Palin: What’s her political legacy?

Palin has announced that she will not run for president, and even though her political fortunes have dimmed, her influence will be felt for a long time.

“There is a God,” said Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post. Sarah Palin, America’s biggest political tease, announced last week she had decided not to run for president after all. In the past several years, Palin has repeatedly hinted that she might run (or might not), depending on what God told her to do. Now that the Deity has weighed in with a no, Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief. If the divisive Palin had jumped into the race, it would have led to “utter madness,” weakening the entire GOP field and playing into Barack Obama’s hands. Palin’s decision should come as no surprise, said Jennifer Rubin in Her “moment has long passed,” with Republican voters realizing she’s too polarizing to win an election. But she does leave an important legacy: When the emerging Tea Party movement looked ready to split from the GOP, Palin “kept it in the fold,” making the “Tea Party ethos” part of mainstream Republican thought.

Palin’s “influence will be felt for years,” said Conor Friedersdorf in, but not in a positive way. She was the first politician to become a true pop-culture celebrity, and she blazed new trails in leveraging her fame to make money—gobs of money. In the year after she resigned as Alaska’s governor, she hauled in $12 million, from book deals, reality TV shows, speaking engagements, and Fox News punditry. By “monetizing political celebrity,” Palin will change “not only the way that candidates campaign,” but also the type of candidates who seek high office. It’s already happening, said Richard Cohen in Washington​ Just look at Herman Cain, whose campaign style seems straight out of the Palin playbook, with “naïveté, inexperience, and a lack of knowledge” passing for political strengths. If the “shockingly unqualified” Palin could aspire to the presidency, why not anyone?

Actually, Palin has accomplished something important, said Libby Copeland in She has shown American women how to be unapologetic self-promoters. For too long, professional women have undervalued themselves and their achievements, fearing they’d be perceived as brash, bitchy, or overconfident. That “undue modesty” results in “everything from mediocre salaries to thwarted ambitions.” But with her willingness to tout her own power and influence, the self-styled Mama Grizzly “expanded the palette of permissible behavior” for her gender. Should other female politicians—and ambitious women everywhere—be thankful for that? You betcha.

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