Patiently Explaining the Tragedy of Sarah Palin

More

Okay, I see that Andrew's lost his bearings on the subject of my Palin piece, so once more into the fray. This post from him is just one big giant pile of wrong:


Josh Green responds to my criticisms. He concedes that the motive for the big extra oil company tax was petty resentments and populist opportunism - which makes his thesis even less persuasive. It amounts to a fantasy, in my view, that Palin could ever have run as a good government reformer, since she was neither motivated by those goals nor had any serious record to point to, apart from a big tax increase on oil companies. Nonetheless, the McCain campaign tried very hard to make this image the primary one - it was the gist of their announcement - and it failed miserably compared with the rest of this delusinoal fanatic's record and character and lack of basic knowledge. 

Reading this, I'm beginning to doubt he read my piece. Like every politician, Palin was/is driven by a combination of ambition and opportunism. To think otherwise is naive. As Andrew concedes, she also has considerable raw talent. What's important is what she did with that talent. Think of it like having superpowers: you can use them for good or for evil.

The point of my piece was that in Alaska, Palin mostly used them for good--and could have continued doing so. She and the legislators (mostly Democrats, some Republicans) who passed ACES fixed the big problem at the heart of the state's politics for a quarter century, namely that the oil companies, which controlled the legislature, had used their power to avoid paying taxes and thwarted every attempt at reform until Palin came along. I've noticed that Palin's critics never address that point or acknowledge what great shape Alaska is in today.  It's fun to tweak Palin for raising taxes, I'll grant Andrew that one. But in this case, it's misleading. Alaskans own the oil that oil companies pump, so "raising taxes" means getting a better price for something that already belongs to them. Is that a mortal sin for a Republican? Maybe, but it shouldn't be.

Andrew continues:
More to the point: how do you win over a Tea Party base, when your sole achievement is raising taxes to spread the wealth around in a socialist state? Surely Josh would find that a hard premise for his case.
Huh? I don't recall anybody in the Tea Party, or any Republican for that matter, attacking Palin because she came from Alaska. And didn't the Tea Party come together out of fury at the Wall Street bailouts? How on earth would Palin have alienated the Tea Party by going after Wall Street "fat cats" like she did the corrupt oil companies?

Here's where Andrew and I will never agree. I think Palin would have set herself, her party, and her country on a much better course had she used her superpowers for good and run as a reformer. But I still don't think she would have won, and she certainly won't win the presidency now. The "tragedy" is not that she won't occupy the Oval Office; it's that she could have had a positive effect and instead has had a very negative one. That's because she chose a course other than the one I'd have preferred--the one her record in Alaska would have supported, by the way--and instead pursued the grievance-driven agenda of cultural resentments that she's now famous for and that so many others in her party have taken up.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Do People Love Times Square?

A filmmaker asks New Yorkers and tourists about the allure of Broadway's iconic plaza


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Do People Love Times Square?

A filmmaker asks New Yorkers and tourists about the allure of Broadway's iconic plaza

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In