I’m convinced that pundits and the politicos they jabber about are basically not very bright people who simply have an obsessive interest in the superficial aspects of politics. Nowhere is this clearer than in the complete inability of the political class to understand Sarah Palin. So it looks like it falls to me to explain her to everyone. It’s easy if you just pay attention.
If she runs, she’s going to run a third-party campaign. But she’s going to do it while seeking the Republican nomination as well.
No politico seems to have grasped this yet. For example, today I read this typical bit of conventional nonsense in the L.A. Times. It’s a quote from a former Bush operative named Sara Fagen (!):
“To build the kind of organization you need takes several months,” Fagen said. “The infrastructure and lawyers alone amount to putting together a Fortune 500 company overnight. It’s a massive undertaking.”
One major obstacle, Fagen added: “A lot of the talent is already locked up.”
Then there was this insider’s view:
“At the end of the day, the rules usually prevail,” said former New Hampshire Atty. Gen. Tom Rath, a Mitt Romney advisor. “I don’t know any candidate that makes the race into the one they want. Once she gets in, she becomes like every other candidate.
You may be wondering how it is that being A.G. in a dinky state like NH makes anyone an expert on presidential campaigns. That’s because you don’t know much about NH, where every fucking person walking the streets thinks he’s a goddam political expert for the simple reason that every one of them has probably been interviewed by a national TV reporter in the course of a NH primary election. But really, Tom Rath is no more likely to know what he’s talking about here than the guy who made my macchiato this morning.
(Also, is there a surer signal to get ready for an utterly banal observation than the phrase “At the end of the day…”?)
Anyway, to get to my point: Sarah Palin is not going to be like every other candidate, because she is going to be the only candidate who people will believe wants the job in order to do the job, not to have the job. This–not the stuff that policy wonks obsess over–is the most important difference between Palin and any other candidate, most particularly Barack Obama. If the nation decides that it wants the exact opposite of the incompetent egomaniac we’re now saddled with, Sarah Palin is the obvious choice.
OK, fine. But what about organization? Doesn’t it take a big, nationwide hive full of worker bees to run a modern presidential campaign? Why, yes it does. Is it getting to be too late for Palin to populate her hive with dedicated bees? Haven’t most of the die-hard political activist types already joined someone else’s team? Why, no, not at all. You see, Sarah Palin’s hive is already full of worker bees: the members of the Tea Party. They’re already organized at the grass-roots level, and Mrs. Palin is going to be their first national candidate. That “nomination” is hers for the asking. And if she asks for it, she’ll then call on her hive to swarm into the Republican field of battle, to win that party’s nomination as well.
This is what Sarah means when she says that any campaign of hers would be “very grass-roots.” She doesn’t need, and may have little intention, of spending time trying to line up the endorsements of people like Tom Rath–mid-level Republican functionaries who advance their careers by backing the right horse early on, in hopes of getting a boost up the greasy pole locally or nationally if that horse ends up winning. Tom Rath has never lived in a world where those “rules” don’t apply, because he is a political pro. Sarah Palin, incongruously to the politicos, despite having been a governor and a VP candidate, is not a political pro. She is something Tom Rath has probably never met–the leader, indeed the embodiment, of a spontaneous movement. Other candidates have their feet held to the fire by the Tea Party, but not Sarah. The Tea Partiers trust her; their desire to follow her lead is palpable. It is not that Palin’s political fortunes ride on the Tea Party. Rather, the Tea Partiers’ hopes ride on her. She is not seeking their support for her ambition. If she runs, it will be because she has responded to their pleas.
If Sarah runs, I doubt that anyone in the MSM will even begin to understand what’s afoot until the nomination is decided. If she wins the Republican nomination, the MSM will be even less able to comprehend the nature of the fall campaign. The reporters and the pundits will tally the points made by her and against her on the details of a long list of proposed policies that no actual voter thinks are really going to be on the table after the election. Sarah will speak over the heads of the commentariat, to address the deep and real concerns the voters have about the fundamental political values held by their chief executive. Obama’s strength, which will be considerable, will derive from fear-mongering, fantasy, lies, and the fact that a very large number of Americans want to keep their checks from the government flowing in.
The contrast between the two campaigns would itself serve as a sufficient basis for casting a vote, for anyone who was able to see beyond the MSM’s spin. I am not sure that Sarah could prevail against the forces that would fly at her in a fury, but it would be the greatest election day since 1980 if she did.