney on the day he announced his campaign, by launching a tour on what looked remarkably like a campaign bus.

Palin never set up a professional campaign staff, but kept teasing the media - and her supporters - with hints that she was still in the running. This year-long tease eventually cost her support in the polls. This week, a Washington Post poll showed two-thirds of Republicans did not want her to stand.

On top of this, the entry of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry to the race split the conservative vote upon which Palin relies. It has long been suspected that she may prefer to stick with the extremely lucrative career she has carved out as a media personality. She even used her Fox show last month to wonder aloud about the presidency: "Is a title worth it? Does a title shackle a person?"

The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, also bowed out of the race this week. These decisions finally clarify the Republican field, as no other candidates are likely to throw their hats in the ring at such a late stage.

It's now essentially a race between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, with the pizza magnate Hermann Cain experiencing a surge in the polls. However, none of the candidates have caused much of a stir.

Palin said that she plans to throw her weight behind the Republican nominee - although she declined to support any one candidate - and said that she can be of more help from outside the race:

My decision is based upon a review of what commonsense conservatives and independents have accomplished, especially over the last year. I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office - from the nation's governors to Congressional seats and the presidency.

She may not be entering the presidential race, but Palin will not be disappearing from our screens any time soon.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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I am an immigrant

 A seemingly neutral term like "migrant" is so potentially pernicious because we don’t take the kind of care we should in assessing its effect on us.

I am an immigrant. I came to the UK 20 years ago from the US to teach philosophy at the University of Sheffield, where I am now a professor. My American accent remains very strong. I used to be surprised when, despite hearing me speak, people would express anti-immigration sentiments to me, with a clear expectation of agreement. I would tell them that I am an immigrant. “I don’t mean you”, they’d respond, surprised that I count myself as an immigrant.

This shows that seemingly neutral words – like "immigrant" – are not always used in a neutral way. The supposedly neutral word "migrant" is increasingly used by the media to describe the large numbers of desperate people travelling into and across Europe, fleeing war and persecution.

But this use has recently come under attack.

To some, this attack is baffling. A migrant is just a person who migrates, surely, and these people are migrating. What can be wrong with this truthful description? One thing that might be wrong with it, however, is that, according to the UN, that’s not what a migrant is:

The term 'migrant'… should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of 'personal convenience' and without intervention of an external compelling factor.

While maybe among the desperate risking their lives to escape places like Syria and Afghanistan, there is a person or two who has joined them for reasons of “convenience”, these people are surely vanishingly rare. According to the UN, then, it is simply factually wrong to call these people migrants.

But why, a more compelling objection goes, should we even care about language? People are dying and need help, and there goes the left again worrying about words. The reason to care about language is that the language we deliberate in shapes our deliberations. We’d see this without hesitation if racial slurs were being used to describe these people. And few people of good will would defend Katie Hopkins’ use of the term "cockroach". We know all too well how such clearly dehumanising words help put in place patterns of thought that make genocide possible. But "migrant"? "Migrant" is not a slur. 

Those who study the intersection of language and politics, however, have become increasingly aware that terms that seem innocent, like "migrant", can do some of the worst damage. This is because we are not aware of the ways that they are affecting our thought. Almost all of us, below our consciousness, are prone to ugly biases that we would reject if we were conscious of them. We see this in studies showing that people presented with the same CV judge it to be less attractive if the name at the top is a typically black one.

Apparently innocent words can come to function as dogwhistles, speaking to our unconscious in ways that our egalitarian conscious selves would reject if only we realised what was going on.

In America, the apparently race-neutral term "welfare" has come to be so strongly associated with black people that attitudes to any policy described using this term correlate with racial attitudes. Fascinatingly, adding an explicit reference to race removes this effect – if it’s too obvious, our conscious egalitarian selves step in. And this is why a seemingly neutral term like "migrant" is so potentially pernicious: it is not, as the UN recognises, actually a neutral term. But it seems like it is – which means we don’t take the kind of care we should in assessing its effect on us.

The suggested alternative terms are "refugee" – which calls attention to the fact that these people are fleeing intolerable conditions of violence; and the simple "human being" – which reminds us of our moral obligations. Either of these is an improvement on the inaccurate "migrant", which threatens to distort our discussions without our even realising it.

Professor Jennifer Saul is head of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield