Sarah Palin continues to be something of a lightning rod, both in the pop culture world and within the Republican Party itself. “True conservatives” are getting behind her like nothing else, while there are many even within the GOP who look down their noses at this so-called hick from Alaska. Meanwhile, sordid speculation about the personal lives of Palin and her family continue to smut up the tabloids that pass as political commentary.
I wish I could share the zeal of her most die-hard supporters. The truth is that some of the support probably stems from a reflexive protectiveness against the unfair sliming, perhaps even similar to something that Hillary Clinton supporters felt through the Clinton Presidency and during her run for the Presidency. Palin has displayed a willingness to stand up for conservative ideas, and a propensity to be something of a reformer in Alaska.
Despite her VP candidate experience, however, in my eyes she still had a lot of experience to accrue before she went for the big prize. I had hoped that she would gain that experience, that she would hone her ability to relate to the media and become comfortable with discussing economic and foreign policy beyond what one might hear in a stump speech.
My hope turned to disappointment when I learned of her intention to resign as governor of Alaska at the end of July. It’s a move that, despite her claim that she didn’t want to waste the time of the state fighting bogus ethics charges, still baffles me, and one that has harmed her in the eyes of many. Fundamentally, her decision turns her from a fighter into a victim, from a position of strength to one of weakness that somehow deserves our understanding. It might evoke sympathy, but it doesn’t inspire me to have implicit faith in her leadership potential and her ability to weather the storm.
2012 is a long way, and despite the setbacks, Sarah Palin is still something of a national phenomenon. Her most hateful detractors still wish she would go away, but I don’t think she will. She has a great spunky charisma, and her ability to relate to a crowd is something else. Perhaps she can build on those strong points as she moves forward. At it stands now, I don’t think I want to see her run in 2012 – but I want to see her do well, and maybe she can change my mind in the meantime.