And it’s not just that the mere mention of her name can whip liberals into a frenzy.
It’s that she is a natural politician who can, as few leaders have in recent years, command a stage and capture the popular imagination. She has a natural charisma and public presence similar to that of the incumbent President of the United States. But, unlike him, she actually has a record of accomplishment, even of transcending political labels and working in a bipartisan manner to effect real reform.
In short, Sarah Palin is what Barack Obama claimed to be. Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric, putting himself forward as a post-partisan reformer, may have described his aspirations at the time, but it also described her record. She keeps her promises.
In her short time on the national stage, Sarah Palin has shown that she can communicate a conservative message to a broad national audience. More people might have warmed to that message had the media showed more clips from her speeches and provided fewer details about her family (and offered less speculation about her background).
She matters because of her presence and her record, a record with which most of her critics are both oblivious and in which many are entirely disinterested. We Republicans need more people like Ronald Reagan, pragmatic legislators and gifted communicators. She has that in common with the Gipper. That said, she needs to do something the he did before his rise to power, take a good deal of time to study the ideas undergirding modern conservatism and relate those ideas to the contemporary political situation and to current economic and social issues.
In short, Sarah Palin needs a better education in the freedom agenda.
Not just that, like the Gipper, she needs to learn to rise “above the fray“. She has his gifts, but needs to develop his substance. While the latter can be learned, the former cannot be achieved (even with great effort). Either you got it or you ain’t. And, boys, she’s got it . . . in spades. And that’s why she matters. It’s the learning she has yet to do. But, she’s already begun the process and is, as many have reported, a “quick study.”
Because she has those gifts, she will continue to get attention. The time may yet come when she commands the national political stage as did Barack Obama in 2008. But, I doubt it will be in 2012.