Sarah Palin is apparently making her first moves for the presidency. A pilgrimage to the otherwise irrelevant Iowa is one of the first – and most vital – steps to becoming President of the United States. The crucial caucus state can kick-start a campaign – as it did with Obama’s run in 2008 – or condemn it to irrelevance, as Rudi Giuliani found to his cost the same year. But are commentators right to suggest that Palin has started her campaign? I mean, why would Palin want to be president?
Since leaving politics, Palin has concentrated on mercilessly building her own brand. First came the book – Going Rogue, which has sold nearly three million copies – then came the position on Fox News as a regular commentator. Then she became the doyenne of the Tea Party movement – an umbrella group of right-wing lunatics, who hold protests with placards of President Obama dressed up as Hitler. In the process Palin has become a multi-millionaire several times over. Her estimated earnings for 2009 were $12m – approximately 100 times what she was earning as the Governor of Alaska.
Even as President she would earn just $400,000 a year. By comparison Glen Beck – Fox News’s incredibly popular and depressingly influential ring-wing evangelical television commentator – earned $32m. Running for president would only dent her considerable earnings. So Palin isn’t going to run for financial reasons. Perhaps, Palin simply wants the power and the glory? But power isn’t all its cracked up to be.
In series four of The Wire the mayor-elect of Baltimore, Thomas Carcetti is speaking to his mentor, Tony, a former mayor of Baltimore. Tony tells Carcetti what being in power is really like.
Let me tell you a story, Tommy. The first day I became mayor, they sit me down at the desk. I’m thinking, “How much better can it get?” There’s a knock at the door in the corner of the room, and Pete comes walking in carrying this gorgeous sieve silver bowl “It’s from the unions,” he says. So I think it’s a present – something to commemorate my first day as mayor.
He walks over, puts it on the desk. I look down at it. It’s disgusting! I say, “What the hell is this?” He says, “What the hell’s it look like?” I said, “It looks like shit. Well, what do you want me to do with it?” He says, “Eat it.” “Eat it?” He says, “Yeah. You’re the mayor. You gotta eat it.”
Politicians are shit eaters by trade. Great men and women enter public service to serve their fellow man and create a better world. Instead they end up eating plate after plate of other people’s shit. Whether or not Sarah Palin is a great woman is beside the point – the fact is Palin is no shit eater.
Palin does not enjoy governing, nor the accountability and scrutiny it brings. She quit as Governor of Alaska without serving a full term. She was humiliated repeatedly during the 2008 campaign, by Katie Couric and Tina Fey’s uncanny impersonation. Why would she want to go through that all over again?
At the moment Palin preaches to the choir and the choir sings her praises. Palin is untouchable. She has a huge – and growing – audience. They buy her books, they watch her on Fox and they go to her rallies. But when a pundit steps off the couch and into the fray, they lose their veneer of infallibility. Running and losing will only damage her future prospects and influence within the Republican Party.
And if she runs, she will lose. Outside the right-wing fringe of the Republican Party, Palin has no congregation. They don’t watch Fox. They don’t buy her books – and they sure as hell won’t vote for her as president. In other words, Palin can’t win. At the moment Palin is the great white hope of the Republican right, the party’s sole superstar. If she runs for president she will be poorer, humiliated and defeated. Palin 2012? For her own sake (never mind the world’s), it’s best that she doesn’t.
Duncan Robinson also blogs here.