Mark Halperin's mash note to Sarah Palin

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

There's something deeply ironic about Mark Halperin chastising "Coastal Elites, the Media and Establishment Politicians of Both Parties" for falling prey to conventional wisdom, since Halperin himself is the elite political media's foremost manufacturer of conventional wisdom. But that's exactly what Halperin did this morning in a "memo" to the aforementioned elites about Sarah Palin, warning them not to underestimate the former half-term governor or to make the mistake of assuming "that Palin needs or wants to play by the standard rules of American politics."

Basically, it's the same sort of overwrought Palin analysis we've been hearing from insiders like Halperin, who are already predisposed to right-wing narratives, since the day Palin hit the national stage -- you can't count her out because you can't count her out. Also she winked at me!

But the mistake you are making is to assume that Palin needs or wants to play by the standard rules of American politics. Or that it even occurs to her to do so. Trash her all you want (even you Republicans who are doing it all the time behind her back) for being uninformed, demagogic and incoherent, and brandish the poll numbers that show fewer and fewer Americans think she is qualified to be President. Strain to apply political and practical norms to Alaska's former governor. You are missing the point.

Surely you've come to accept the reality that as a businessperson, Palin is a genius. The gusher of revenue from her speeches, books and television deals sweeps away any doubt that she can brilliantly harness her energy, charisma and popularity into a moneymaking bonanza.

But what you need to appreciate is that the same dynamics of supply and demand that Palin has cleverly exploited for financial gain also make her inimitably formidable as a political force.


All of you are certain she can't win the presidency -- and as of today you are right. But the nomination is another kettle of salmon, and she bears more in common with the past three presidential winners than with the passel of hopefuls clamoring for donations, press attention and straw votes. She is like Obama: the camera loves her and both sides of the political spectrum hang on her every word. She is like Bush: able to communicate with religious conservatives and Middle Americans. Most of all, she is like Bill Clinton: what doesn't kill Sarah Palin makes her stronger. So as the world gets ready for the midterm elections and for the start of the epic contest in which Republicans will pick their champion to go into battle against Barack Obama, be advised: Palin is very much alive and, despite what you think, extraordinarily strong.

Halperin's case is essentially: "Sure, she has weaknesses. But what you fail to realize is that those weaknesses aren't weaknesses at all... They're strengths! Twist!"

Notably, the case for Palin's strength is premised on the complete abjuration of all political norms. Basically, if you deny reality, then Palin is the most popular person on the planet. In that sense, it's a fitting analysis of the Palin brand of politics.

But in a more literal sense, it's exactly the sort of inane commentary that makes elite political journalism so maddening.

Mark Halperin
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