“As governor, Palin demonstrated many of the qualities we expect in our best leaders. She set aside private concerns for the greater good, forgoing a focus on social issues to confront the great problem plaguing Alaska, its corrupt oil-and-gas politics. She did this in a way that seems wildly out of character today—by cooperating with Democrats and moderate Republicans to raise taxes on Big Business. And she succeeded to a remarkable extent in settling, at least for a time, what had seemed insoluble problems, in the process putting Alaska on a trajectory to financial well-being. Since 2008, Sarah Palin has influenced her party, and the tenor of its politics, perhaps more than any other Republican, but in a way that is almost the antithesis of what she did in Alaska. Had she stayed true to her record, she might have pointed her party in a very different direction…
“While other states reel under staggering deficits, budget cuts, and protests, Alaska has built up a $12 billion surplus, most of it attributable to Palin’s tax. Galvin estimates that it has raised $8 billion more than Murkowski’s tax would have. But given the corruption that plagued the PPT, a better benchmark might be the tax it supplanted — the one put on the books after the Exxon Valdez spill. By that measure, Palin’s major achievement has probably meant the difference between a $12 billion surplus and a deficit.
“What happened to Sarah Palin? How did someone who so effectively dealt with the two great issues vexing Alaska fall from grace so quickly? Anyone looking back at her record can’t help but wonder: How did a popular, reformist governor beloved by Democrats come to embody right-wing resentment?…
“Where true Palinism could be most productively applied is on the issues consuming Washington right now: debt and deficits. Palin’s achievement was to pull Alaska out of a dire, corrupt, enduring systemic crisis and return it to fiscal health and prosperity when many people believed that such a thing was impossible. She did this not by hewing to any ideological extreme but by setting a pragmatic course, applying a rigorous practicality to a set of problems that had seemed impervious to solution. She challenged supposedly inviolable political precepts, and embraced more-nuanced realities: Republicans sometimes must confront powerful business interests; to govern effectively, you have to cooperate with the other side; you sometimes must raise taxes to balance a budget; and doing these things can actually enhance rather than destroy your career, whatever anybody says. True reform — not pandering to the base — established Palin’s broad popularity in Alaska. This approach is sorely absent from most of what happens in Washington these days.”
“Alas, as [Yuval] Levin suggested might happen and as Green says has happened, Palin came almost immediately to inhabit a different role in the American body politic—not the ‘maverick’ she was chosen to be by the self-proclaimed maverick McCain, but rather as a populist villain-victim (depending on which side you were on). The fault here lay not with her attackers but within her. She embarrassed herself in two interviews, and decided the blame lay not with her own ill-preparedness but with the media that had come after her. Understandably enraged by the misogynistic and practically psychotic attacks on her, she came to embrace her status as a kind of martyr for the social-conservative views that had not been the truly distinguishing features of her meteoric political career up to that moment. She found herself in Harry Truman’s kitchen, and she couldn’t take the heat.
“In some ways, the story of Palin is a story of temptation. Rather than sticking to her guns and deepening her political credentials and her knowledge base, she embraced her celebrity instead. And in doing so, she didn’t defeat her critics and enemies; she capitulated to them. Listen, it’s her life and her fortune and she is free to do what she wishes with it. And there’s no telling what the future holds for anyone in America. But she had and has more raw political talent than anyone I’ve ever seen, and, alas, as phenoms go, it looks like she is headed for a Darryl Strawberry-like playing career.”
“[W]hile Green’s piece may be a bit more sympathetic than, say, the dishonest sleaze put out by Michael Joseph Gross last September or what’s coming next from Joe McGinnis, it’s just the other end of the same continuum. In every case, Palin is a failure in need of explanation. In some cases that’s semi-thoughtful, if politically slanted as here, and in others it’s Joe McGinnis comparing her to Hitler on national TV. It’s the difference between feeding the dog Kibbles and red meat.
“I had a look over my archives and noticed the number of threats Palin has endured in the last 12 months. Remember the envelope of white powder sent to Dancing with the Stars? How about the death threats she received in the wake of the media’s execrable coverage of her Facebook map? How about the stalker who’d threatened to kill her family and was found by the FBI about 50 miles from her house.
“And that’s just the serious stuff. I’m leaving out all the endless nonsense like the big splash when Sarah Palin’s daughter fixed her hair in Haiti. That was an international news story believe it or not. Ah well, just move on to the next attack. Did you know that Trig isn’t really her baby?! Maybe Joshua Green can write a 3,000 word piece about how Palin, a victim of her own hubris, failed to overcome the Trig-truthers when she had the chance. There’s at least one more Alaska vacation in it for some enterprising journalist.”