Almost two weeks ago, I noted that the New York Times seemed shocked, shocked that Sarah Palin had suddenly turned into an anti-establishment conservative populist in a Labor Day weekend speech in Iowa. The Gray Lady wasn’t the only media outlet who missed, well, almost all of Palin’s political career. Salon’s Justin Elliott was so stunned by the speech that he turned to Ralph Nader to analyze the sudden new direction taken by Palin. Nader pronounced himself impressed:
We decided to call the longtime left crusader about a speech Palin gave in Iowa earlier this month, one which seemed to mark the transformation of Palin from a standard-issue movement conservative to something more independent and more reformist. And Nader told us he liked what he heard.
“I think she’s a lot smarter than most people credit her,” says Nader. “Judging by her comments, she is squarely in the camp of conservative populism, opposed to corporatism and its corporate state.”
Palin delivered the speech in question in Indianola, Iowa, on Sept. 3. As Anand Giridharadas later observed in the Times, the media responded primarily by “ignoring the ideas she unfurled and dwelling almost entirely on the will-she-won’t-she question of her presidential ambitions.”
What were the “new” ideas again?
But there was also some refreshingly new material. She described a “permanent political class,” one that is hypocritical and devoted to personally profiting off of government. (“Seven of the 10 wealthiest counties are suburbs of Washington, D.C.,” she noted.) She spoke of “the collusion of big government and big business and big finance.” And she took aim at both parties for governing in service of their big campaign contributors.
This sounded to us like Nader. And Nader agreed.
Er, new? Only if one’s attention to Palin was restricted to the relative costs of tanning beds and her 2008 campaign wardrobe. Palin has not just talked about fighting the establishment, she has done it throughout her political career. She fought corruption in the Alaska GOP, and she defeated one of the state’s political dynasties, the Murkowskis, to win her term as governor. Palin did that while talking constantly about breaking the bonds between big business and big government.
Bear in mind that Palin drew an avalanche of media attention in the summer and fall of 2008, with dozens of reporters descending on Wasilla looking for background on Palin. Actually, “background” is too nice a word for it; they were looking for dirt. More than three years after getting named to the GOP ticket in 2008, the national media is just now getting around to noticing that Palin isn’t just some rube, but is a grassroots activist with years of both rhetoric and accomplishment in fighting the establishment. So much for a vibrant, objective national media, eh?
And just like when the NYT suddenly discovered Palin’s anti-establishment cred, I suspect that the newfound respect from Nader and Salon doesn’t have much to do with surprise as it does with trying to take a few indirect shots at the Republicans running for President. If Palin does toss her hat in the ring, don’t expect this late media infatuation with Palin as a smart crusader to last very long.