Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Always About Palin

Yeah, okay, I'll write about her.  But really only because I want to quote Ta-Nehisi Coates:
 I would never put gun-sights on the districts of my political opponents. Should violence break out, I don't even want to be in the conversation as a factor--contributing or causal. We may never know what caused Loughner to snap. But at night, I'd like the security of knowing that it could not have possibly been me. Perhaps Sarah Palin has that sense of security. I can't know.
It's always tough to try to get into the heads of our politicians.  We can't really know what they "really" think; all we can know is how they act -- how, apparently, they would like us to see them.  Sarah Palin, surely, asks us to think of her as someone who fits that comment.

At any initial reaction to news that InTrade has her nomination chances tanking over the weekend, however, was that it's a good time to buy.  It's extremely unlikely, I'd say, that the Tucson massacre will have much, if any, effect on GOP nomination politics.  It's a safe bet than when it comes to that electorate, it's much better to be on the "liberal hypocrites are picking on me" side of things than the "let's be more responsible in the words we use" side of things.  I would never underestimate resentment as a weapon within the GOP.

That said...

Is there anyone who has shown such a consistent lack of growth as a national politician as Sarah Palin?  Resentment is a great note to play for GOP presidential candidates, but it's been over two years: doesn't she have any other notes at all?  David Frum captures the Sage of Wasilla perfectly:
Of course, Palin has yet to give the answer called for by events. Instead, her rapid response operation has focused on pounding home the message that Palin is innocent, that she has been unfairly maligned by hostile critics. Which in this case happened to be a perfectly credible message. And also perfectly inadequate. Palin’s post-shooting message was about Palin, not about Giffords. It was defensive, not inspiring. And it was petty at a moment when Palin had been handed perhaps her last clear chance to show herself presidentially magnanimous.
I don't know that it's her "last clear chance," because I don't know that politics works that way.  If she continues to run for the 2012 nomination, she's going to have debates, and speeches, and meetings with various Republican leaders and leaders of Republican-aligned groups, and plenty of chances to react to events (and if she doesn't, she's young; there's always 2016 or 2020 or whatever).  There are lots of Republicans who would would be open to changing their minds about her, if she gave them a reason.  It's just that every time she's had the chance, she pushes everyone outside of her personal faction away. 

That is, she's so far shown herself either incapable or unwilling to be more than a factional candidate, and factional candidates don't win presidential nominations, at least not since around 1976 or so. 


  1. Frum is full of it, as usual.

    Any action Palin takes regarding Gifford is another chance for her critics to say 'She's admitting her guilt.' I think keeping a low profile on this would be smart, even if she did care about reaching out to the center.

  2. I think Palin is far from the only or worst offender, but I think we should judge her graphic not in a vacuum nor even by the specifics of this particular attack in Arizona (I doubt any direct connection), but as an irresponsible choice given the context of what was going on:

    --depressingly widely embraced paranoia that "Obama's coming for your guns"
    --strong overtones in rightwing messaging that Obama and Democrats were extremists and a profound threat to liberty
    --soft suggestions or implication by Republican members of congress and nominees for major office that violent resistance was a legitimate recourse that perhaps would be imminently warranted
    --a spike in threats against primarily Democratic officeholders, including Giffords, and actual attacks, planned or carried out, against government workers

    As for 2012, Palin was likely going to announce late anyway so we'll see what happens over this year. It's possible there will be a more strictly (culturally) enforced out-of-bounds which will inhibit her use of the sensationalist attacks that stir up her faction. As for being a factional candidate at all, while it's true the Tea Party wasn't around in 2008 in this form, the "base" was. Limbaugh had scathing criticisms directed at primarily Huckabee, who won Iowa, and McCain, who won the nomination. So I agree with you. But I also think the chances of her not running are as great as we've seen in a long time. A new poll in Iowa (not sure how sound its methodology) had her at only 11%. I don't think she could survive humiliating losses in Iowa and New Hampshire and I think she might be keen to avoid that altogether.

  3. @Anon:

    I think you don't even need to go as far as you do in your last line, saying that Palin couldn't survive bad losses in IA & NH. Given her base (JB calls her "factional," but her faction is decidedly from the social conservative more than the fiscal conservative wing, I think) I don't think she can survive an IA loss. An IA loss would cause the NH loss (even given NH's compunction for rejecting IA's choice, they won't go for Palin) and more losses.

  4. I would add to the above, that I do think the Palin camp blundered by claiming the symbols weren't intended to suggest gun sights. That's not credible, and it legitimates the criticism.

    I don't think Palin will give up if she is humiliated in Iowa. She can count on funding for as long as she wants to run. Like Huckabee in 2008, I think she will stay to the end and maximise her delegate count. That will give her something to point to, so she can claim to be viable in 2016.

  5. "It's extremely unlikely, I'd say, that the Tucson massacre will have much, if any, effect on GOP nomination politics."

    I think it is likely that for several months hunting/military language is frowned upon by the public. This is a problem for Palin because, unlike her rivals, that has been her main way of talking. It is questionable whether she can be an effective speaker without the swaggering combative tone. It has been two days and the pit bull has not said a word in public or on TV.

  6. Mercer:

    I think it is likely that for several months hunting/military language is frowned upon by the public.

    Most Americans aren't gun phobic.

  7. CBS has polled the question: 'Did harsh political tone have anything to do with Arizona shootings?'

    Fewer than a third said 'yes', and fewer than half of Democrats.

  8. "Most Americans aren't gun phobic."

    Probably true, but doesn't have all that much to do with whether or not they'll blanch at "hunting/military language". That kind of language is pretty easy to separate from mere gun rights, and in my experience, responsible gun-owners and vigorous, effective defenders of gun rights are quickest to do so.

  9. Colby:

    That kind of language is pretty easy to separate from mere gun rights . . .

    I didn't say anything about 'gun rights'.

    I don't understand why anyone would freak out over some gun related metaphors, unless they have a visceral aversion to guns.

  10. "I didn't say anything about 'gun rights'."

    Okay then- gun attitudes. Gun culture. Gun beliefs. Gun attitudes. Split whatever semantical hair you want, the fact is, one doesn't have to be "gun phobic" or have a "visceral aversion to guns" to be uncomfortable with the idea of using "gun related metaphors" in such a way that non-violent political figures are the metaphorical "targets". The clearest example of this is actually Giffords herself, who is a fiercely pro-gun politician, also made her discomfort with SarahPAC's map publicly known. And most of the gun owners I know were saying similar things long before last Saturday. Sampling bias and all of that of course, but just because you don't understand them doesn't mean they're not out there.

  11. Colby:

    Giffords herself, who is a fiercely pro-gun politician . . .

    That seems to be mostly rhetorical. The gun lobbies give her low ratings.

  12. Colby:

    Giffords herself, who is a fiercely pro-gun politician . . .

    That seems to be mostly rhetorical. The gun lobbies give her low ratings.

  13. "That seems to be mostly rhetorical."

    Not really. She owns a Glock, she co-sponsored a bill to make Concealed-Carry easier across state lines and another to give veterans more time to register certain kinds of firearms, she filed an amicus brief with SCOTUS to oppose DC's gun ban. That the gun lobby doesn't consider this enough or considers other factors isn't surprising (And is probably smart politics for them) but it doesn't change the fact that she's perfectly comfortable with guns.

    Moreover, there's kind of a forest-from-the-trees problem, here; whatever Giffords "REALLY THINKS" on guns, that doesn't change the fact that guns aren't intrinsically linked to "hunting/military rhetoric" that makes a non-violent politician the metaphorical target. So comfort with one does not imply comfort with the other, and thus, the broad public comfort with guns does not mean the broad public won't "frown on" "hunting/military rhetoric" for a little while.


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