Like a few other intrepid souls, I have received a lot of grief for my defense of Sarah Palin’s decision to resign the governorship of Alaska.
But after a week of consideration, I’d like to amend my position. Not only does Sarah Palin’s resignation not preclude her from running for president in 2012. I would argue that she is now strongest candidate Republicans could nominate.
That is not to say Palin wouldn’t have her work cut out for her to prepare for a run. Nor do I presume to know whether Palin even wants to run for office again. But the fact is Sarah Palin remains one of the most compelling figures in American politics, and she is a viable national candidate.
To listen to the media, though, is to believe that, in the words of NBC’s David Shuster, “Her national political career is over.” Such a conclusion is easily arrived at by taking all the media’s criticisms of her as gospel. But many of what the media see as Palin’s biggest liabilities are actually her greatest strengths. Here are a few.
Her roots: Palin’s small-town roots and non-Ivy League pedigree are supposed to be weaknesses. She attended obscure schools and uses plain words. She eats moose burgers instead of arugula and would eschew the cocktail circuit for a weekend of hunting and fishing.
But at a time when empathy has become a cardinal political virtue, Sarah Palin is one of the few national politicians who can empathize with middle class Americans. Ninety-nine percent of voters do not have an Ivy League education, nor did some of our most successful presidents (President Reagan graduated from Eureka College in Illinois).
Barack Obama instilled the notion that any American — regardless of race — could grow up to be president. Palin has given us a hint of the same with respect to class, geography and educational pedigree and sex.
Her faith: Another of Sarah Palin’s alleged political liabilities is her evangelical faith. But that’s a strange contention given how much George W. Bush’s evangelical faith helped him win two presidential elections. Plus, polls show evangelicals’ share of the electorate continues to increase. White evangelicals increased from 23 percent of the electorate in 2004 to 26 percent in 2008.
Her Family: Sarah Palin’s family members have been the objects of the media’s unrelenting scorn since she emerged on the national stage 10 months ago.
Having a child with special needs is simply incomprehensible to the pop culture. Studies show nine out of ten unborn babies who receive a positive diagnosis of Down syndrome or other genetic condition are aborted before they see the light of day.
But Sarah Palin has become the most prominent advocate for persons with developmental disabilities. And she has energized the disability rights community like no one before, especially the 400,000 Americans with Down syndrome and their families.
Interestingly, nothing seems to confound the media more than the sheer size of the Palin brood. After Palin announced her resignation, David Letterman quipped that she was resigning in an attempt to become the new “Octomom.”
That’s revealing. To the Left, professional “self-actualization” (whatever that means) and a robust family are mutually exclusive goals. Most of the Democrats’ leading ladies have what the Left considers suitable family sizes. Hillary and Jill Biden gave birth to one child each, while Michelle had two. Palin having five children (especially considering that the fifth has a disability) is viewed by many “progressives” as irresponsible and even immoral.
And Bristol Palin’s pregnancy put the Left over the top. While the First Family wouldn’t want their girls “punished with a baby,” the Palins accepted their teen daughter’s pregnancy and have embraced their grandchild unconditionally.
Perhaps what miffs the media most about Palin is that she has the audacity to go about her life and career without regard to them. She doesn’t alert them to her every move. And as others have noted, she doesn’t have an elaborate media operation or poll-test every word she uttered. She even gives speeches without using a teleprompter. She doesn’t play by the normal rules, and they devoured her for it.
The media wouldn’t admit that they have an anti-Palin bias, of course. But the public sees it. A recent Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans (53 percent) feel news media coverage of her was “unfairly negative.”
The Gallup poll also found that 43 percent of respondents said they were either “very likely” (19 percent) or somewhat likely” (24 percent) to vote for her for president in 2012 if she were to run. While those may not be great numbers, they’re not bad — 43 percent is exactly the percentage of voters Bill Clinton received in winning the 1992 presidential election.
And they certainly don’t give the media reason to be writing Palin’s political obituary. It is too early to tell what the future will hold. Palin is 45 years old, which means there will be at least six presidential election cycles before she reaches a point in which age will become a political liability.
That’s a long time. Six election cycles ago, Barry Obama was just beginning his career as a community organizer and meeting Reverend Wright.
Margaret Thatcher was 54 when she became Great Britain’s Prime Minister and Golda Meir 70 when she became Israel’s.
At 45, Hillary was holding a Bible and gazing up at her philandering husband take the presidential oath of office. At 45, Ronald Reagan was still a registered Democrat and had not yet held elected political office.
Point is, Sarah’s got plenty of time.
Speaking of Reagan, like the Gipper, Palin has a charisma that has energized millions of Americans and thoroughly frightened the Left. During his decades-long political ascendance Reagan was often dismissed as the “amiable dunce” and a political lightweight. And we know how that ended.
Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer was domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan and is president of American Values as well as chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.