After a Year of Sarah Palin, Alaska Wonders, "What the Hell Were We Thinking?"
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What a difference a year makes. A year ago today, after being stunned by McCain's VP pick, I had finished writing a piece called " What Is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan's Perspective." It's hard to imagine a time when the country was asking "Sarah Who?" but it was only one short year ago.
One of the selling features of Sarah Palin was her astronomically high approval ratings in the state of Alaska. After all, how could a governor have positives in the high 80s or low 90s and be anything less than an ace in the hole? So McCain must have thought. The answer became obvious, and embarrassing to those of us in the Last Frontier. We weren't paying attention.
During the gubernatorial debates in Alaska in 2006, Palin said to her opponent, the infinitely smarter and more qualified Andrew Halcro, "Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers and yet when asked questions you spout off facts, figures and policies and I'm amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, 'Does any of this really matter?'" That may have been her shrewdest political statement. To Alaskans at that moment in time, it didn't matter. She was cute, she was spunky, she was gonna take it to the man, she had a scrumptious family, she was an underdog, she was one of us, and she had ... charisma! That's all we needed to know.
Gone was the stale, old, corrupt crankiness of Frank Murkowski, our former senator turned governor turned most loathed politician in the state. The lure of the bright shiny object was irresistible. Palin clobbered Murkowski in the primary, with the incumbent garnering a humiliating 19 percent of the vote. The devastating blow added to her appeal, and the promise of a Cinderella story in Alaska's future. Who doesn't love Cinderella? And the rest is history.
In many ways, it seems longer than a year. Much longer. Palin went back to Alaska, where her life turned into a nasty soap opera. There were revelations from McCain's staff about her behavior on the campaign trail; she was hit with a myriad of ethics charges (some of which, contrary to Palin's claims otherwise, stuck); she bailed on her relationship with the state's legislators and played politics with the federal stimulus plan; she got into a dog fight with Levi Johnston; she began a series of odd Twitterings, replete with a six-part ramble on Mommy Bear; she resigned amid chaos and deception, only to return as a diva on Facebook.
The very Democrats who served as a catalyst to the passage of Palin's grand ideas for a gas line were thrown under the bus. The Republicans who called Palin a "socialist" during her early governorship were already there. There's an old saying -- "How do you get Nellie back on the farm once she's seen Par-ee?" It became obvious to everyone when she returned to Alaska that she was wearing a metaphorical "Hi My Name is Nellie" name tag on her designer lapel. We were the farm, and the glittering white marble world of Washington D.C. and the great "Outside" was most definitely Par-ee.
As Geoffrey Dunn notes in his excellent piece today, another strange phenomenon became apparent -- an obsession with Barack Obama. The moment Palin started slamming community organizers, and talked about "pallin' around with terrorists," and telling the swooning crowds that Obama didn't see America like "we" see America, it began. She had found her niche, but in her home state, where Obama either trailed or lead McCain by a mere 3 percentage points before her nomination, it didn't play well. Neither did her bizarre habit of committing to events, and then canceling at the last minute, denying she'd ever said she would attend. First it was the national GOP who bore the brunt of this passive-aggressive event coordinating. But this week she did it twice, right here in the state, ostensibly accusing the predominant mega-church, and the head of Alaska's pro-life movement of lying. From the moment of her nomination until the day of her resignation, her numbers sank. It was like watching a slow motion film clip of the Hindenburg. The week after her resignation, the dirigible hit the dirt, and her negative numbers topped her positive numbers for the first time in her home state.