Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

7/8/10

Why Sarah Palin Fascinates Me As a Public Figure

You know what happened. Sarah Palin, governor of a state many Americans pretend doesn't exist, becomes one of the most influential people currently not in office.

Intelligent, good looking (an avid runner as opposed to a smoker unable to quit), well spoken, and able to take the punches of her opposition, Palin is equipped to cause notice. That she is a woman in a male-dominated world only amplifies all of this.

When she Tweets, she gets quoted. When she makes a video, it is announced by CBS News (Sarah Palin Video Hails "Mom Awakening"). If she takes the podium, she is applauded. All marketing?

Do you really think that's what happened?

No conspiracy theory here. Rather, I believe Palin's impact is simply a manifestation of conditions.

Barack Obama was, by all accounts, rushed into office on a wind of hope. Not all are pleased with his progress. Some apologize for it, pointing out the oil spill wasn't part of his campaign, or that anything not working was George W. Bush's fault. Maybe. Just the same, time will come when he needs to announce whether or not he will run in 2012. Sarah Palin's influence will be on the other side. She might not run for anything, but whomever does knows that those agreeing with her are energized and ready to vote. These are not passive voters.

In the midst of it all, Obama's approval ratings have not only plummeted from their amazing heights, but dropped much lower at this point in his presidency than Bush himself. "Obama joins the two most recent fellow Democrats (Clinton and Carter) and two recent Republicans (Reagan and Ford) in falling below 50% approval within the first year in office"

Those on the Republican side seem as surprised as the Democrats at Palin's impact. Undoubtedly, pollsters are looking at their data asking why. Analyzing Palin herself isn't the answer, but examining why people are looking toward her for answers.

Palin is at once a complete feminist, being self-determined, strong and outspoken, not limited by her gender, and, at the same time, completely not a feminist as commonly understood. She loves her husband (not saying a feminist would not), and embraces that difference. She is prolife, even as her own daughter became pregnant while unwed. As stereotyping goes, she would not fit the no-make-up, plain clothes, pacifist, vegetarian feminist category. A hunter, red meat eater, and occasional fashionista (Obama's fashion sense is considered weak, but he has taken things up a notch when out at big events.) Palin's antifeminism feminism naturally makes her impossible for a more liberal feminist to support, knowing fully well she is redefining what it means to be a woman in a free society.

Some women are independent yet have not connected with the National Organaiztion for Women. Likewise, they have not flocked to the Eagle Forum. Palin is both, yet neither.

Palin's influence extends beyond women. Men listen as well. Why? Is it disillusionment with Obama? No, I don't think so. He will be judged on what he does more than what he doesn't do, and his tenure isn't up yet.

She calls this response "Mom Awakening." Sounds like marketing to me. She compares the idea to pit bulls, that a mother grizzly is even tougher than the dog.

Part of the challenge the Obama administration has, just as did Bush, is that he has a job: President of the United States. If he campaigns now, or retorts against Palin, he takes away focus from the task at hand. His people don't want to respond too loudly, not wanting to give her more credibility.

What do the American people want? I don't think they want Palin. It looks that many do, but they also voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

Palin has created a persona that is clear. Presently, she is campaigning ideas, not herself. This might change, but she has no reason to decide now. If she wants to run for office, the polls will tell her if she can. Meanwhile, she continues to make news. Conservatives dote on her, comedians laugh at her, and liberals scorn her.

As a communications strategist, I am impressed. For the record, I don't know that I support her as a potential presidential candidate. Besides it being too early to say, and not knowing who else is running, she has declared no platform. She might, like my thoughts on Hillary Clinton, be too polarizing to be taken seriously in the world's top leadership position, but, I don't know.

I am fascinated. Who, in recent political history, can she be compared to? I can't say I am a student of politics to know, but her role is unique. She has no liberal counterpart. On the conservative side, perhaps the vitriolic Anne Coulter. Coulter's not in the public eye as much, and was more of an entertainer than an influencer, as her fans were already conservative. I suspect Palin's fans are mostly conservative, but that she is gaining middle roaders, especially women. If any of you have read a study on this, let me know.

Whatever Palin's approach is, whatever part of the political wave she has tapped must be considered. She was foolishly dismissed after Obama won, and now, has taken a spot on the stage. As long as she is lampooned, or cheered, it means people are listening.

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