Patiently Explaining the Tragedy of Sarah Palin


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)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities

Elsewhere on the web

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


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Politics

Just In