I know there’s a lot of talk in Republican circles that Sarah Palin is going to be the star, the new face of the GOP in the post-Bush, post-McCain era. And this speculation has been goosed by Palin’s own hints that it’s full speed ahead with Palinism on the national stage if she and McCain fall short on Tuesday. But for me the whole idea has never really added up. I’m certainly not the target audience. But my own sense is that Palin’s appeal is uniquely and paradoxically tied to the dynamics of this particular election — an election in which Republicans are expecting, rightly or wrongly, to be beaten decisively and the most aggrieved are uniquely drawn to Palin’s bright eyed and unapologetic appeal to resentment and victimology.
As I think Noam Scheiber said a week or two ago, Palin is the first Republican presidential or vice-presidential since Richard Nixon to so genuinely appeal to the politics of resentment. Sure, the Bushes and McCain have played to it. But either economically or socially or both, these men were all to-the-manor-born — elites who’ve lived their whole lives on greased rails.
To use a different analogy I think Palin (and perhaps Joe the Plumber too) appeal to the brainstem of conservatism, where the most primitive and persistent impulses are registered, even as the areas of higher reasoning and cognition (frontal lobes and all that) are flat-lining or tracking into oblivion.
Even a week or so back a poll of Republicans found that Palin came in third behind Romney and Huckabee in their choice for a 2012 nominee.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that only the conservative ‘intellectuals’ have a beef with Palin. But I’m pretty sure the post-election view is going to seem very different. The chatter out of the McCain campaign only confirms what her two months on the public stage has made painfully clear. Palin wasn’t simply unprepared for intense scrutiny of a national campaign. The woman is an ignoramus of almost unprecedented magnitude in the annals of national politics. It’s not just that virtually every-non-Republican has a negative view of her. I just don’t see a national party getting behind someone like that. And before you snark, “What about George Bush?” Sorry but there’s no comparison. Whatever else I think of him, he’s not a moron. And while he appears to be astoundingly incurious, there’s simply no comparison to Palin.
I guess I could imagine a rump Republican party nominating Palin. It could be Palin with perhaps Mark Levin as veep to nail down the all important angry, middle-aged DC Jewish male, right-wing ravanchist vote and Joe the Plumber to run her Phalangist paramilitary. But my strong hunch is that if McCain loses tomorrow that will be the end of Sarah Palin’s national political career even if there are some persistent twitches and jerks over the coming months.