Conservatives may have ruined the former Alaska governor by demanding too little of her
In Joshua Green's June Atlantic piece on Sarah Palin, a retelling of the former Alaska governor's accomplishments prompts these questions: "How did someone who so effectively dealt with the two great issues vexing Alaska fall from grace so quickly? Anyone looking back at her record can't help but wonder: How did a popular, reformist governor beloved by Democrats come to embody right-wing resentment?"
Green concludes 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 corrupt members of the Alaska establishment. That's astute. But I wonder if another contributing factor wasn't as important. As governor, Palin was playing to voters who demanded results as a condition of their support. As soon as she took the national stage, however, she received effusive praise whether she performed capably, as during her GOP convention speech, or poorly, as she did during interviews with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson. To borrow a phrase, you might say she fell victim to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Whereas Alaskans rewarded substantive effectiveness, outlets like Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, and The Weekly Standard behaved as if firing up the base was enough. Had Palin's supporters demanded more -- more knowledge, more polish, more steadiness, more policy substance, more effort reaching beyond a base of support far too small to win any election -- perhaps she would've worked harder to improve her uneven politicking.