Thoughts on Sarah Palin and Going Rogue

Like Ilya, I’ve been reading Sarah Palin’s book and following her media appearances. It’s difficult to say anything original about a polarizing figure such as Palin. And no matter what you say, around half of the VC readership will be convinced you are a complete idiot (which half depending on which side you take). But that aside, I wanted to add in a few thoughts of my own to the mix.

What I find most striking about Palin is that she seems to have no real interest in governance. She has charisma and oodles of attitude, and they are like catnip to a significant part of the GOP base. But she doesn’t seem genuinely interested in the job of governing or the issues most relevant to it. I think that lack of interest explains some of the more surprising aspects of her career, ranging from her decision to quit her job as Alaska Governor before she finished her first Term to her flubbed answer when asked to name newspapers or magazines she read before being tapped as McCain’s nominee. Of course, Palin is a strong conservative when asked for her views. But she just doesn’t seem to have a real interest in the job of governance.

What Palin does have is oodles of attitude, and her attitude is just perfect to energize a chunk of the post-Bush GOP base. To see why, remember that Bush’s second term demoralized a lot of Republicans. W.’s approval ratings dropped to Nixon-in-Watergate levels by around 2006 and stayed there for most of the second term. Palin is the perfect antidote for those Republicans who continued to support Bush. She identifies with them, and she never hesitates to fight back at their common enemies. In her book, Palin presents herself as just an average patriotic American who was mistreated by the press, mistreated by professional “handlers,” and mistreated by the insider Beltway culture. That is, she was mistreated by the same groups that Bush supporters believe mistreated Bush and helped ruin his second Term.

But while Bush never seemed concerned with the criticism of him, and therefore did not generally fight back at it, Palin rarely hesitates to say that she was treated unfairly. She fights back and defends herself, readily laying the blame for her perceived weaknesses at the feet of others. It’s “going rogue,” and it’s catnip for former Bush supporters who were frustrated that Bush didn’t go on the offense. I suspect that has a lot to do with some of the enthusiasm for her.