Next week, Palin will be a VIP guest of honor at the Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500. She'll walk among the campers and RVs set up infield. This summer, she's agreed to speak at an international bowling expo. In April, in Las Vegas, Palin will keynote the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers Convention at Caesar's Palace. She will make choices in Republican primaries -- she campaigned Sunday with Rick Perry, bearing a "Hi mom!" on her palm -- more on that in a bit -- and an eloquent jab at the President: "'We will proudly cling to our guns and our religion."I remain unconcerned about Palin. She looks strong now because the economy is terrible and that makes people hate the powers that be. But by 2012 the economy will likely be roaring back, and barring a disaster like a major terrorist attack I expect Obama to cruise to re-election.
It has been noted that her conservatism is resentment-based, and is fueled and nourished by the specter of elite mistreatment. (Palin is savvy enough to tease back.) But it is more than that. More than a list of grievances, Palin mixes Nixonian derision for those who think they know better with an aspirational dimension that motivates the middle class to vote. Out of the tony leagues of Washington and New York, she is -- well, an Idahoan by birth, an exurbanite mother, able to expurgate the Republican Party of its own cosmopolitan tendencies. . . .
What's most appealing about Palin to these exurbanites, I think, is that the big Elite Crucible tore her apart -- and she rose again, stood up, straightened her dress, and is now confronting her tormentors. When it was pointed out that Palin had scribbled some policy points on to her hand during the Tea Party Q and A, she was widely mocked. The next day, Palin wrote "Hi Mom!" on her palm. Palin doesn't like to be mocked, but she doesn't like to be beaten, either.
Not a single other Republican presidential candidate can build a crowd like Palin, can run against something like Palin (be it Washington, the media, the McCain campaign or Obama); no one speaks to the resentment/aspirational conservatives like she does; no one's life has better exemplified the way they perceive their struggle against the elite. We like to think about presidential primaries in paradigms, but candidates who fit with the times often find ways to completely subvert established paradigms.
I have doubts that Palin can even win the Republican nomination. She might have an arc like Ross Perot's, appealing for a while because she represents a real alternative, but then fading. After all, the reason we have the same kinds of candidates saying the same things year after year is that's what Americans like and vote for.