Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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Sarah Palin got it part right in her statement bowing out as a potential GOP presidential contender when she said that if she ran as an independent it would insure President Obama’s reelection. She could have added that she would have insured his reelection if she had grabbed the GOP presidential nomination. But that possibility was never in the cards and Palin had sense enough to know that even if a fawning, Palin manufactured news starved media and a few delusional Tea Party true believers didn’t. Palin hands down was the most polarizing Republican since Lincoln. And he had a defiant, secessionist, war mongering slaveholding South to deal with. Palin just had a storehouse full of gaffes, malapropisms, and brain numbing political inanities that made her a long running political and public joke. Polls consistently showed her approval ratings were dreadful, and the overwhelming majority of poll respondents just as consistently said that she was not fit to be president. That, of course, only made her even more bizarrely appealing, and a lot richer too courtesy of big payday book deals and ring orchestrated speaking gigs.
If Palin had ever been serious about a presidential run, the GOP pragmatists who control the money, media spin and party apparatus would have done everything they could to maneuver and massage the primaries and convention to ensure that the noise and mischief outsider Palin made would die a quick political death. The two clues to that was the mute silence from any of the GOP candidates about Palin and what if any role she would play in the election. They were totally mum on what impact if any she’d have if she barged into the race at the last minute. The other clue was how much was made of the much hoped for, and much implored by GOP political pundits candidacies of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and after he said a firm no, the even more hoped for candidacy of New Jersey governor Chris Christy. They were taken seriously as a real threat to Obama, something that Palin never was in the calculation of GOP leaders.
But in a screwy sort of way Palin for a time was the perfect every person's anti-candidate. GOP presidential contender John McCain certainly knew that. He gambled that her homespun, matronly stump style, and Bible spouting, gun toting appeal would be tonic for his sagging campaign with the religious conservatives. But those were the exact qualities that sent chills up the spines of the GOP mainstream politicians and made her in their eyes not just hopelessly unelectable but just as hopelessly unfit to be even considered for the GOP presidential nomination.
Palin on the loose in 2012 even if not as a stated candidate would have sent doubtful and even wavering progressives, liberal and moderate Democrats scurrying to the polls to vote for Obama. In fact, the mere mention of her as a possible candidate during the months when she coyly kept the media guessing about her plans was enough to terrorize disgusted Democrats out of their Obama inertia. The real damage that she would have done would have been to confuse, rile up, and split Republicans. Her support in the party might have translated out into legions of disgruntled, frustrated voters who would be sorely tempted to push, prod and hector the GOP to give Palin her due. Many would be just as sorely tempted to vote for Palin as a maverick candidate, or with her name not on any ballot, stay at home. That would be tantamount to a vote for Obama.
But Palin’s official departure from the GOP presidential candidate scene doesn’t mean that she will disappear totally from the political scene. She will be actively courted by which ever candidate emerges on top from the GOP presidential pack. And she will remain eminently quotable. The task for the GOP leadership is to find a spot for her that minimizes the damage from her loose cannon quips while at the same maximizing her value as a catalyst to rev up and motivate the formidable fringe wing of the GOP base who still are smitten by Palin and delight in her mindless broadsides against Obama. This may not be a hard task. They can have it both ways. Palin will remain a name GOP figure. But when she speaks it will be understood that she is speaking as her own person and in her own unscripted voice.
Palin, then, was the GOP's textbook Catch-22: if they had ever seriously considered her as a presidential candidate, Obama almost certainly would have sailed back into the White House. It would have blown to smithereens the GOP’s one and only goal from the moment that Obama took the oath of office and that’s to make him a one term president. They can now breathe a final sigh of relief at Palin’s anti-climatic announcement she won’t run. She is no longer the GOP's worst nightmare, and Obama’s best dream.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson