Green Room

Why isn’t Sarah running?

posted at 8:03 pm on February 11, 2012 by

I’ll take a crack at it.  Her CPAC speech today was a barn-burner, hitting every conservative, small-government point and pumping out soundbites that will no doubt resonate in the public dialogue for days to come.  Some of my favorites:

“Drain the Jacuzzi!”

“This government isn’t too big to fail, it’s too big to succeed.”

“We don’t want an economy built to last, we want an economy built to grow.”

“This is Obama’s Washington.”

I wonder, however, if one of the points she hammered throughout the speech really registered with her audience.  Her signature line in this speech was “The door is open.”  She meant that political conditions are becoming conducive to a renewed commitment to small government and liberty.  People’s mindsets are changing.  We are not governed by the “rules” of political seasons past; the door is open to choosing our candidates and charting our nation’s future on a different basis.  The door is open to not accepting a continuation of the false compromises of previous decades.

(As I go to press, I see that Tina Korbe picked up on this theme.)

I have referred to those false compromises – “compromises” in which the conservative, small-government side gave up virtually everything – as the “old consensus.”  I see it losing, bit by bit, in this primary season.  People are no longer obediently making their political choices within the parameters defined for them by the professional political class.

This doesn’t mean that the voters have ideal candidates with whom to make their statement against the old consensus.  Santorum and Gingrich both have their drawbacks, as Paul always has.  But a critical mass of voters has recognized that Romney is the old consensus, and they are rejecting it.  The CPAC vote was remarkable for Romney’s 38% — because it wasn’t bigger, because Santorum got 31%, and even Gingrich, in a conclave of the politically connected, got 15%.

Everyone outpolled Ron Paul at CPAC, even though he has regularly won the CPAC vote in the past.  This signals a change in the mindset of politically active conservatives – not merely a new perspective that it’s overwhelmingly important to defeat Obama, but a perspective that the core of the conservative movement is shifting, and we need a serious mainstream candidate because it is a life-or-death matter to be effective in the political process.

That obviously doesn’t mean the CPAC voters think we need a “moderate,” leadership- and media-approved candidate.  If it did, they would have gone for Romney, rather than voting 46% for the mainstream candidates who are not Romney – and who are perceived, in many if not all cases correctly, as less satisfied with and enthusiastically “managerial” about the matter of big government.

But the point to take away is that voter sentiment, as it relates to the meaning of different candidates and the basis of government, is changing.

And that, I think, is about half the reason why Sarah Palin didn’t throw her hat in the ring for this campaign cycle.  Her evaluation of political conditions is remarkably accurate and prescient:  she saw, long before most of the voters did, that the game of expectations itself needed to change, and that only we could do it.

What strategic value was there for Palin in participating in the Cynical Media Slime-fest and All-Out Kick-em-in-the-Nads, mud-slinging, business-as-usual, expectations-on-autopilot primary season?

Six or eight months ago, the sea change in the voters’ sentiments and propensities might have been foreseeable, but it hadn’t happened yet.  Those who think Palin could have won lots of primaries on the basis of pre-primary voter sentiments are wrong, I think.  After all, the business-as-usual approach – Karl Rove tells everyone how bad a candidate is, the media magnify his or her every quirk or mistake, the media and some (not all) of the other candidates pile on with allegations that range from hostile spin to outright falsehood – has so far felled our most conservative candidates.

But in the process, the voters have been changing.  That’s what Palin saw before others did.  Do I think she is counting the days to a brokered convention?  No.  There is no one who could reasonably adopt that as a “plan.”  She won’t run this year; that’s my rational assessment as well as my gut feeling.  (I could of course be wrong, although I think some big conditions will have to change more for that to be the case.)

But if she does run, it will not be because she has changed, but because we have.  There are political conditions in which she could run successfully, and conditions in which she couldn’t.  The latter have constituted our political environment up until the last couple of months.

If the conditions are changing now, I believe that is largely because voters are having to wise up to the flaws in our own thinking by going through this ugly spectacle.  We already knew that the media have no intention of giving our candidates a fair shake, and that many in the GOP leadership want to submarine the small-government conservatives.   What many voters didn’t understand is that if we want to select leaders of character, we have to graduate from high school, and overlook the vicissitudes of “presentation” that sometimes make good people look like buffoons to those who see without humility, mercy, or discrimination.  We have to see with better eyes.  We have to think independently of the jeers embedded in the media narrative.  We have to be wiser citizens, placing in political leadership only the hope that is appropriate to free men and women.

We can’t have a candidate who sounds like Mitt Romney, but will lead the way a small-government conservative would.  That’s not an option.  What we’re doing in this primary season is coming to grips with that reality.  I think Palin knew instinctively that we would have to, before it would make sense for her to jump back into the electoral fray.

But, as I said, I think that’s only about half the explanation.  The other half is that Palin is an evangelical Christian.  She believes God has a plan for her life, and that He gives her a certainty in her spirit about the big choices she has to make.  I suspect she has had a peaceful certainty that joining the campaign as a candidate for 2012 was not something she should do.  If she were to analyze it, she might say that God knows better than any of us how the voters’ concerns and expectations are going to change.

Meanwhile, the door is open.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

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Well I for one really wish God would change His mind. Sarah Palin for President, Allan West for Vice President, ‘Stache Bolton for Secretary of State. God’s in his Heaven and all’s Right with the World.

clippermiami on February 11, 2012 at 8:17 PM

Excellent explanation. I appreciate your insight here.

karenhasfreedom on February 11, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Who cares why she isn’t running? What in the bloody blue waffle is to be gained by having someone else explain to me what they think are the reasons behind someone else’s reasoning?!

gryphon202 on February 11, 2012 at 9:35 PM

“why isn’t sarah running?” the question i ask myself all the time!!

your explanation here is good but i still think she should have run. i do think she could have helped change the messy political process. but by staying out of it, the whole level of the competition is lower than it could have been.

Who cares why she isn’t running? What in the bloody blue waffle is to be gained by having someone else explain to me what they think are the reasons behind someone else’s reasoning?!

gryphon202 on February 11, 2012 at 9:35 PM

well sarah herself is barely explaining it. so it’s up to us to try to figure it out until she gives us a full explanation. i KNOW there is something deeper that she has never explained to the public. it may be what this article here has said. it may be something else. one day, the public will know.

i agree with the person who said, palin/west 2012!!

Sachiko on February 11, 2012 at 10:53 PM

“But a critical mass of voters has recognized that Romney is the old consensus, and they are rejecting it.”

I absolutely disagree with this. If Romney were a perennial Washington insider who has worked in DC all his career, then I would agree. He hasn’t. He doesn’t have a “political career” to protect because he doesn’t have a “political career” at all. He did one stint as Gov of Mass. He hasn’t worked at a Washington think tank, hasn’t worked for a lobbying agency, hasn’t been a professional adviser of some government department.

I believe the meme that Romney is somehow part of the Republican establishment is absolute fabrication. He has never been part of that establishment. This is a message that I believe has been adopted by people who really mean “we don’t like Romney because he’s a Mormon but we can’t come right out and say that so we have to make some other excuse”.

Palin is correct, that door is open, and I believe Romney can take us a good part of the way through it.

crosspatch on February 11, 2012 at 11:31 PM

well sarah herself is barely explaining it. so it’s up to us to try to figure it out until she gives us a full explanation. i KNOW there is something deeper that she has never explained to the public. it may be what this article here has said. it may be something else. one day, the public will know.

i agree with the person who said, palin/west 2012!!

Sachiko on February 11, 2012 at 10:53 PM

She doesn’t owe us an explanation, or anything else for that matter. Knowing why she chose not to run will change NOTHING about the modern political landscape except that the people whom were really bothered by her not running might feel a little better. Then again, they might feel a little worse. It’s just not that important to me, and I was a Palin backer hoping she would run!

gryphon202 on February 11, 2012 at 11:36 PM

Well, listening to some of the screechier members of HotAir over the last year+, if Palin ran, she would be so decisively defeated that, um… uh… …um, er…

Jeddite on February 12, 2012 at 12:41 AM

Palin is STILL preping the battlefield, part of that is not advertising where you are going and when. Palin saves her ammunition, she doesn’t fly over and carpet-bomb, hoping to take out the target. She doesn’t use 6 words when she can get the idea across with 5, she doesn’t dress up ideas with flowery language. Sarah is as serious as a heart attack about what she is doing, and it is UNUSUAL to see someone doing that without putting a lot of drama on it, it’s just how she rolls!

bigmike on February 12, 2012 at 1:05 AM

Interesting analysis; thanks, J.E. I’m all Sarah all the way, but I think you give her (and God) a little too much credit.

My theory on why she didn’t run? After the way she’s been treated by the Republican establishment, I believe she concluded that they’d feel so threatened (fear, envy, hatred, et. al.) that they’d do anything and everything in their power to sink her political career — for good.

I also suspect that she determined — and I don’t blame her one bit — that enough “conservatives” really weren’t appreciative of all she’d done for the cause and thus worthy of her further service and the necessary sacrifices that she’d have to make (especially as regards her family).

And we as a country and our progeny (and what’s left of our Party) are the poorer for it. I hope she has a role in the future, but fear it’ll be too late …

ShainS on February 12, 2012 at 2:44 AM

J.E., excellent assessment.

As you ponder the effect of Sarah’s faith on her decision though, keep in mind that that is true for EVERYONE, including Obama. Keep in mind that leaders and authorities are in place because they conform to God’s will in some way, more often than not in a way that is beyond our current understanding. Remember Paul’s words in Titus 3 – “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”

I do believe we should fight for the moral high ground, which is mostly embodied in the principles of our Constitution, but we have to be ready to accept the outcome, whatever it may be, knowing that all things work together for good to those who love God.

jwally on February 12, 2012 at 5:54 AM

Palin isn’t running because she’s in the pocket of ohn “Bhopal” Coale….wake up!

workingclass artist on February 12, 2012 at 8:18 AM

I watched the speech and after thinking about it over night, I have come to a similar conclusion to you.

Sarah Palin does not use words recklessly. She is brilliant in this regard. “death panels”… whatever you think of it, it worked. “WTF” … again, killed that whole idea of Obama/s and gives us a knowing wink and laugh…. also, “mucked it up”…. another knowing wink

So when she repeats the words “The Door is Open”, the only conclusion I can come to is to think back to what she has said a number of times before about her life… if God opened a door, she would go through it… and I agree with your premise, that if the voters look at the current crop of candidates and are not satisfied and are ready for her…… she is willing.

Remember, she also has talked many times about the “reluctant” candidate as well.

Sarah Palin showed on Saturday at CPAC how she would campaign against Obama, using those themes, and that she was available, if they wanted her.

Its now going to be up to the Republican Party and the independents and others who would vote to decide if they are ready for her and what she spelled out she would do. It would not be more of the same old, same old.

It will be interesting to see if people are smart enough to figure it out and make the right decision.

PhilipJames on February 12, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Sarah told us exactly why she is not running. How DARE ppl like Dyer think they know better than she? Is it that Dyer thinks HIS words are better at describing her reasons?

Neox99 on February 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM

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Allahpundit on February 12, 2012 at 5:11 PM

I really like Sarah Palin. She sort of brought me out of the Democratic party. But my own opinion is that she needs to wait until some time passes and the damage that the lapdog media and the entertainment industry have done to her passes out of memory a bit. Not our memory so much as those who fall for such nonsense.

I would love to see her as a secretary of energy in the next Republican cabinet. She could build her credentials up. I think she could emerge in the future and have a lot of success.

If she decided to run now I would support her. But I would be worried it was all for nothing if the media and Hollywood went on attack again while people still remember the myth they created.

magicbeans on February 12, 2012 at 12:37 PM