Why 'much-diminished' Sarah Palin no longer stands out in the MAGA movement she helped create: journalist
Former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement suffered a long list of disappointments in the 2022 midterms, including Democratic gubernatorial victories in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Maryland. Democrats prevailed in key U.S. Senate races in Nevada, New Hampshire, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where they flipped a Senate seat that has been mostly in GOP hands for decades: the one presently held by arch-conservative Sen. Pat Toomey and once held by the late Sen. Arlen Specter.
Many of the Republican governors who were reelected in the midterms were traditional conservatives rather than hyper-MAGA candidates, including Ohio’s Mike DeWine, Georgia’s Brian Kemp and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu. And in Alaska, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has, according to the Associated Press, prevailed over far-right Trump-backed MAGA candidate Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski won by 7 percent, and if she serves another six-year term in its entirety, she will be in the U.S. Senate until at least January 2029.
Alaska was also where Trump-supported candidate Sarah Palin lost two U.S. House races in 2022: first a special election, then an election for a full two-year term. Both times, Trump’s endorsement didn’t prevent Palin — a former Alaska governor and the late Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election — from losing to Democrat Mary Peltola in a red state.
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In an in-depth think piece published on November 23, the New York Times Jeremy W. Peters analyzes Palin’s two congressional defeats in 2022 and her history in the GOP. Palin, Peters argues, had a major influence on Trump’s MAGA movement, but there are so many MAGA candidates and MAGA stars now that she no longer stands out the way she once did.
“It is hard to overstate just how much of a jolt to the political system Sarah Palin delivered when she defeated her first fellow Republican 16 years ago,” Peters explains. “He was Frank Murkowski, the sitting governor of Alaska and a towering figure in the 49th state. She was a ‘hockey mom’ and the former mayor of a small, working-class town who vowed to stick it to the ‘good ol’ boys.’ That race put her on the map with the national Republican Party and set her on a path that would change her life, and the tenor of American politics for years to come.”
Peters continues, “Then, Ms. Palin was at the vanguard of the dog-whistling, no-apologies political culture that former President Donald J. Trump now embodies. Today, having lost her bid for Congress after years out of the spotlight, Ms. Palin is a much-diminished force. She was, in many ways, undone by the same political currents she rode to national prominence — first as Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee in 2008, and later, as a Tea Party luminary and Fox News star.”
During the Barack Obama years, Peters notes, Palin helped pave the way for the combative, in-your-face MAGA playbook when she “made dark insinuations about Barack Obama’s background” and made “false claims about government ‘death panels’ that could deny health care to seniors and people with disabilities.”
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“Now,” Peters observes, “a generation of Republican stars follows the template she helped create as a hybrid celebrity-politician who relished fighting with elements in her own party as much as fighting with Democrats — none more so than Mr. Trump, who watched her closely for years before deciding to run for president himself…. But as the next generation rose up, Ms. Palin’s brand of politics no longer seemed as novel or as outrageous.”
Peters continues, “Next to Mr. Trump’s lies about a huge conspiracy to deny him a second term, or Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s casual allusions to political violence, Ms. Palin’s provocations more than a decade ago can seem almost quaint…. The reversal of Ms. Palin’s political fortunes today means that many of the renegades who modeled themselves after her — and many of her rivals — have outlasted her. Lisa Murkowski, the daughter of the former Alaska governor Ms. Palin defeated 16 years ago by more than 30 points, has won her bid for another term to the United States Senate. Ms. Murkowski, a Republican, endorsed Ms. Peltola, the Democrat who beat Ms. Palin on Tuesday.”
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