Palin’s followers can afford shirts. But evidently they feel so disenfranchised, so ignored, so put upon by forces beyond their control, that they are willing to look past her every shortcoming and forgive her every betrayal. What matters is “Going Rogue” — not the cleverly titled book itself, but Palin’s willingness to thumb her nose at political and social convention.

So what if she displayed no real grasp of the issues in interviews during last year’s campaign? Those reporters were being beastly, trying to show her up. So what if the inside-the-Beltway crowd thinks she’s an airhead? The state of mind called “Washington” is the problem, and she’s the solution. So what if she quit as governor of Alaska with a year and a half left in her term? “Only dead fish go with the flow,” she explained, demonstrating once more her sassy roguishness…

True believers will not mind. Palin’s unconventional trajectory and unkempt mind are seen as authentic, in the sense that we all know people who’ve had ups and downs in their lives and who couldn’t point to Kazakhstan on a map. Her success to date represents a triumph of authenticity over accomplishment. In the final analysis, I believe, that’s not enough to make her president. But others seeking the 2012 Republican nomination underestimate her at their peril.