running. Hers is the most long-term dedicated campaign since Ronald Reagan left the governorship of California in 1975 and became a full-time presidential aspirant.
Notably, the very act of running doesn’t cost her resources, but creates resources for her. She’s self-sustaining. Every day her organization builds and her reach expands. The more she runs the more inevitable she is.
In a nutshell, the system, meant to filter out the oddballs, has allowed one in. Never before has someone so outside the mainstream of political conventions had such good national prospects. She’s a classic third-party candidate who, given the organizational benefits of an early and dedicated candidacy, the fundraising advantages of a narrowly targeted base, and the boon of her preternatural access to the media, might easily become a major party candidate. And, given the Republican party’s built-in near-50% share of the voting public, she’s as likely to become the next president as anyone.
Many things could, of course, derail her. Not least of all if the opposition comes up with a way to effectively characterize her distance from political norms. So far this has been a problem, though, because part of her attractiveness is that distance, and, too, she is distant in ways that are themselves not normal and hard to characterize. Her extremism is not so much fanatical as it is kooky—or even comical. The worst thing that can be said about her, so far, is that she is not too smart—wily, but dumb. In a nation that, arguably, has become progressively dumber (or, at least, less interested in what used to be considered smart), this isn’t much of a liability. The real annoyance, even perhaps more than her inchoate conservatism (arguably, no more inchoate than George Bush’s), is her tastelessness. That, too, is hard for the opposition to express—other than in a fumfering way.
The threat for her is that the Republican establishment, which finds her as dumb and tasteless as the Democrats do, will come up with some stolid figure of conservative probity. But saying it that way highlights the problem of competing against an original, vivid, and always engaging outsider. Possibly a Republican congressional sweep will give the Republican mainstream new resolve. But, as likely, Sarah Palin will take credit for that success—and she might deserve it.
It’s happening, which is extraordinary.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
Sarah Palin’s going to run for president.