Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just Don't Do It, Or the unexpected savvy of Sarah Palin

In politics today, it’s better for your career to do nothing at all. This little secret is why Sarah Palin is much smarter than generally given credit for, as she’s gotten paid straight cash to do nothing. Well done. Instead of having to attend to governing, Sarah Palin just gets to say things and get paid, and as long as she doesn't pull a Joe McCarthy and insult a beloved nonpartisan institution, e.g. the military, she'll be a more than viable candidate in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary.

Consider Palin’s fellow grassroots gardener Scott Brown: he was hailed as a hero after being elected to take Ted Kennedy’s seat in the January special election, even earning some Brown-in-2012 speculation. Since then, Brown has been voting fairly moderately as Massachusetts’s Senator, which makes sense for him: he’s from Massachusetts. Now, I don’t want to read too much into this, but consider this: a post about Brown voting for February’s job bill earned some sharp scorn in the Corner, and a comment on another article about Brown merely considering immigration reform drew some ire from commenters calling him a “maverick” (i.e. like that icky John McCain). It may be that Scott Brown's best move at all would be to resign directly after being elected. I think that’s something worth taking a look at, don’t you?

It’s not limited to one side of the aisle: it’s pretty well-established to nominate judges who are “stealth” candidates, who have little or no written record and hence can’t be sunk by a paper trail of actual views on actual issues. The lesson here is, just don’t do it.

Democrats themselves indulged the habit in the presidential primary. Clinton was the veteran with a well-established record on the issues; Obama, on the other hand, had a comparatively short record and a well-documented ability to seem like all things to all people. Democrats chose to dream (the choice was good).

What this reveals is an unease about the actual business of politics. Instead of having honest debates about issues—which might lead the public to endorse one side of the political spectrum or another after due consideration—we’re left with obfuscation and a way to avoid establishing clear priorities. It seems it’s better to wish on a blank slate than to like a finished flawed painting.

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