Sarah Palin, the Eliza Doolittle of the political world?

CNN’s Don Lemon sure thinks so. And whether that’s a compliment or an insult depends on whether “Eliza Doolittle” refers more to the little miss with a Cockney accent or to the final fair lady of refinement. If the first, then it’s a compliment. If the second, not so much. Because in these anti-incumbent days, it appears to actually be preferable to be the street stroller selling flowers than the canary in a gilded cage. And, in fact, that’s precisely Lemon’s point — that Sarah Palin has become the princess of politics precisely through her populism.

Instead of ruing her lot as an outsider, she embraced it. And by doing so, in just a few years Palin has outmaneuvered, even leapfrogged her Professor Higgins, John McCain. So, regardless of her decision about a presidential run, Palin has positioned herself as the kingmaker of conservative politics.

How did she do it? Perhaps by sheer shrewdness or sheer luck, Palin spotted an opportunity early on with a growing chorus of other self-proclaimed outsiders, the tea party, and seized on it. Now, while the Republican straw polls, caucuses and debates play out, Palin simply orbits around it all, eclipsing her show’s extras, the supposed front-runners.

In fact, it can be argued that some of the front-runners ascended to their current positions because Sarah Palin helped them get there.

If she is Eliza Doolittle, then, she is an Eliza Doolittle of her own making — one who managed to make dropped letters and disconnected syllables sound as elegant as any aristocratic English. Does she then represent the exaltation of mediocrity, as some of my friends have argued? Or does she actually represent a new brand of excellence, one in which the historic ordinary is the standard by which to judge? For she does seem so ordinary … and yet she stands alone as one who can inspire even in the intrepid Ann Coulter “a moment of weakness.”

Whatever the reason, Sarah Palin is endlessly debatable, not just in terms of what political moves she might make but in terms of how she came to acquire the persona she has. To say anything definitive about Palin is difficult — and yet Lemon tries. He concludes his post with a decisive, “One thing is for sure”:

Palin loves the drama and the spotlight. And they appear to love her, too. So, the finale of this musical depends on none other than the star, the writer, the producer and the director of the show, Sarah Palin.