What If Palin Had Run on Her Record?

The Atlantic's Joshua Green investigates, the web responds

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It takes reminding, but Sarah Palin was once a capable governor. And, in her time as an actual politician, she regularly worked with Democrats, declined to pick fights on divisive social issues, broke the oil companies vice on state politics and led Alaska to a $12 billion dollar budget surplus.

In the new June issue of the The Atlantic, Joshua Green jogged our memory and retold her forgotten history as Alaska reformer and governor, posing a intriguing "what if" near the end of his article: "What if she had tried to do for the nation what she did for Alaska?" Namely, run on her record instead of as a culture warrior:

As governor, Palin demonstrated many of the qualities we expect in our best leaders. She set aside private concerns for the greater good, forgoing a focus on social issues to confront the great problem plaguing Alaska, its corrupt oil-and-gas politics. She did this in a way that seems wildly out of character today—by cooperating with Democrats and moderate Republicans to raise taxes on Big Business. And she succeeded to a remarkable extent in settling, at least for a time, what had seemed insoluble problems, in the process putting Alaska on a trajectory to financial well-being.

The web quickly digested Green's retrospective, here's what the commentariat had to say (so far):

  • Palin's Story is One of Temptation recounted Commentary's John Podhoretz, in his assessment of the now-fallen politician:

Rather than sticking to her guns and deepening her political credentials and her knowledge base, she embraced her celebrity instead. And in doing so, she didn’t defeat her critics and enemies; she capitulated to them. Listen, it’s her life and her fortune and she is free to do what she wishes with it. And there’s no telling what the future holds for anyone in America. But she had and has more raw political talent than anyone I’ve ever seen, and, alas, as phenoms go, it looks like she is headed for a Darryl Strawberry-like playing career.

  • It's 'Palin's History As Written By a Somewhat Sympathetic Liberal' writes Hot Air's pseudonymous Allahpundit, noting that the quest to contextualize Palin seems fruitless:

While Green’s piece may be a bit more sympathetic than, say, the dishonest sleaze put out by Michael Joseph Gross last September or what’s coming next from Joe McGinnis, it’s just the other end of the same continuum. In every case, Palin is a failure in need of explanation.

  • So, How Did She Morph Into 'a Dumbed-Down Culture Warrior'? Jezebel's Irin Carmon teases out this this line from Green's profile as a possible explanation: "A big part of the answer is that the qualities that brought her original successes -- the relentlessness, the impulse to settle scores -- weren't nearly so admirable when deployed against less worthy foes than Murkowski and the oil companies." Carmon adds:

In the national election, the less worthy foes were Barack Obama and vague notions of cultural elites and the media. Green doesn't say so, but the former's fairly clean record wasn't much a foil, and she wasn't going to change any minds about the latter. Instead, she got an ever-entrenched constituency pleased to have a photogenic spokesperson for beliefs they had already held.

  • Not News To Alaskans figures the Alaska Dispatch, but "more than a few Alaskans have wondered what might have happened since 2008 if she had continued to walk the path that won her a broad base of support in Alaska."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.