My Problem with Sarah Palin

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke   1/29/15
With Sarah Palin once again hinting at a presidential run, pundits and politics wonks are all the more aflutter with 2016 talk. The predictable slings and arrows of the surly left are coming her way

, while her excited fans are firing up the troops. Then there are those who say that while they like the ex-governor, they don’t believe she could win the presidency. My focus, however, is a bit different: I have an objection to Palin — one relating to something of which most are unaware.

Before getting to that, please indulge me as I ask a few questions that establish where we all stand. Are you adamantly pro-life, or might your position change if (as in polling) the question is framed as a woman’s “right to choose”? Do you stand foursquare against amnesty, or could you be persuaded to accept a “path to citizenship” for illegals? Do you uphold the proper and only definition of marriage, or have the unrelenting attacks on tradition worn you down to a point where you might conclude, “Well, none of this affects me, anyway”?

If you’re unwavering on all those issues, as I am, you’re a real Sarah Palin conservative.

Or are you?

You see, I’m pretty sure how Palin would answer those questions — and one answer is a real problem.

On October 26, 2008, Palin had an interview with Jorge Ramos of Spanish-language network Univision. She was asked about amnesty: “So you support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants?”

Her answer: “I do because I understand why people would want to be in America. To seek the safety and prosperity, the opportunities, the health that is here. It is so important that yes, people follow the rules so that people can be treated equally and fairly in this country.”

Sarah Palin supported amnesty…in so many words.

See if you can put enough lipstick on that pig.

Now, since our country is subject to a somewhat planned invasion that’s changing its face and involves the importation of leftist voters-to-be, I consider any pro-amnesty position a deal-breaker. I’ve been front and center on the issue, so much so that Pat Buchanan saw fit to quote me in his book Death of the West. I even stated “Marco Rubio is dead to me” after he supported the Gang of Eight amnesty group in 2013.  And, believe me, I once had high hopes for the photogenic, articulate Rubio. But my principles aren’t negotiable (especially the one in question here).

Some may now say that Palin had to play ball, as she was running for the White House in 2008 with amnesty poster boy John McCain.

But as they say back home, that dog don’t hunt — certainly not grizzly in Alaska.

Remember that Palin has been billed by supporters as a breath of fresh air, the un-politician, a principled crusader and transformational figure. Her whole stated appeal is based on the notion that she’s not just another politician who goes along to get along.

But on Oct 26, 2008 she gave a quintessential politician-like answer. And on one of the biggest issues of our time.

Yet there’s more than just Palin’s words on immigration. There are also her actions — or perhaps inaction. As’s Victor Medina wrote in 2013 citing Lou Dobb’s reportage, “Palin did not appear to act on the fact that Alaska hosted two ‘sanctuary cities.’” As Dobbs put it, related Medina, “Alaska and Oregon both have state-wide policies that forbid state agencies from using resources to enforce federal immigration law. Apparently, this is by design from the highest levels” (emphasis added).

Now, since I’ve learned the hard way that criticizing Palin alienates some of my usual readers, I’ll state that I bear her no special animus. She’s no different from 1000 other politicians who either don’t understand the true impact of immigration (and a lot of other things) or have principles whose malleability is proportional to the power at stake. But that’s the point.

Palin is no different from 1000 other politicians.

This brings us to her true appeal. And if you’re a fan of hers, please try to take a step back, if you can, and view the matter from an emotional distance.

Question: can you cite for me one novel or unusually insightful thing Palin has ever said?

Just one.


Politics wonk that I am, I can’t think of anything. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with most of what she does say; it’s conservative boilerplate, and that’s where you generally start. But that again is the point.

Palin says nothing 1000 politicians haven’t said before her.

So I ask, what’s her true appeal, really?

Let’s be honest, if we can’t point to even one thing that makes a much ballyhooed politician substantively different from less touted co-ideologists, the process of elimination tells us where the greater appeal must lie.


It’s not Palin’s oratory, either. Oh, it’s not bad, but she’s no Reagan or Alan Keyes. The difference is what she is.

No one would be talking about Palin if she weren’t attractive and female.

This is true even if, by chance, John McCain would have been willing to choose a “Scott” Palin to be his running-mate (which he wouldn’t have).

It’s the phenomenon I expounded upon in “Cultural Affirmative Action” and “The New Chivalry”: “when people in the market and media privilege others — sometimes unconsciously — based upon the latter’s identification with a ‘victim group.’”

And most every politically aware person grasps this phenomenon to some degree. The late Geraldine Ferraro addressed Barack Obama’s meteoric political rise in 2008 and said, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.” And Ferraro had noted herself that she wouldn’t have been the 1984 vice-presidential candidate were she not a woman. It’s the same reason, by the way, why Fox News hires a large number of attractive female hosts and pundits. Do you think it’s a coincidence? Is the largely conservative audience so taken with them solely because of their minds?

The fact is that it’s impossible to not benefit from fairer-sex status in politics today; it even elevates your brand among conservatives, though it’s difficult convincing many conservatives they’re thus influenced. With many motivations being unconscious, it’s common for people to not be completely aware of what drives them. How many Americans voted for Obama in 2008 without fully grasping the degree to which electing “the first black president” and wanting to feel unbigoted and open-minded influenced them?

This isn’t to say Palin fans don’t have some legitimate reasons to support her, only that the kind of heroine worship and savior-status attribution evident in some quarters — support vastly in excess of what boilerplate conservatism warrants — is due to a purely emotional reaction stoked by image and hope. Many conservatives, knowing that having a female or minority presidential candidate is advantageous today, want to believe in the Great Female Hope. Moreover, there is this politically correct notion, now seamlessly woven into our culture, of female specialness and superiority. So many today are looking for a woman to save us.

Then there’s simply the matter of conservative female politicians’ relative rarity (even many GOP women officeholders are quite liberal); it’s easier to be seen as a standout when you stand out.

So the perhaps unwelcome message here is this: as with the 2008 Barack Obama, Palin is a cult of personality.

If even now you count yourself a Palinista, realize that I’m not emotionally invested in the matter. After all, I know that political remedies won’t cure what at bottom are cultural problems, anyway. It’s also true that like so many other politicians, Palin demonstrates the ability to evolve. And at least she’s evolved in the right direction: two years ago she called the 2013 Gang-of-Eight Rubio “Judas” in a tweet. I only wonder what she now really thinks, deep down, about the 2008 Palin.

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11 Responses to My Problem with Sarah Palin

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I don’t disagree with what Selwyn is saying here, in general. Selwyn has always been a rock regarding conservative ideas. I’m a relative libtard compared to him.

    And anyone who is for “a path to citizenship” (aka, amnesty for illegal aliens) ought to have to go sit in a corner of Cuba until they smarten up.

    But there’s one thing to keep in mind: Every conservative is wrong, and often stupidly so, on some issue. It happens to all of us. We’re limited creatures, not God Almighty with a vision of all eternity in our phone screens.

    One thing to keep in mind is that Palin is hated by the Left. I was recently reading a couple Leftist blogs about her. And it tempers your mind somewhat (at least one’s opinion about Palin’s faults) when you understand the depth of lunacy out there. For the Left, they really do believe she is nothing but a hate-monger. Their brains are fevered.

    Now, I’m first to use ad homs, hyperbole, and even four-letter words to make a point. (My bad.) But I do mean “lunacy” in the truest sense of the word regarding those on the Left. There is a significant portion of the population that is unhinged regarding Sarah Palin and “the right.” Forget about Beelzebub, we conservatives are that entity to increasing numbers of people who have so long been steeped in corruption, they insist the light being thrown into their faces is evil because it causes them to blink.

    So let’s remember that for all her faults (who doesn’t have them?), Palin is on the vanguard of sticking it to the lunatics on the Left. She’s a lightning rod for that. I’d still take a bullet for her, but couldn’t say the same thing for Rubio. And it’s not because she’s pretty and female. It’s because she’s tenacious and fearless.

    And having read a number of her posts on Facebook and such, I think it’s a discredit to her to dismiss her generally conservative thoughts as mere boilerplate. And what exactly would be an original thought in regards to conservatism? I doubt I’ve had one. Who really needs one? One simply needs to be conversant in the thoughts that have come before and be able to apply them. I found this critique of Palin by Selwyn to be weak and just a little bit dishonest.

    But her stand on amnesty is a huge problem. But I don’t think she’s ever going to run for office again. I think she’s found her niche. And that’s likely why she didn’t give a flying f— that anyone would object to that one photo of her behind the sign, for instance. She’s pitched a tent in the media circus. She is the embodiment of politics-meets-entertainment, for better or for worse (worse, if you ask me). A cult of personality? Again, I don’t think that’s entirely fair to Palin. But she certainly does have a personality, and a nice one, and I find it hard to fault her for that.


      I agree, Brad. The Left hates Palin with an irrational fury that they don’t show for, say, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, and that suggests that Palin challenges them at some level the typical Republican (at least the not-too-Conservative Republican) does not. If we return to the kinds of things Palin says, we see that it’s a little more than Conservative “boilerplate”: Palin occasionally gets into matters of principle, and that’s very threatening to the Left.

      Where the Establishment-man says, “I favor the Keystone Pipeline,” Palin says, “Drill baby drill!” The first is safe and issue-specific, the second means that Americans should be free to drill on public land (private land with the permission of the owner) to find new valuable resources.

      Where the Establishment-man says, “Obamacare costs too much,” Palin points out that Death Panels are the inevitable result of the government having the power to ration health care. The first is the usual Republican penny-pinching, the second recognizes the fundamental nature of what government control of medicine really means.

      When Obama speaks of “hope and change” and the Establishment-man is silent, Palin says “We say keep your change, we’ll keep our God, our guns, our constitution.” (How many heads exploded in San Francisco and Seattle when those words were said we may never know).

      Palin then is spontaneous and interesting whereas others just give the same stump speech over and over.

      If Palin does indeed favor open borders and/or Amnesty, then yes, she’s not the right choice for the Republican nomination. For me the matter of greatest concern is that she allowed the Democrats to chase her from the Governor’s office with spurious ethics charges; granted the difficulties in mounting a defense at her own expense were considerable, but a President must be made of sterner stuff and I have to believe that Palin simply preferred to be a celebrity than to be the Governor of Alaska.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Great points, Nik. It’s a pleasure to read such succinct and relevant thoughts on a subject.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Generally speaking, you can tell whom the Left fears by watching whom they most actively and persistently hate. Sarah Palin ranks with Rush Limbaugh as among the most hated — and despised for her “stupidity” (after all, every good liberal knows she said she could see Alaska from her house — and never mind that was really Tina Fey in a satire).

        As for the Alaska situation, note that Alaska’s ethics laws were very peculiar. The small handful of liberal character assassins could freely make false accusations that required the state to devote its own resources to investigating — and forced Palin to devote hers to fighting them. I can understand why she resigned under those circumstances. But you’re quite right that, as a matter of practical politics, it’s a severe problem for her. But while this harms her value as a candidate for higher office, it has no effect on her great value as an inspiring representative of grassroots Republicans.

  2. Anniel says:

    Nice to be sort of on the same page as Selwyn. I find his political instincts fascinating and trust his analysis about people.
    Brad, Politics-meets-entertainment is a great name for what goes on, and I’m sorry Palin has been almost forced there. Can she change her public persona somewhat and still hold her almost cult-like status among her followers? Yesterday a friend I had not seen for awhile almost cried in her disappointment over Sarah’s current direction and the new brick-bats being aimed at her.
    I’ll keep my Alaskan eyes and ears open.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Yesterday a friend I had not seen for awhile almost cried in her disappointment over Sarah’s current direction and the new brick-bats being aimed at her.

      Call me a cynic, but I think it is unwise to invest so much emotion in a politician. While they are necessary, contrary to what Libertarians seem to think, they generally do quite well financially by “working for the people.”

      Like my old daddy used to say, “don’t believe anything you hear and half of what you see.” A very good piece of advice, particularly, when dealing with politicians.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    As a fan of Sarah Palin, I have observed the similarity between her supporters and Obama’s, but there are differences. One cannot imagine Palin saying that she knows more about everything than her advisors, as Obama did, or equating herself with a Greek (or any other) god, as Obama did in Denver. Nor can one imagine her most devoted supporters comparing her to Jesus Christ, as Obama’s did in 2008 (“Jesus was a community organizer, Pontius Pilate was a governor”).

    When you cite her style, what you’re talking about is charisma. One needs more than charisma, of course, but it is a very useful quality to have in politics (though it might be better if it weren’t so). She also is more knowledgeable than her enemies admit; consider their mockery of her for observing during the 2010 campaign that it wasn’t yet time to “party like it’s 1773”. Apparently her critics were unaware that 1773 was the year of the Boston Tea Party. So who’s the ignoramus?

    As for amnesty, most of us here agree with you, but unfortunately whoever is chosen by the GOP will probably be at best squishy on the issue. That’s what the Cheap Labor lobby wants, and the consequences be damned. Jean Raspail predicted 40 years ago in Camp of the Saints the unwillingness of the West to defend itself from a “peaceful” invasion by alien cultures, and it’s coming true now — which is why I reviewed that book here last year.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s another aspect to this. And I consider it more than just another aspect. I think it’s the aspect.

    None of the following forgives or ignores Palin for holding views that are decidedly wrong. No one is above that, not even George Washington.

    But Palin represents a line in the sand against the Cretans and Vulgarians of the Left. We must protect her. We dare not shrink the battle lines back to not include her.

    Rush Limbaugh, being one of the very few to understand this subject, has often commented on those who declared that Palin was “tainted” or somehow “unelectable.” And Rush said that it’s a very bad precedent to let our best and brightest be smeared by the mainstream media and other Leftists and then for even her friends to declare “She’s damaged goods.” Ummm…did you happen to notice who is defining “damaged”?

    Surely the wise folk at StubbornThings see through this logical fallacy. The same people who say Palin is “tainted” also said Reagan was “unelectable.” It never ends with the namby-pamby Establishment Republican types.

    Palin is our canary in the coal mine. If she dies (politically or socially) because of our cowardice or neglect, that will move the chalk-lines of conservatism back and the ratchet of Progressive culture forward. To throw Palin to the wolves is to retreat regarding the kind of conservative ideas that can and will be discussed publicly. Surely I’m not the only one who notices that the Left has long been trying to make illegitimate, even illegal, political disagreements with them.

    None of this excuses Palin’s views on immigration. And those who know her or have some contact with her should not be shy in stating the frank fact that being for amnesty for hordes of Leftists from south of the border is the equivalent of Uncle Sam wrapping his lips around the barrel of a shotgun. It’s suicide for our republic. And so this is not just one small policy disagreement among many. It’s the whole enchilada, pun intended.

    One reason I quit Facebook is because I became disgusted with the reams of “conservatives” who were such social cowards and mindless sheep that as soon as there was any anti-Palin “buzz,” they were parroting the same kinds of phrases that could have come out of the mouths of those on MSNBC: She’s dumb. She’s unelectable. She’s “divisive.” Etc.

    Believe me, if I seem cautious, even cynical, about a great many things, I do have my reasons. I have seen the corrupted and weak minds of those who are little more than the product of mass media. This effect knows no political boundaries.

    To throw Palin under the bus is basically to throw conservatism and traditional America under the bus. Our political and cultural enemies are dying for us to do so. I won’t. I stand by Palin, right or wrong. And I have a damn good reason for doing so, because of what she represents.

    • Anniel says:

      “Throwing Sarah under the bus” is not an option I care to contemplate either. I would, however, like to see her go back to her strongly Christian views, can some of the Zingers that are less than charitable, and refuse to be mere entertainment and red meat for the carnivorous libs out there.

      Rush spent a lot of time on his show today on the single issue crowds who seek the “perfect” candidate and refuse to vote for anyone who doesn’t meet their litmus test. And I agree with that entirely, but there are some single issues that reveal a slant of mind that many Conservatives are having trouble dealing with.

      Abortion is a big issue for me, but I think right now my biggest issues are illegal immigration and Common Core.

      Boehner claiming to have been the Tea Party before there was a Tea Party gives me less and less reason to vote Republican. I know that Third Party talk is anethema to many politicos, but I certainly understand why the fed ups among us are looking more and more to forming one, and if the person who faces that issue head-on is Sarah Palin, great. Maybe someone with her charisma, following and stature could be what conservatives are looking for.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A Daily Beast article (linked on Hot Air, where I just read it) suggests that the next Palin will be Joni Ernst, unless she goes too Establishment.

  5. GHG says:

    As I said in the other Palin thread – there isn’t anyone on the national stage that checks more of my boxes – not all, but perfection in mere mortals is not to be found in this world 🙂

    I think Brad’s posts hit the mark dead center. I want a leader with guts and Sarah has that in spades more than any other potential candidate.

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