Pauline-Palin

by John Quiggin on January 14, 2011

Not an entirely original thought, as Google reveals, but those interested in the Palin phenomenon might find some useful historical counterpoints in the career of Queensland’s own Pauline Hanson. As far as parallels are concerned, Palin now seems to be reaching the same point as Pauline, where the official conservatives start tearing her down. In Pauline’s case, this effort was led by Tony Abbott, now leader of the opposition and led to her being jailed on the basis of an absurd technicality about electoral funding (she was released on appeal).

Apart from the general danger of relying on historical analogies, I’m less convinced than some that the tearing-down will work in time to stop Palin being a serious contender or at least a veto-holder in the selection of a Republican presidential candidate, and also less convinced than some that she could not possibly win office under the circumstances (really bad failure by Obama) where she would be a possible candidate.

{ 88 comments }

1

roac 01.14.11 at 5:37 pm

As a Yank, I had to Google Pauline Hanson. For one delirious moment — until I clicked the link — I went for this version.

2

Ben Alpers 01.14.11 at 6:43 pm

I’m convinced neither that Palin can’t win serious office nor that “official conservatives” in the US have much interest in tearing her down. Going back at least to Dan Quayle (and arguably to a somewhat false understanding of Ronald Reagan), there have been plenty of “official conservatives” in the US who have been willing to back underqualified populist frontmen (and women). People who back this strategy are pretty convinced that they can control things behind the scenes while the frontperson keeps the rubes happy. Think of it as the Bush-Cheney model. So far, the only thing that gets a potential frontperson stricken from the list is a willingness to raise taxes (sorry, Mike Huckabee!). And Bible Spice has stuck to the straight and narrow in this regard. I’ll believe that there’s interest on the right in tearing Palin down when I actually see it happen. Until then, I think it’s just wishful thinking.

3

John Quiggin 01.14.11 at 7:06 pm

Presumably, there’s interest in Palin-destruction from rival candidates for the role of frontman, and, more seriously from their backers.

BTW, I’d say you can trace the general phenomenon back at least as far as Harding and the Ohio Gang.

4

phosphorious 01.14.11 at 7:09 pm

Of course she’s the GOP nominee. Who else is there?

And if she’s the nominee and the economy takes a downturn in October 2012. . . then she’s president.

I’m not sure what people who say “she’ll never be president” are thinking. How is she in any way different than Bush?

5

Substance McGravitas 01.14.11 at 7:15 pm

Of course she’s the GOP nominee. Who else is there?

People who are not Sarah Palin.

6

Kevin Donoghue 01.14.11 at 7:29 pm

“Who else is there?”

According to Intrade she’s way behind Romney. But she was pretty close until she became the victim of a pogrom (as the Washington Times has it).

7

Substance McGravitas 01.14.11 at 7:32 pm

Gee, the “pogrom” bit is real. I feel dumb for feeling surprised.

8

Brian Weatherson 01.14.11 at 7:48 pm

I’m not so worried about Palin winning anything. I think it would be very unlikely for a candidate to win when they are currently losing in the polls by 26% (link) despite having universal name recognition to actually win, and despite our being in a lousy point in the economic cycle.

If Romney, or Pawlenty, or especially Thune, or some other identikit Republican is the nominee, then I trust that the usual econometric models will roughly predict the final margin. And in that case whether Obama wins depends a lot on the state of the economy in early-mid 2012. But Palin is an historically bad Presidential candidate, and would almost certainly lose despite having a very favourable environment.

9

roac 01.14.11 at 7:56 pm

No. It is becoming clearer every day that the people with money have decided that Palin can’t win, barring something completely unforeseen, and therefore somebody else needs to be the nominee. They are busily at work tearing her down. Since they built her up in the first place, I see no reason to think they won’t succeed.

This is not to say that it is impossible for a demagogue to become a real force in US politics without the support of the plutocratic classes — say, a reincarnation of Huey Long. But Huey Long was smart. You put her in the ring with somebody with real boxing skills -0f of which Murdoch can hire a very large number — and she goes out on a TKO no later than the third round.

(Besides, if you think as I do that Palin is in it for the money, it follows that she can be bought off. I don’t know what her price might be, but whatever it is , the Republican Party can afford it.)

10

Steve LaBonne 01.14.11 at 8:02 pm

Palin is flagrantly incapable of the self-discipline required for a successful presidential campaign. Short of a true economic cataclysm (as opposed to continued slow bleeding), her nomination would be an early 2012 Christmas present for Obama. And I’m not even sure she could be elected in a desperate economic situation as she is not exactly the sort to inspire confidence in most voters, only in her brain-dead 20% coterie of true believers.

11

politicalfootball 01.14.11 at 8:14 pm

Palin sure seems dumb and undisciplined, but she is where she is for a reason. And nobody says any more that her departure from the Alaska governor’s office disqualifies her from the presidency.

The political climate has been very good for faux-populist rage, but it can get better still.

12

Steve LaBonne 01.14.11 at 8:27 pm

Palin sure seems dumb and undisciplined, but she is where she is for a reason.

The reason is pure dumb luck, even as concerns the origins of her accidental political career in Alaska. She has long since fallen victim to the Peter Principle and her only talent, and interest, is raking in the big bucks by ranting to Faux News-watching morons. I’m a hell of a lot more worried about the far slicker Huckabee, and also about Thune.

I’m all for challenging conventional wisdom, but Palin is not being underestimated; she’s being accurately estimated. Here main use is as a convenient bogeyman with which conservative Democrats try to scare progressives.

13

jonesing 01.14.11 at 8:44 pm

#10:

Palin is flagrantly incapable of the self-discipline required for a successful presidential campaign.

I’m not sure if “self-discipline” is the right expression. In order to go about establishing a regimen along those lines you have to have at least some capacity to be honestly reflective and self-critical – skills Palin lacks. Bet she even has a hard time getting through an entire book, not to mention a speech without prompter and/or notes-to-self scrawled on her palms. There is a peculiarly vacuous quality about her that never changes. You could see it in the speech following the Giffords shooting. The mask remained unmoved even when she talked about being ‘heartbroken’. She’s a monster but America has a strange fondness for them.

14

piglet 01.14.11 at 8:46 pm

“an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers”

How disgusting to hear liberals hypocritically complain about Sarah Palin’s merely metaphorical violence while she and her conservative thinker friends are being attacked, rounded up, sent to concentration camps, killed, their homes and offices burnt by Obama’s brown-shirts.

15

ajay 01.14.11 at 9:29 pm

Got to correct you, piglet: a pogrom would be waged by Obama’s cossacks. His brownshirts are committed to the ongoing campaign of intimidation and violence aimed specifically at conservative newspaper columnists, known as Kristolnacht.

16

Salient 01.14.11 at 9:34 pm

Palin sure seems dumb and undisciplined, but she is where she is–

–not Governor of Alaska, making millions via Fox News–

–for a reason.

…because she had to evade one scandal that turned serious, and now Fox News pays her $$ to stir up more.

Palin will do whatever is necessary to… hold onto a lucrative job as a Fox News ‘commentator’ or whatever it is they allegedly pay her to do (her actual job duties being, uphold and reinforce the Fox brand of emotive paranoia).

17

Mark 01.14.11 at 9:34 pm

Palin is a creation of the conservative media, dragged from relative obscurity because she supposedly made liberals nuts. Now that her power as a provocateur (provocatress??) has greatly diminished, the creators find – to their evident surprise – that Palin bought the whole package, considers herself a viable candidate and thinks they really meant all those nice things they said. Hey, as long as there are still cars sporting that “Coldest State – Hottest Governor” bumper-sticker, it’s anybody’s game, right?

Kind of sad, in a way. Oh, unless you’re looking at it from my viewpoint, in which case it’s kind of comical.

18

Jack Strocchi 01.14.11 at 11:13 pm

Pr Q said:

Palin now seems to be reaching the same point as Pauline, where the official conservatives start tearing her down.

The Centre usually holds in stable healthy democracies. In fact the ability of the Centre-Right REPs to reign in the Far-Right Tea Partiers^ is a test of the health of US democracy.

Far-Right politicians get their “Have you no shame, Sir” moment from the more mainstream members of the Centre-Right party. (the Army versus McCarthy) Just as Far-Left politicians get their “Sister Souljah” moment from mainstream members of the Centre-Left party. Howard & Abbott double-teamed to get Hanson out of the way.

Back in May 2010 I predicted that the Tea Party would burn out fairly rapidly, given the history of instability in Right-wing movements in Anglo settler countries. Obviously I was wrong in my time frame, badly under-estimating the amount of political momentum the Tea Partiers generated amongst the economically anxious white voters.

I still believe that the Tea Party will burn out or be called out, as did McCarthyites and Birchers. Its just a matter of time and the swing of the business cycle. Some sustained effort by Obama to get average white guys into secure jobs would help.

Pr Q said:

I’m less convinced than some that the tearing-down will work in time to stop Palin being a serious contender or at least a veto-holder in the selection of a Republican presidential candidate, and also less convinced than some that she could not possibly win office

I do not share Pr Q’s pessimism about Palin’s role as King-maker in the REPs. I am happy to predict and lay down a decent three figure sum against Palin’s chances of being on a winning White House ticket. I also predict that the Tea Party will fail in any attempt to shut-down government.

Basically Palin’s role is that of a get-out-the-vote base mobiliser. In any case, she is making too much money and having too much fun as a political entertainer to give it all up for the b*ll-busting business of running a political campaign and building a policy platform. C’mon, Hollywood beats Washington hands down.

The real question is: is there anyone on the bridge of the REPs who can act as captain and throw her in the brig if she becomes a loose cannon on the gun deck? There was no doubt that Ike was in charge when McCarthy got out of control. Likewise Nixon neutralised Wallace.

But I can’t see any of the old guard REP establishment ready to step in and take control. Where are the Bakers, Cheney v.1, Bush I, The REP bench looks mighty thin.

^ Enforcing standard immigration law is not a “Far-Right” policy. No more than it is “Far-Right” to eject alien trespassers from your property, or blog, for that matter.

19

Cranky Observer 01.14.11 at 11:26 pm

> Apart from the general danger of relying on historical analogies, I’m
> less convinced than some that the tearing-down will work in time to stop
> Palin being a serious contender or at least a veto-holder in the selection
> of a Republican presidential candidate,

From my interactions with Palin supporters in conservative dominated suburban and rural areas, efforts to tear Palin down by Republican Party insiders and big money men will only have the effect of solidifying her support. Obama had more grass roots support than he and Plouff realized; Palin may not have the numbers Obama did but her grass roots supporters are 10x as fanatical.

Contrary to what I thought two months ago, Palin does seem to be doing herself a lot of damage and may actually manage to make herself too toxic to run. But I agree with Mr. Quiggan that she is being dismissed too soon and too easily by those who would prefer she just go away.

Cranky

20

yeliabmit 01.14.11 at 11:53 pm

Strocchi: “Enforcing standard immigration law is not a “Far-Right” policy.”

“Standard” immigration law can be very far-right law (e.g. mandatory incarceration for non-status individuals; indeterminate incarceration for the same; caning and other corporal punishment; stripping fundamental rights from non-citizens; etc.). Tea Partiers seem to be obsessed with far-right law itself, not far-right policies of enforcement of moderate or progressive laws.

21

roac 01.15.11 at 1:16 am

C.O. is assuming that the insiders’ campaign against Palin will continue to take the form of op-eds in the WaPo and NYT and WSJ. I agree that her base will not be moved by that.

What I think is going to happen is that items will start appearing on Drudge and all the Drudglets, about how Palin was once in the same room with someone whose brother’s spouse’s college thesis advisor was quoted on Al-Jazeera, proving that Palin is a closet jihadist. Or that the preacher at that church in Wasilla reads the New Testament backwards to the congregation every Halloween. If they can’t find any facts they’ll make some up. Remember that the target audience is self-selected from the most gullible stratum of American society.

22

Ebenezer Scrooge 01.15.11 at 1:24 am

If votes were weighted by fervor, Palin would be a lock on the Republican nomination and might win it all. But they are not, except to the extent that fervent people are more likely to show up. Her support, although fervid, is limited to a subset of the Bush dead-enders. And that, if I remember, was under 30%. Everybody else is grossed out by her.

23

Stuart 01.15.11 at 1:29 am

I still think a final solution is needed to deal with Palin, just in case she does get nominated though.

24

Ben Alpers 01.15.11 at 1:30 am

No. It is becoming clearer every day that the people with money have decided that Palin can’t win, barring something completely unforeseen, and therefore somebody else needs to be the nominee. They are busily at work tearing her down. Since they built her up in the first place, I see no reason to think they won’t succeed.

While I am actually quite pleased that so many informed, intelligent people seem to be convinced this is the case, I remain unconvinced that there is a concerted effort to dear her down on the right.

I certainly hope I’m wrong, however.

(This isn’t to say that I expect her to be the nominee. I don’t. But I wouldn’t rule it out.)

25

spyder 01.15.11 at 1:47 am

Politics Alex, for $800:

Answer: To make Palin look better!

Question: Why is Michelle Bachmann running for President in 2012?

26

phosphorious 01.15.11 at 1:50 am

Her support, although fervid, is limited to a subset of the Bush dead-enders. And that, if I remember, was under 30%. Everybody else is grossed out by her.

Republicans will vote for whoever runs against Obama. That will be determined by the GOP primary turnout, which will be dominated by Palin supporters; all other republicans have declared themselves to be “independent” and “above politics.”

There’s not a hair’s width of difference between Palin and Bush, and that smirking son of a bitch was re-elected in 2004. Does anyone thing that Americans have gotten less stupid or gullible since then?

27

Tom M 01.15.11 at 1:55 am

Palin’s negatives exceed 50%. As Mark said earlier, she was seized on (not in that way) by the talking head right because she was classically trained in right-wing right-speak. She’s an empty-headed-animal-food-trough-wiper with a sterling ability to say just what the base wants to hear but no one else does.

28

idlemind 01.15.11 at 2:04 am

I think Palin is an enormous problem for the Republicans, who realize that there is no easy way to separate her followers from her sway. She’s got enough negatives even among conservatives to be unlikely to attract many new followers, but that group is so firmly attached to her that the Republicans can’t force her from the fold without making a significant split in the party. It’s a conundrum for now, though one I expect to be resolved by her own inability to go the distance. But we’re in for an interesting show in the meantime…

29

Nattering Nabob 01.15.11 at 2:38 am

Some sustained effort by Obama to get average white guys into secure jobs would help.

Yeah, if only Obama hadn’t been so irrationally opposed to any form of stimulus.

30

Jack Strocchi 01.15.11 at 2:50 am

yeliabmit @ #20 said:

“Standard” immigration law can be very far-right law (e.g. mandatory incarceration for non-status individuals; indeterminate incarceration for the same; caning and other corporal punishment; stripping fundamental rights from non-citizens; etc.). Tea Partiers seem to be obsessed with far-right law itself, not far-right policies of enforcement of moderate or progressive laws.

“Standard immigration law” is that borders should be closed to unauthorised entrants and that those without legal authority to be in a jurisdiction should be deported to their home country. If this is Far-Right then about 75% of the world’s voting population is “Far-Right”. You better be looking to elect a new people.

The sooner the Left-liberals learn this the sooner the Tea Party will run out of steam and the sooner social democrats will be back in office managing the welfare state. Even Krugman agrees on the need for border control and national citizenship.

Why do Left-liberals find this bleeding obvious fact so hard to grasp?

31

Jack Strocchi 01.15.11 at 3:05 am

Nattering Nabob @ #29 said:

Yeah, if only Obama hadn’t been so irrationally opposed to any form of stimulus.

Look FWIW I support the guy’s policies as far as they went. The DEMs were right to push for a big stimulus and the REPs were wrong for opposing it. Bad REPs. But I mean, what mileage is there in berating REPs for opposing macro-economically required government spending. Like they really care.

However it does seem that an awful lot of fiscal stimulus money went to Washington bureaucrats, Wall Street kleptocrats or immigrants. That is, lazy white folk, greedy white folk or non-voting non-white folk. Not exactly an election winning coalition in my book.

I try not to waste time resenting some peoples efforts to grab hold of the federal teat to finance their place in the sun. But I suggest that if you want to win elections then you make sure that job funding goes to the largest and most irritated demographic in the country.

NOT. ROCKET. SCIENCE.

32

Jack Strocchi 01.15.11 at 3:21 am

Basically if Palin gets the nomination in 2012 she will wreck the REPs political chances, both in presidential and congressional contests. Moderates will turn out in droves to make sure she is not going to be the one standing behind the podium for the next four years.

The REP establishment – such as it is – knows this, the professional REP apparatchiks know this and the Big End of Town “donor community” know this too. So on any sane accounting of the facts Palin will not win and will probably not make a run.

Its really up to Rupert Murdoch to decide whether he knows this or is prepared to risk his dwindling credibility to install a “Murdochian Candidate” in the White House. Does he trust his non-reality-based conservative commentariat? Its not like they have an impeccable record of politico-economic prediction, is it?

33

Red 01.15.11 at 4:06 am

So, the question is really simple: just how crazy is this country? I wouldn’t want to take any bets on it.

34

LFC 01.15.11 at 4:20 am

Possibly I missed it (in which case apologies), but no one seems to have mentioned that the fact that she was the party’s vice-presidential candidate in ’08 alone gives her some claim to be taken as a serious contender if she decides to run, despite her bad poll numbers cited above and despite the McCain-Palin ticket having lost (thankfully). So I agree with B. Alpers: unlikely but not out of the question.

35

ScentOfViolets 01.15.11 at 5:54 am

I’m all for challenging conventional wisdom, but Palin is not being underestimated; she’s being accurately estimated. Here main use is as a convenient bogeyman with which conservative Democrats try to scare progressives.

BINGO! She remains, in the parlance, a “deployable asset” and will remain so for this election cycle at least (barring some bizarre self-immolation.) The only other significant fact one need to consider here is that the people whom the populists like to accuse of really running the Republican party are the same people running the conservative Democrats at this time.

In fact, isn’t that the main function of the Republican party in these latter days? To scare the self-styled very serious people into voting for conservative “electable” Democrats? Why direct the Republican party to whip itself up into a high-visibility confrontation over the so-called Ponzi scheme that is Social Security when you can have the Democratic leadership work much more quietly to “reform” it in a “bipartisan fashion”?

36

NomadUK 01.15.11 at 9:04 am

“Standard immigration law” is that borders should be closed to unauthorised entrants and that those without legal authority to be in a jurisdiction should be deported to their home country.

Yes, because otherwise labour would be almost as mobile as capital, and we can’t have that.

37

Jason 01.15.11 at 9:36 am

Palin will not be the Republican presidential nominee for 2012. She will not run for the nominee. She is narcissistic enough to try, but the republican establishment will never allow it — she is unelectable and, more importantly, eminantly blackmailable – the Republicans have more dirt on her than the Democrats.

Her best strategy is amass the biggest wingnut/tea-party coalition she can behind her, and use that factional leverage for a key position in a putative Republican administration – perhaps VP again, or more likely a Secretarial portfolio or head of a presidential taskforce made up especially for her — try Faith Based Initiatives or Border Security.

Call me crazy, but I’d lay money on Bobby Jindal or Brian Sandoval. Outside chance of Condoleeza Rice. The GOP leadership will reason that they need someone with ethnic appeal, to counter Obama’s perceived race card and, more importantly, to give them a race card to play of their own. They are losing Hispanics badly, yet need them to win, and will reason that Sandoval will get them over the top with that demographic (it won’t work, but this is how Republicans think.)

You heard it here first.

38

Tim Worstall 01.15.11 at 10:24 am

“Sarah Palin’s Alaskan Halibut and Chips” chain would complete the Pauline Hanson comparison wouldn’t it?

39

Chris Bertram 01.15.11 at 11:45 am

_Why do Left-liberals find this bleeding obvious fact so hard to grasp?_

Um, because we have a hard time convincing ourselves that national borders have the moral significance nationalists want to attribute to them? I rather doubt, by the way, that a full 75% would support the deportation of all illegals. And such support as there is might ebb away once the consequences of such deportations became clear.

40

John Quiggin 01.15.11 at 12:41 pm

Jack, nothing more on this thread, please, and nothing more ever on immigration or any related issue. I have asked this before at my blog, and I didn’t think I had to repeat it here.

41

bianca steele 01.15.11 at 5:50 pm

Those who supposedly are opposed to Palin now[1] are the same people who sadly repeated in 2008 that the Republicans would have to spend a few election cycles “in the wilderness,” only to announce in 2010 that not only was the sad period over, but that suddenly it had begun in 2006 all along. They are talking to people like John Quiggin, not to people who vote in primaries.

I’m not sure of Palin’s support among even conservatives in this part of the country, where she would have trouble fitting in regardless of the social circle, though as a lot of people have noted, some conservative men have been vociferous in their appreciation of her style despite that. The very, very small number of conservative men who actually like working for, say, a woman CEO–as opposed to maybe appreciating a woman in PR whom they don’t have to deal with too much–makes her support puzzling, at least for me. IMHO, there is a fissure running through the Tea Party generally, between what its (especially grassroots) leaders seem to like in actual people, and where they are throwing their political support.

[1] With the exception of Andrew Sullivan, who doesn’t matter in the real world (even more than the others, who’ve for example actually worked in politics).

42

bianca steele 01.15.11 at 5:53 pm

puzzling: Well, except for the superstar Evita syndrome I mentioned on another thread, which seems implausible.

43

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.15.11 at 6:12 pm

Maybe it’s just that in this stage of imperial decadence presidency has to be won on gimmicks, like being a ‘born again’, or half-African, or a bimbo. Have to generate enthusiasm somehow.

44

Sev 01.15.11 at 8:15 pm

This was my initial take:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perils_of_Pauline_(1914_serial)

“Surviving chapters of Pauline are noteworthy for their unintentionally funny title cards and dialogue captions, filled with misspellings, poor punctuation, terrible grammar, and odd expressions”

45

Sev 01.15.11 at 8:15 pm

This was my initial take:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perils_of_Pauline_(1914_serial)

“Surviving chapters of Pauline are noteworthy for their unintentionally funny title cards and dialogue captions, filled with misspellings, poor punctuation, terrible grammar, and odd expressions”

46

Sev 01.15.11 at 8:18 pm

Sorry- that was a one-click double post- honest!

47

Bruce Wilder 01.15.11 at 9:14 pm

“really bad failure by Obama”

The only way Palin is viable as a candidate is if Obama so alienates the Democrats that he’s unelectable, against anyone else. Then, maybe, I can imagine the Republicans finding ways to toss aside Mitt Romney, to put up a candidate the majority of the voters actually fear being put in office.

Obama has been extremely effective in confirming and legitimating the Bush agenda. That makes him very valuable to those paying for American political theatre, if not actual policy. They won’t give him up easily. But, Palin might be too long a chance, even for them. Still, I think Palin is more likely than a primary challenge on the Democratic side. Sad, really.

48

LFC 01.15.11 at 10:07 pm

Obama has been extremely effective in confirming and legitimating the Bush agenda.

The subtext and implication of this remark is that there is only one ‘agenda’ and that all electable US politicians, of whatever party and supposed ideology, serve it. I do not agree.

49

hix 01.15.11 at 11:24 pm

Whats wrong with Palin? She cant possibly be worse than Bush.

50

Bernard Yomtov 01.15.11 at 11:44 pm

Jason @37

The GOP leadership will reason that they need someone with ethnic appeal, to counter Obama’s perceived race card and, more importantly, to give them a race card to play of their own. They are losing Hispanics badly, yet need them to win, and will reason that Sandoval will get them over the top with that demographic (it won’t work, but this is how Republicans think.)

I don’t think it’s the way they think at all. Republicans do not have a history of nominating suprise candidates. The tendency is to pick whoever is next in line. Reagan lost the 1976 nomination to Ford. Bush 1 lost the 1980 contest to Reagan. Dole lost to Bush in 1988. McCain lost to Bush 2 in 2000.

That suggests Romney, I suppose.

51

spyder 01.16.11 at 2:38 am

We may have a ‘sort of answer’ on Monday afternoon/evening, when Sean Hannity lobs Sarah slow-pitch, extra-big, softball questions in a one hour interview (well 38 minutes of actual time). I am sure she is practicing right now.

52

Glen Tomkins 01.16.11 at 4:03 am

Double take

You had my motors running for a second there with the title. I thought this was going to be some weird anti-St. Paul diatribe, as in “Pauline” the adjective, rather than “Pauline” as in the first name of Pauline Hanson.

Lord knows that St. Paul catches more than his ration of shit for weird interpretations that later Christians foisted on the epistles. But even if he was guilty as charged for all of that, he wouldn’t deserve comparison to La Palin.

53

NBarnes 01.16.11 at 4:03 am

I don’t think it’s the way they think at all. Republicans do not have a history of nominating suprise candidates. The tendency is to pick whoever is next in line. Reagan lost the 1976 nomination to Ford. Bush 1 lost the 1980 contest to Reagan. Dole lost to Bush in 1988. McCain lost to Bush 2 in 2000.

That suggests Romney, I suppose.

This is the usual analysis. The place I see it taken, most of the time, since just talking about Romney getting it is boring, is that Romney has some really serious issues he needs to overcome to get the nomination. Mostly, the Mormon thing, which I think is going to be an issue, as the GOP is only getting more and more tribal, and having signed health care reform in MA. Additionally, his previous persona, of a moderate technocrat, is pretty much exactly not what you want to be to get the GOP 2012 nomination, and attempts to fix this image have to cope with the already common storyline that Romney is a chameleon who’s major policy goal is getting Mitt Romney elected president.

Given all that, it’s possible that the usual GOP pattern of nominating the next guy in line could be broken. If Romney doesn’t get the nomination, Palin has be regarded as one of the most likely of the alternatives.

54

Tim Wilkinson 01.16.11 at 2:51 pm

hix @49, yeah, Bush is really a pretty close Precedent.

Apart from the aura of office itself, I think his family background and being male probably contribute to the lingering tendency to believe that there was more to him than met the eye. And they probably go some way to explaining the fact that he appeared (to my eye, but my then my eye won’t be voting) to be better at doing the ordinary folks shtick.

Aristos tend to be better at that, and at charm generally, than the middle classes, and cowboy is much easier to pull off than cowgirl, as documented in the traditional Alaskan ballad ‘It’s hard to be a drover (when you got to keep your gingham clean)’.

55

Bruce Baugh 01.16.11 at 3:42 pm

Caution: this is not a well-developed thought. Tim, your last post here got me thinking a bit, but this isn’t your fault. :)

I wonder if Palin has better prospects in 2012 than many of us here would like precisely because she is such a petty bully given to pursuing old grudges via whatever power she can nab. I’m thinking of Jay Rosen’s insightful commentary on “the cult of the savvy” in the press corps, and of their delight in Bush’s petty bullying, and of their fascination with torture and the hard men always willing to justify it. I don’t think that more than a third or quarter of America at large favors broken, evil people except in panicked moments of crisis, but it seems like the press corps does, and Palin may have an advantage precisely because she’s such an awful person.

56

BlaiseP 01.16.11 at 4:29 pm

The Palin Phenomenon is the latest manifestation of a populist sentiment going back to the era of Jefferson. Its vilest apotheosis was the election of Andrew Jackson, who would go on to ethnically cleanse the Cherokee. Abraham Lincoln was another: a dark horse from the frontier possessed of a fund of folksy wisdom, blessed with a thin political resume. America has long resented its elites: read the 1789 Constitution to see a distrust of the Executive branch and the Senate’s fundamental bias in favour of rural constituencies.

When John McCain’s advisors went looking for a vice-president, they saw in Sarah Palin an anodyne to Hillary Clinton. How quickly we forget the vicious passion of Hillary Clinton’s critics, even within the Democratic Party. McCain understood Brendan Behan’s waggish observation “There’s no such thing as bad press unless it’s your obituary”: he’d endured the slings and arrows of ink-pissing critics for decades. Choosing Palin breathed life into an otherwise-moribund campaign. If McCain had his druthers, he would have chosen Joe Liebermann, but the GOP could ill-afford to run Two Old Guys against Hillary or Obama.

Palin’s appeal is in no wise diminished by the aforementioned ink-pissers. America will always hate that Gomorrah-upon-Potomac with all the fervour of their Jacksonian forebears. The more Palin is attacked, the stronger she becomes.

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LFC 01.16.11 at 5:28 pm

T Wilkinson @54: “Aristos tend to be better” at the “ordinary folks shtick”

Maybe, but there are counterexamples, notably George H.W. Bush (a/k/a Bush 41), who wasn’t/isn’t good at this. Cf. the moment during one of his campaigns when he sat down at a New Hampshire lunch counter and asked for a “splash” of coffee.

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Tim Wilkinson 01.16.11 at 5:49 pm

Yeah that may in fact be bollocks. Was thinking of the (also perhaps somewhat bollocksy) idea of UK aristos being able to interact less affectedly with teh common man, which even to the extent it’s accurate is not really the same as the ‘ordinary folks shtick’ (for example possibly drawing on an unforced kind of deference) and also probably doesn’t translate to the US equivalent.

I hereby retract my bollocks. (A trick I picked up from a wrestler in Burma – do you know Rangoon? No, I suppose not. Well look here, I don’t know how you can drink this ghastly stuff – I’ll get a couple of Scotches and we’ll have a bloody good piss-up.)

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Gene O'Grady 01.16.11 at 5:51 pm

I believe it’s pretty anachronistic to think that Lincoln wasn’t a member of the elite. But then I have family ties to the Illinois of the 1850’s.

Need to remember that Harvard in that era was in the business of educating ministers, not “innovators.”

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LFC 01.16.11 at 6:08 pm

@58

Dalwhinnie

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ScentOfViolets 01.16.11 at 8:25 pm

@ 55:

I wonder if Palin has better prospects in 2012 than many of us here would like precisely because she is such a petty bully given to pursuing old grudges via whatever power she can nab. I’m thinking of Jay Rosen’s insightful commentary on “the cult of the savvy” in the press corps, and of their delight in Bush’s petty bullying, and of their fascination with torture and the hard men always willing to justify it.

I was sort of assuming that what was under discussion was Palin’s eligibility for either the Presidential or vice-Presidential slot.

Anyway, given Obama’s shenanigans, I can see the 2012 election cycle as being one dominated by the problem of turnout. If Obama is nominated (likely, at this point), the problem for Democrats will be that their main message will have to be something along the lines of “vote for us or the Republicans win”. That didn’t work too well last year and I don’t see it working any better next year in terms of getting the middle to come out and vote. Otoh, – assuming Obama gets the nod – a Male Republican/Sarah Palin ticket could motivate the party’s base in the same way that the Obama/Biden combo did for the Democratic base in 2008.

So here’s my prediction: if Obama doesn’t stand for re-election, look to see Palin doing a quiet fade in terms of getting one of the two top slots. If he does, she’ll at the least be entertained as a teaser option a lot longer than otherwise (an untestable counter-factual I know.) Also, while I don’t know how these sorts of schedules are determined, I’m guessing that the Republican’s nomination will be reactive picks, that is, they will wait until after the Democratic candidates are chosen to come up with their own. This also favors Palin staying in a lot longer than otherwise, unless the Democrats announce very early on.

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BlaiseP 01.16.11 at 8:29 pm

@Gene O’Grady: Lincoln emerged from poverty: his once-affluent father was reduced to hardscrabble farming and it was a miserable existence. For several years as a child, Abraham Lincoln’s father indentured him to work on several local farms: when Lincoln said “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master”, he knew whereof he spoke.

Lincoln was one of America’s most-hated presidents. Even his own cabinet, recruited from among the former candidates, called him The Great Baboon behind his back.

Lincoln was never among Illinois’ elite: he was always viewed as an up-and-comer. How you could arrive at this conclusion is a great mystery to me. Lincoln’s disastrous marriage into the Todd elite (via his partner Stuart, a Todd cousin) was hardly a step up: the headstrong Mary Todd made her own choice, very much against the family’s wishes. Stephen Douglas also courted her: she married for love and the Lincolns were indulgent, loving parents, almost as a reaction to their own tragic childhoods.

At any rate, Lincoln was advertised as log-splittin’ rube from the western frontier. Lincoln was sui generis, an ambitious man of whom more has been written save Jesus Christ.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.16.11 at 8:39 pm

the problem for Democrats will be that their main message will have to be something along the lines of “vote for us or the Republicans win”. That didn’t work too well last year and I don’t see it working any better next year in terms of getting the middle to come out and vote.

As far as I can remember, it’s always been along the lines of “vote for us or the Republicans win”. And it might work better next year, because this time there is this Republican-controlled congress to run against.

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ScentOfViolets 01.16.11 at 10:30 pm

@ 63:

the problem for Democrats will be that their main message will have to be something along the lines of “vote for us or the Republicans win”. That didn’t work too well last year and I don’t see it working any better next year in terms of getting the middle to come out and vote.

As far as I can remember, it’s always been along the lines of “vote for us or the Republicans win”. And it might work better next year, because this time there is this Republican-controlled congress to run against.

Maybe it’s just me, but I could have sworn there was a campaign in recent memory where this wasn’t the case :-) Also, I don’t recall Clinton running on that slogan either . . . in either campaign. Again, maybe it’s just me, or maybe you’re thinking of something else.

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Cranky Observer 01.17.11 at 1:33 am

> Otoh, – assuming Obama gets the nod – a Male
> Republican/Sarah Palin ticket could

Ms. Palin will be running as Number 2 to no man (or no woman). She’ll either be at the top of the ticket or she’ll go home. And on this she would be correct: there is no positive value, and quite possible negative value, to her in appearing to be a Number 2 again.

Cranky

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Myles 01.17.11 at 3:04 am

Maybe, but there are counterexamples, notably George H.W. Bush (a/k/a Bush 41), who wasn’t/isn’t good at this. Cf. the moment during one of his campaigns when he sat down at a New Hampshire lunch counter and asked for a “splash” of coffee.

Cite? I am intrigued. Didn’t he spend decades of his life in Midland?

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LFC 01.17.11 at 4:08 am

Myles @66:
Sorry I don’t have a cite for you, but it was from a newspaper (or other news) report or feature/commentary (probably Wash Post), which I’m pretty sure I didn’t make up. Probably from the 1992 campaign or possibly 1988.

Bush 41 spent a lot of time in Texas, but I think it’s generally accepted that he never adopted Texan mannerisms and style in the full-blown way his son did. All you have to do is compare Bush 41’s public speeches as president with Bush 43’s — their accents alone are different. Bush 43 sounded like he did not come from the Northeast, whereas Bush 41, although he had no particularly strong regional accent period, sounded, imo, more like someone who spent summers in Maine, which he did, and the first part of his life in Connecticut and the Northeast. I didn’t mean to put too much weight on that “splash” anecdote, as the perception that Bush was a patrician out of touch with the ‘common man’ — e.g. the widely publicized incident when he asked how a supermarket scanner worked — is something that he never quite overcame during his political career, and his electoral successes came in spite of it. In ’88 he ran against Dukakis (enough said) and in ’92 lost to Clinton; Bush 41’s one successful presidential campaign was against someone even worse at ‘connecting’ with the person-in-the-street than he.

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Jamey 01.17.11 at 5:32 am

I think the Republicans have a little bit of a dilemma when it comes to Palin. Her appeal to working class Republicans has always been that whenever liberals go after her they interpret it as a sort of snobbery and attack on themselves, not her. How is the Republican establishment going to get rid of her without being perceived in the same way?

If I were a Republican, what I would do is give her as much opportunity as possible to self destruct.

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maidhc 01.17.11 at 6:21 am

LFC@67: Bush 43’s Texan accent was something he purposely adopted. His brothers don’t talk like that.

Sort of a reverse Margaret Thatcher in terms of accent modification in politics.

Sarah Palin’s accent is also purposely adopted. There’s old video of her where she doesn’t talk like that.

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Twisted_Colour 01.17.11 at 8:07 am

Glen Tomkins @52: But even if he was guilty as charged for all of that, he wouldn’t deserve comparison to La Palin.

Why not? They both exploit(ed) rubes for person gain.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.17.11 at 9:58 am

SoV, Clinton: “Message: I Care” – while the Republicans don’t, obviously. Gore: “I will fight for you” – fight the Republicans, obviously. Kerry: “I’m not Bush”. Obama: “Yes, We Can” – I don’t know what it could mean other than ‘we can put a Democrat in the White House, or else there will be another Republican in the White House.’

At least the Republicans once had that “contract with America” gimmick, where they listed, item by item, exactly what they were going to do when elected. You kind of have to respect that, considering.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.17.11 at 12:39 pm

Actually, “Message: I Care” is Bush 41. Could be Clinton, though.

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polyorchnid octopunch 01.17.11 at 1:44 pm

Strocchi, I think maybe the problem is that there are some really terrible conditions in places where they keep immigrants in the US, as there are in almost all US prisons. The SuperMax prisons are just unbelievable; they seem tailor made to produce crazy people.

It matters who runs the prisons, as well as whether they exist. If you want to fix problems, you can’t ignore that factor. Keeping people out of those things is a good thing to do, regardless of their citizenship status; people (plural) have died of untreated cancers in those places. It’s very very ugly.

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chris 01.17.11 at 2:48 pm

As far as I can remember, it’s always been along the lines of “vote for us or the Republicans win”.

Because the alternative is to talk about something like hope and change, have your agenda strangled in the Senate, and be branded failures (if nothing happens), sellouts (if something happens but you had to compromise to get it), or both (if the result is ambiguous, like most political results).

The US political system is not conducive to actually achieving an ambitious agenda, so it’s safer not to have one and just speak in vague generalities. Raising expectations drums up enthusiasm in the short term, but sets yourself up to be perceived as a failure in the longer term.

How is the Republican establishment going to get rid of her without being perceived in the same way?

That’s what I’m wondering. The old-money types are already viewed with a little suspicion by the tea-party and religious base; if they attack Palin too openly they’ll just brand themselves as RINOs.

Their ability to manipulate the base through astroturf has been going strong for three decades now, though, so maybe they’ll manage it somehow.

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LFC 01.17.11 at 2:54 pm

maidhc @69: Bush 43’s Texan accent was something he purposely adopted.

I never suggested otherwise.

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kidneystones 01.17.11 at 3:57 pm

Are you suggesting that politicians who want to increase their own power and influence might actually be working now to undermine the standing and credibility of a rival?

Good catch!

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ScentOfViolets 01.17.11 at 4:08 pm

@ 65:

> Otoh, – assuming Obama gets the nod – a Male

> Republican/Sarah Palin ticket could

Ms. Palin will be running as Number 2 to no man (or no woman). She’ll either be at the top of the ticket or she’ll go home. And on this she would be correct: there is no positive value, and quite possible negative value, to her in appearing to be a Number 2 again.

So are you predicting that there won’t be any serious inside talk about offering her the VP slot, or that the VP position will be offered to her and she’ll turn it down, or that the subject won’t even come up?

I like the fact that you’re willing to make a testable prediction by the way. Maybe if we can get fifty people a day to do this, people will think it’s a movement :-)

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roac 01.17.11 at 6:15 pm

How is the Republican establishment going to get rid of her without being perceived in the same way?

I made my prediction about this somewhere upthread. To put it in a word: Swiftboating. Disseminated through faceless outlets. Of which they control an unlimited number.

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Cranky Observer 01.18.11 at 1:46 am

> So are you predicting that there won’t be any serious inside talk
> about offering her the VP slot, or that the VP position will be
> offered to her and she’ll turn it down, or that the subject
> won’t even come up?

We’re at the end of a fairly long chain of ifs here, starting with the question of what Ms. Palin’s medium- and long-term goals for herself are (or if she even knows the answer to that). But assuming that she does enter the Presidential race, or her supporters enter her in it on her behalf:

1) she either wins several early primaries and then stays in as a candidate for the Presidential nomination to the end or she does not win any early primaries and finds some way to drop out.

2) In the 1a scenario where Palin stays in the race, wins the nomination (or destroys the Republican Party, which would be way more fun but sadly less likely).

3) In the scenario where Palin drops out of the Presidential race I can’t imagine anyone offering her a VP slot, but if they do she will refuse it. And tweet about refusing within an hour.

As I said, I am not sure how testable any of these predictions are unless we all agree to develop and commit to extremely large and detailed probability trees.

Cranky

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CharleyCarp 01.18.11 at 2:21 pm

Under no circumstances would Palin accept a VP nomination. She’d have much more money, fame, and influence without the office, and no accountability (or even anyone trying to restrain her). She definitely wouldn’t take it if offered. Further, no one would offer it to her. They’ll already have her support — or not — and, while she’ll have made clear that she won’t take it, they’d have to be afraid that she just might. Who would want the risks and downsides?

No, but court will be paid, definitely.

The real risk to the Republican Establishment is that she concludes that the only way to maintain her money and fame is to get in to the race, and a way must be found to get her out without stoking resentment from her and her flock. Which, by the way, is not going to need a smoking gun to conclude that the establishment candidate is responsible for the whispering campaign destruction of its champion.

I’m guessing that the Republican’s nomination will be reactive picks, that is, they will wait until after the Democratic candidates are chosen to come up with their own.

This is not even remotely possible given how the system actually works. Unless you mean that the Republican process can start now — as it already has, with people exploring their prospects with funders and endorsers — since we’ve already long known who the Democratic nominee is going to be.

She cant possibly be worse than Bush.

She can and would be. Her nomination would reflect the ascendancy of the worst faction within the Republican coalition, and her victory could only come about as a result of an ascendancy of rage and resentment that Americans know from the fringes, but haven’t seen all the way in power in our lifetimes. The question is whether she’d be worse than Jackson. My guess is that she would be.

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CharleyCarp 01.18.11 at 2:25 pm

“Serious talk” is nearly always engaged in by people who have (a) no influence at all and (b) a need to get attention (usually so they can sell soap). There will be ‘serious talk’ about everything that could possibly sell soap. No nominee is going to offer her the spot, no matter how much they let their minions speculate to journalists what an interesting choice she would be.

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hix 01.18.11 at 4:28 pm

Palin will abduct people all arround the world and torture them for years? Palin will start two wars?

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Norwegian Guy 01.18.11 at 5:03 pm

Clearly the Republican establishment can’t get rid of her easily, while maintaining credibility with their base. But I just got a conspiratorial and over-the-top idea here:

What if they “make sure” she is assassinated, perhaps during the nomination? And perhaps make it look like someone on the left is to blame. Could the Republican nominee then can cruise to victory in a landslide, like LBJ in 1964? On the other hand, the assassination of RFK didn’t help the Democrats in 68.

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roac 01.18.11 at 6:19 pm

Palin will start two wars?

That X was awful does not demonstrate that Y cannot possibly be worse.

Bush at least did not start a war with Iran, despite urgings to do so, which suggests that he had learned something. Palin on the other hand is on record in favor of the Full Bolton (IIRC — I can’t be bothered to research it).

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ScentOfViolets 01.18.11 at 8:32 pm

I’m guessing that the Republican’s nomination will be reactive picks, that is, they will wait until after the Democratic candidates are chosen to come up with their own.

This is not even remotely possible given how the system actually works. Unless you mean that the Republican process can start now—as it already has, with people exploring their prospects with funders and endorsers—since we’ve already long known who the Democratic nominee is going to be.

This doesn’t make any sense – if you really believe the Democrats have already picked their man and if the Republicans haven’t even started the official nomination process yet, aren’t you sorta, uh, agreeing with me? And in the most obvious way possible?

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CharleyCarp 01.18.11 at 10:00 pm

The Democrats have not “picked” their nominee. That formal process will take place through the late winter of 2012 — and while the President will have enough votes to win the nomination by mid-February (give or take a week), the actual choice will not take place until mid-summer. We just all know how it’s going to turn out, even if we cannot predict the exact day on which Obama gets a majority of delegates. The Republican process will occur in exactly the same time period. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Perhaps no single nominee will emerge with sufficient delegates until late March (which seems more likely this time around with fewer winner-take-all contests) — but voters in a mid-March Republican primary are not going to behave differently than early Republican primary voters in New Hampshire or South Carolina just because Obama has locked up the votes.

If we agree, it is because of the two possible interpretations of your prior comment, you meant the most trivial.

Are Republicans who are thinking of getting into the race thinking about whether they can beat Obama? They are. Will Republican primary voters consider, among other things, which nominee is best suited to beat Obama? They will. Is that really all you meant?

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ScentOfViolets 01.19.11 at 12:42 am

Sigh. Look at what you wrote – “This is not even remotely possible given how the system actually works.” Need I say more?

Combined with you followup, your comments are not even remotely falsifiable. They’re meaningless in fact, and look to be little more than an expression of contrarianism directed against those you perceive to have a bit of authority.

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Cranky Observer 01.19.11 at 1:42 am

> The real risk to the Republican Establishment is that she concludes that
> the only way to maintain her money and fame is to get in to the race, and
> a way must be found to get her out without stoking resentment from her
> and her flock. Which, by the way, is not going to need a smoking gun to
> conclude that the establishment candidate is responsible for the whispering
> campaign destruction of its champion.

Exactly. The Republican Party created National Candidate Palin under the assumption that it could control her as needed. If as you note she decides she needs the injection that a Presidential campaign would bring they I believe the Republicans will finally understand that they don’t control her or her supporters.

Cranky

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