April 17, 2010

SHE'S GOT EVERYTHING SHE EVER WANTED:

The successful failure (Joanna Weiss, April 17, 2010, Boston Globe)

Speaking of wealthy folk heroes, does anyone think Sarah Palin regrets for a moment that she isn’t vice president? She could be standing silently behind John McCain at bill signings, or she could be hosting TV shows, buying Valentino suits for real, and headlining rallies — in blue states, no less.

So what if it was nearly impossible to hear her 20-minute speech on the Boston Common on Wednesday? (Thirty feet back from the stage, all you could make out was a high-pitched voice that occasionally shouted, “Freedom!’’) If there’s one thing we learned during the 2008 campaign, it’s that the substance of Palin’s statements isn’t her strong suit.

Rumors of 2012 notwithstanding, no one’s going to succeed in presidential politics without kowtowing to the political establishment. The punditocracy and the Republican Party will conspire to make sure Palin doesn’t get within hockey-stick distance of a national ticket. But why would she want to bother herself again with the dry, exhausting task of actually governing? She has proved that she was never meant to be a politician. She’s a consummate and natural entertainer.

These days, Palin is lucky the lines are blurred; the rally-folks-against-the-government schtick is one of the most lucrative acts in show business. And the best practitioners know precisely what they’re doing. In Forbes Magazine, Glenn Beck describes his $32 million empire as “an entertainment company,’’ and the people who consider him a teacher and a sage should really take note of that.

But that doesn’t mean Palin’s newfound niche is bad for democracy. Sometimes, it takes real entertainment value to generate real engagement. It’s doubtful that any mere, earnest politician would have inspired the spontaneous theater that erupted on the Common when Palin’s Tea Party Express blew into town. But her star wattage drew a crowd that was genuinely mixed: true believers, curiosity seekers, and plenty of counter-protesters — from health-reform supporters with earnest signs to “Real Tea Party’’ mockers in Gatsby suits, sipping actual tea from china cups.


The presidential campaign trail is too big a step down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2010 12:51 PM
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