Politics & Society

Palin For President?

Sarah Palin greets supporters

hide captionFormer vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin greats supporters during an October conservative rally in Charleston, West Virginia.

Randy Snyder/Getty Images

The buzz in this Friday's Tell Me More Barbershop roundtable touched on former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s recent boast that she could beat President Obama in a 2012 match-up.

In an interview this week, she told ABC’s Barbara Walters that she believed she could take him.

As an aspiring political junkie, I’d like to add my two cents.

Despite her derision of the “hopey changey stuff” that President Obama ran on, Sarah Palin has a lot in common with him. If you put aside the policy questions, having a charismatic, way-too-cute-for-Washington outsider with a compelling, personal story and a non-traditional resume, sounds a lot like who we have now.  And what voters want in a new president is something that’s very different from the old one.

The tough-talking, Hollywood populism of Ronald Reagan gave way to the kinder, gentler, your-father’s-Oldsmobile politico that was George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton, the Rhodes Scholar with humble beginnings and multiple definitions of “is,” is replaced by George W. Bush – the “C”-student son of a political dynasty with a “good guys versus bad guys” outlook.

Voters like that, they don’t need a flow chart to figure out his beliefs, even if he isn’t the best talker.

So after Bush II, it’s not surprising that the next guy up is the professorial Barack Obama, a leader in the Big Speech department, with a world view as nuanced and complicated as his family history, and no political pedigree whatsoever.

He was elected with almost zero experience in high-stakes politics.  Now, he has an equally devoted following of fans and haters.

Close your eyes, and that sounds a lot like Sarah Palin.

This may turn off Americans who bring their gut reactions –and not an ideological checklist—into the voting booth.  And there’s good reason for that impulse.  Like President Obama, a President Palin would bring with her, advisors who are more adept at managing a cult of personality than a White House.  She’d also make big claims about “changing Washington,” even though she’d most likely campaign on her lack of knowledge of how the city works.

Palin already has a hater-base as passionate as her fans. And those haters –and their representatives in Congress—might prefer years of gridlocked, trench warfare to progress.

And we know how that ends…or at least, how that feels two years in.

Alicia Montgomery is a senior producer with Tell Me More

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