Palin has no friends, including Matt Lewis, who supported her before you even heard of her:
You Betcha I Was Wrong About Sarah PalinIt’s time to admit that, whatever their motivation was at the time, the Alaska governor’s critics always had a point.
Has conservative genuflection at the altar of Sarah Palin finally come to a halt?
In case you missed it, her speech in Iowa this week was not well received on the right. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York called it a “long, rambling, and at times barely coherent speech” and National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke said she slipped into self-parody. And there’s more. The Examiner’s Eddie Scarry, for example, contacted several conservative bloggers who were once Palin fans, but have since moved on.
But here’s my question… what changed?
Yes, in 2008, Sarah Palin delivered one of the finest convention speeches I’ve ever heard (trust me, I was there), but she hasn’t exactly been channeling Winston Churchill ever since. Remember her big speech at CPAC a couple of years ago? You know, the one where she took a swig out of a Big Gulp and said of her husband Todd: “He’s got the rifle, I got the rack.” Not exactly a great moment in political rhetoric.
So why is anyone surprised when, this weekend, she said: “‘The Man,’ can only ride ya when your back is bent?”
Demosthenes, she is not, but there’s nothing new about Palin’s penchant for populism or lowbrow rhetoric. What does feel new is that she has finally gotten around to roundly losing conservative opinion leaders. (OK, this has been a long time coming. In 2011, Conor Friedersdorf noted that the hard right was skewering Palin, and that Kathleen Parker had been vindicated. And as recently as this past April, I wondered whether it was finally safe for conservatives to criticize her publicly. But it does feel like we have finally reached a tipping point where criticizing Palin isn’t only acceptable for conservative opinion leaders, it’s now almost expected.)
In fairness, Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the “Trig Truther” stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.
Palin has contributed to this phenomenon by playing the victim card, engaging in identity politics, co-opting some of the cruder pop-culture references, and conflating redneck lowbrow culture with philosophical conservatism.
And this makes me wonder if I might have contributed to this by boosting her—and by publicly chastising her conservative critics.
My harshest criticism was directed at conservative writers whom (I felt) prematurely attacked her during the months of September and October in the 2008 presidential campaign—and possibly even contributed to her radicalization. (In my mind, Palin changed after the 2008 loss, a shift that correlates closely with the election of Obama and the rise of the Tea Party.)
But you could argue that the conservatives who went after Palin back in ’08 have now been vindicated—regardless of their motivation. And my counterfactual argument (that Palin might have turned out better had everyone had cut her some slack in 2008) feels increasingly tenuous.
Is it possible that Kathleen Parker saw something I didn’t when she attacked Palin? I saw it as strangling the conservative baby in the crib; Parker probably saw it as snuffing out a monster.
Such is the plight of a writer; I got some stuff right, and my position was justifiable at the time, but in hindsight I regret contributing to the premature deification of Sarah Palin.