Monday, November 22, 2010

Palin’s takedown

It was bad enough that political personality Sarah Palin had to contend with two oversized disses from within the conservative camp late last week. In what looked like a tag-team takedown, conservative columnist Mona Charen and Barbara Bush, Queen Mother of the Republicans, both jumped off the turnbuckles, roundly dismissing Palin and, by extension, any plans she may be nurturing for a 2012 presidential run.

But maybe the most important rejection of Palin’s hold on the conservative psyche happened Wednesday, when The Associated Press called the bitterly contested Alaska Senate race between GOP incumbent Lisa Murkowski and Tea Party darling/Palin anointee Joe Miller. Murkowski, who lost the primary, got back on the Nov. 2 ballot and won re-election by (by recent count) at least 10,000 votes — the first senatorial write-in candidate to do this since Strom Thurmond pulled it off in 1954.

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Murkowski, a politician with GOP pedigree but centrist roots that borrow from the independent Alaskan spirit, is in the driver’s seat right now. First of all, she’s got bragging rights to a status no other politician in the country has: defeated in the primary by Palin’s efforts, she’s bounced back in the face of Palinmania, succeeding despite the caribou diva’s best efforts.

And Murkowski benefits from understanding what Palin’s either ignored or forgotten: to truly wield power in Washington, you need to get elected. And once you get elected, you need to stay in that office until you finish the job you were elected to do (something you can’t do when you bail out halfway through your first term).

With the leverage of a seat in the United States Senate, Murkowski will soon be exquisitely positioned to play a possibly pivotal role in the national debate, to effect changes that right now Sarah Palin can only pontificate about. Murkowski recognizes the value of a geographic power base, a real power base and not one ginned up for a reality show.

Despite the picture-postcard presentation of the virtues of Alaska, Palin’s new TLC reality miniseries has all the, uh, earmarks of being as much an advertisement for herself as for the state she lives in. And with the results of the Nov. 2 election apparently done and done (despite Miller’s plan to block the vote’s certification), the people of Alaska refudiated Palin’s presumptive allegiance to the state, and the equally presumptive claim she thought she had on their political view — and their preference in senatorial candidates.

The Mama Grizzly has made independent Alaskan thinking part of the Sarah Palin brand. It was to be expected, then, that the people of that state (albeit by a narrow margin) would ultimately exercise their prerogative to think the same way.

Image credits: Murkowski: Associated Press. Palin: TLC. 

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