(From New America Media)
ByÂ Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The latest polls show that Sarah Palin has no chance at winning the presidency. That’s if she even makes a bid for it. Yet, this hasn’t stopped the media and a large chunk of the public from still chattering on endlessly about her. It’s been that way for the better part of two years. The media and the public have reveled in the litany of Palin inanities, bumbles and foot-in-the-mouth gaffes.
Palin continues to have shelf life, despite her plummet from popularity, for the same reason that she was foisted on the public in the first place: She is a virtual Hollywood casting-call prop for a media that routinely pawns off fluff for substance, and a public that grabs at it. Palin had plenty of the required fluff and that makes her even more of a serviceable attraction. She is Hollywood Stars, Jeopardy, American Idol and the Big Spin all rolled into one. She is crass entertainment and provides prurient relief from the traditional, staid, scripted way politicians say and do things. Her inanities have the faint ring of truth and light to them, and for many represent a frontal challenge to the established order. Being a “she,” with a pretty face, and a folksy, home-schooling mom demeanor made her a sure thing for a media starved for ratings, viewership and ad dollars. When she spoke, it was lights, camera and action. Palin, in short, was a media cash cow.
For a time, she even had some value for the GOP. She could say what GOP mainstream political leaders couldn’t, and say it in a way that would get the hoots and whistles from the millions that wanted the GOP to get down-and-dirty and call Obama out. A too- loose cannon running around, whipping up the mob frenzy against Obama, though, posed the danger that some of that frenzy might turn against GOP politicians for not being tough enough in standing up to Obama. The GOP walked a fine line with Palin.
This isn’t the case with the media. The more outrageous Palin is, the better copy she makes. Her words are headlined, and endlessly picked apart by policy experts in a vain effort to draw some real or imagined meaning and implication from them. Palin quickly figured all of this out. If the media pumped her into the next “star is born” attraction, why not parlay that into endless photo-ops, cover stories, a gig as a political commentator, and a queen’s ransom bank account. With the right staging, handling, and orchestration, it worked to a tee for her for a time.
That time is seemingly up. Now that Palin is suddenly everyone’s favorite punching bag, the new question will be: Can the fallen idol make a comeback? There will be more speculation about her political future, if there is a political future, and, in a few more months, the public may answer, “Sarah who?” when her name is mentioned.
This will suit the GOP mainstream, which will have absolutely no problem with a Palin disappearing act. GOP mainstream leaders always privately groaned and shuddered that Palin was Obama’s trump card for re-election, if by some miracle she became a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. But while Palin-mania was at its peak, the leadership did not dare utter a criticism of her for fear of incurring the wrath of the Tea Party multitudes. Palin was coy and crafty enough to keep them guessing whether she would make a serious run for the nomination and the White House. This would have taken much of the sheen off of the media and public’s fascination with her. Then she’d actually have to talk at length and in depth about policy issues and lay out a clear vision of what a Palin administration would mean for America and the world: an impossibility.
Even if the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords hadn’t happened, and much of the public hadn’t blamed her for it, Palin would have eventually taken a tumble. After all, a pretty face plus political silliness can only be milked so long for ratings, magazine covers and ad dollars. This doesn’t absolve the media and the big PR machine for creating Palin-mania. It just points out the hypocrisy that indulged that mania. The proof of this is that despite her pitiable ratings, watch and see if a day goes by that she doesn’t grab a headline somewhere.