Jonathan Martin and John Harris write a Conventional Wisdom-defining piece at Politico about Sarah Palin’s penchant for playing the victim card and how it is a sign that she will not be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012.
Among those taking aim at Palin in recent interviews with POLITICO are George F. Will, the elder statesman of conservative columnists; Peter Wehner, a top strategist in George W. Bush’s White House, and Heather Mac Donald, a leading voice with the right-leaning Manhattan Institute.
But Palin’s skeptics said a successful presidential candidacy would need to be buoyed by genuine policy vision, not merely grievance. For now, however, Palin’s appeal is now largely rooted in the sympathy she’s gleaned from her loudly voiced resentments toward the left, the news media and the GOP establishment.
“The appeal of conservatism is supposed to be people taking responsibility for their own actions,” said Labash. “But if you close your eyes and listen to Palin and her most irate supporters constantly squawk or bellyache or Tweet about how unfair a ride she gets from evil moustache-twirling elites and RINO saboteurs, she sounds like a professional victimologist, the flip side of any lefty grievance group leader. She’s becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition. The only difference being, she wears naughty-librarian glasses instead of a James Brown ‘do.”
Let’s leave aside the amount of sexism and racism laced through Labash’s quote and notice that this is a damning critique of Palin that is echoed in more artful ways by both the left and right. Labash later describes Palin’s victimization routine in a more artful way: “cocked-fist self-pity.” This better reflects the Palin modus operandi. Add in the fact that she has not used one moment of her time in public life since the 2008 election to expand herself intellectually or adopt a policy to gain expertise on and you arrive at the analysis of the ultimate Beltway Conventional Wisdom maker, Mike Allen:
Playbook facts of life: Sarah Palin has shown no capacity to evolve, grow substantively, or expand her base of support. If she had spent her time studying education reform, like Jeb Bush – or developing a signature issue of any sort – a Palin candidacy would look much more promising. She resigned as governor in July, 2009 — a year and a half that has been squandered, used only to make money rather than to reintroduce herself to the American middle.
I’ve been saying for years that it’s pretty near impossible to identify Conventional Wisdom is, in fact, correct. But this may be a time when the Beltway prognosticators and reality in the rest of the country line up closely.
One thing that I wonder is if any of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates will start making similar attacks on Palin as we’re seeing from Beltway pundits and conservative opinion writers. Whoever does so first will likely enjoy a pretty heavy dose of Palin’s “cocked-first self-pity,” which may be the whole point for Palin. By drumming up her victimization schtick for two and a half years, any opponent will clearly know that a direct attack on her will not be taken lightly. Palin may not be performing well in primary polls, but does Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty really want to go head-to-head with Palin while the whole press is watching? I doubt it. The flip side of this, which Allen gets at, is that being a one-trick pony clearly hasn’t won Palin strong support with base voters yet. For her to become viable, she has to find a way to reach people that doesn’t include victimization. She has to offer up ideas, at least in so far as any of her opponents will offer up ideas (Personally I don’t think “cut taxes, bash workers” counts as an actual idea, but that’s just me).
Originally posted at AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field