Feature

Sarah Palin: The GOP’s new leader?

A new Gallup/<em>USA Today</em> poll shows 71 percent of Republicans willing to vote to make Palin the president of the United States, and there are few Republicans who have her ability to energize a crowd.

Hang on to your hats, said Matthew Continetti in The Weekly Standard. “Hurricane Sarah is about to descend on the Lower 48.” When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin recently announced her resignation, her gleeful enemies began writing her off as a future presidential candidate. What they don’t understand is that the resignation has left this “force of nature” free to pursue the issues that motivate her—social conservatism, energy independence, and reduced government. She isn’t going away, as she demonstrated just this week by writing an opinion column for The Washington Post challenging President Obama’s energy policy. A new Gallup/USA Today poll shows 71 percent of Republicans willing to vote to make the charismatic Palin the president of the United States, and the reality is that “no Republican energizes crowds the way she does.” It looks as if a “rudderless” movement in decline may finally have found a leader.

Only if our goal is permanent irrelevance, said Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. Last summer, Palin brought some badly needed energy to John McCain’s sputtering campaign, but it quickly became apparent that Alaska’s governor “was not ready to go national and in fact never would be.” Yes, Palin fired up “the base,” which sympathized with her visceral distrust of the media and her cheerful disdain for the fine points of grammar, geography, and other fancy-pants information. But you don’t win elections merely by firing up the base, said former McCain advisor Mike Murphy in the New York Daily News. You win elections by appealing to moderates, independents, and even—if you’re really good—members of the other party. For a majority of Americans, the prospect of an impulsive, clueless, and incoherent President Palin is nothing less than a nightmare.

Who cares? said Frank Rich in The New York Times. Not the Republican Party—or what remains of it. Palin is the perfect standard-bearer for what has become the GOP’s only true constituency: millions of white, rural voters who find themselves “aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century,” leaving them behind in “a ‘real America’” that is getting smaller every day. For Republicans, the good news is that Palin is now free to fulfill her destiny as “the party’s biggest star and most charismatic television performer.” The bad news is that Palin—and the resentment of the educated “elites’’ she embodies—is all the party has left to offer.

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