Sarah Palin was asked over the weekend if she might run for Senate in 2022 against Lisa Murkowski, who has recently committed the thought crime of taking her job seriously. Predictably, Palin played it on the coy and emotionally manipulative side, saying: “If God wants me to do it, I will.”
I don’t claim to have a direct pipeline to the Big Guy, or Gal, or They, or whatever identity God is claiming these days. But I can say this much: Sarah Palin would dumb down the United States Senate more than anyone since Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson arrived a decade ago. And that’s really saying something. Surely God doesn’t want that.
In retrospect, we can see that Palin’s elevation by John McCain to the vice presidential nomination was a hideous turning point for America—a distant early warning of things to come. She embodies everything awful that the GOP has become in these intervening years. She is both an idiot and a brownshirt, and she paved the lamentable road down which Donald Trump later thundered. Everyone who promoted her in 2008 (looking at you, Bill Kristol) has the blood of a dying nation on their hands, and they must all rise up to stop this madness before it starts.
I remember the day she got the vice presidential nod. I was in my hotel room in Denver, the Democratic convention having just ended. It was the morning after Barack Obama’s big speech at Mile High Stadium. That bit of political artifice, to be honest with you, made me a wee bit uncomfortable; it was a little too hero-worshippy by my lights, although I did enjoy Barney Smith’s star turn (look it up).
I had Morning Joe on the tube as I was getting ready to check out and drive up to St. Paul (through the Badlands, which I’d never seen) for the Republican convention. And I remember Mika getting the news from someone off-camera and saying something like: “Really? Sarah Palin? Are you sure?”
Yep. Really. And it took all of two weeks for America to see what a dope she was. She wasn’t just dumb. She was intentionally dumb, and proud of it. The iconic moment for me came during her interview with Katie Couric, when Couric asked her, innocently enough, what newspapers and magazines she read.
Palin’s answer: “All of ’em! Any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.” What Palin was saying, of course, is that she didn’t read anything. Maybe the Anchorage Daily News, when it mentioned her. But what she really communicated to her admirers was this: that reading is poisonous. Reading is liberal. Reading is a trap. Reading is indoctrination. The “news” is propaganda. Knowing the difference between North Korea and South Korea, which she apparently did not, is for eggheads.
I have a friend who is basically a liberal Democrat but was a great admirer of John McCain. He once told me he toyed with the idea of voting for McCain over Obama—until McCain picked Palin. Then it was all over. There was no way, he told me, he’d put that nincompoop within a heartbeat of the Oval Office.
I’ve long suspected that McCain lost millions of such voters; he might have won if he’d just chosen some normal, generic Republican senator or governor (there was a lot of talk of Joe Lieberman, which might have been interesting, too). But he let himself get talked into this idea that he had to woo the hard-right base. It was the worst decision McCain ever made. The second worst was refusing to apologize for it for the rest of his life.
I drove up to St. Paul. Louisiana was still enduring the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina, which President Bush had botched so horribly. The Republicans basically canceled (or minimized) the first two nights of their convention. Palin spoke the third night. I was standing along the concourse at the top of the lower level of seats.
I have to say, she was really good. She knows how to give a speech. She’s a good demagogue. She and Rudy Giuliani spoke the same night. They both gave terrific speeches. Really fired up the crowd. If I’m recalling correctly, it was Palin who got the crowd to chant, “Drill, Baby, Drill!”
But the speech had no actual content at all. I just looked up what I wrote at the time, for The Guardian, and I have to say it isn’t half bad: “Palin’s argument tonight wasn’t an argument, it was an arrow aimed at the viscera: If you relate to what I’m telling you about the media and these liberals, join the team. If you don’t, then … well, it seems that neither she nor the person who wrote the speech had the imagination to envision those people.”
That’s all she knew, and knows, how to do. Fire the rage-filled synapses of angry white people. I’ll admit: She’s clever about it. A couple years later, I saw her speak at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. At the time, we were enmeshed in the War on Soda, being waged in New York City by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Palin strolled onto the stage drinking from a Big Gulp. The audience, if I may say so, lapped it up.
But getting back to the topic at hand, the Senate: She would only aid in its destruction. It’s being wrecked already by people like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley—and Johnson. It’s true that the Senate has been home to many rich idiots, like Johnson, throughout its history, and it has survived them. But the Cruzes and Hawleys and Palins are a different ilk. They are actual fascists. Remember, six senators voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory. Palin would certainly have joined them.
I’ve never been a huge Lisa Murkowski fan, but I am now. And if God has the qualities I hope She does—compassion, decency, admiration of democracy—then I bet She’s a fan, too. Sarah, you’ve done enough to ruin this country. Stay home.