In commenting on Josh Green’s Atlantic piece on Sarah Palin, Jennifer Rubin takes slight issue with said reporter’s conclusion that the former Alaska governor is a tragic figure and elucidates a pitfall of politics — and of blogging as well:
One can’t but feel that Palin was not only snared in the web of resentment but that it determined a particular course for her post-2008 career. She embarked on a particular path, one incompatible with being a serious force on conservative policy and a credible presidential contender. . . .
But one can’t really call it a “tragedy” as Green does. She’s attained fame and fortune and she has as loyal a following as any popular figure. But she made a choice — to bear grudges, to forgo serious policy study, to reject the advice of all but a handful of advisers. It is a shame for those who saw a star-quality and enviable political talent. But tragedy? No. She simply chose a different path.
“Snared in the web of resentment”: a good way to describe what sometimes happen to bloggers who end up responding to hate comments where the critic makes little effort to understand our arguments, even less to acknowledge the sincerity of our expression. But, alas, they’re not interested in our opinions, but see us instead as targets for their own animus.
Just as most Palin critics are little interested in her record. Josh Green is. Outlining her successes as governor and asking a question which almost perfectly parallels an exchange I had with a liberal Alaska woman last summer*, he asks:
WHAT HAPPENED TO Sarah Palin? How did someone who so effectively dealt with the two great issues vexing Alaska fall from grace so quickly? Anyone looking back at her record can’t help but wonder: How did a popular, reformist governor beloved by Democrats come to embody right-wing resentment?
I do think he’s a little harsh here, but he is onto something. Sarah Palin doesn’t so much embody right-wing resentment as she taps into it, but she also exudes conservative enthusiasm. She can still articulate that vision of the Gipper, painting a picture of that shining city on a hill and expressing the confidence that we can still find our way toward that idyllic place. But, in promoting that visions, she’s become more of a cheerleader than a policy leader.
That shows in her writing. While, for example, I enjoyed her first book, finding it difficult to put down, I couldn’t get through her second one, finding it a chore to pick up. What made the first book so engaging was a passionate woman telling her own story, unshackled from the limitations faced by the vice presidential candidate on a national political ticket. The second book started out as a feel-good manifesto of American ideals under attack. It didn’t provide a framework of how to blunt that attack in the political arena, at least it didn’t when I ended up setting the book aside.
Palin seems to have written the first book from her heart, but left the heart on the cover page of the second.
Green’s piece is well worth your time, a honest critique of Palin without ignorance or animus**. That said, I’m with Jennifer Rubin on this one. Sarah Palin’s story is not tragic. The charismatic conservative seems to relish her role as a conservative cheerleader, preferring it to the policy-making role of the governor of a state. And that’s the path she’s chosen.
*At my college reunion, I briefly chatted with the wife of a classmate from the Last Frontier. She had loved Palin when that Republican was governor, was enthusiastic when John McCain tapped her as his running mate, but wondered what happened to their reformist governor in the intervening year.
**This is not to say I agree with all — or even most — of his insights. He does claim McCain/Palin went “hard right” in the 2008 campaign. Hardly. But, he does wonder what might have been had the McCain campaign focused on her reforming record. And Green, unlike most Palin critics, does take the time to look at that record.