Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Political Eclipse of Sarah Palin

Absentmindedly watching people on HGTV debate whether to pay north of $300,000 for an 800-square-foot fishing cottage on Kodiak Island made me wonder whatever happened to Sarah Palin.

Sarah PalinI had stopped wondering when the next day The Washington Post published an article about her seeming political eclipse by many of the neo-conservative “mavericks” whom she helped to launch, such as Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.

Palin, it appears, has lost some of that campaign stump luster that she flashed when she ran as second fiddle to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and pinned her foreign policy credentials on the ability to see Russia over her back fence.

She still strikes fear into some, such as Alaska Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat hoping to hold on to his seat in a mid-term election that has GOP operatives salivating. He warns Palin is just quirky enough to jump into his race at the last moment.

Quirky indeed, but does Palin have time for the painstaking work of politics in between her show on the Sportsman Channel – echoes of helicopter moose hunting adventures – and her paid speaking engagements that keep her memory alive in the minds of fast-food chain restaurant owners and Florida beach condo developers.

But her grip on the heartstrings of the GOP conservative base, once tight, is slipping. The Post article describes how her inner circle of advisers has dwindled, the candidates she has championed have lost and how even former fervent disciples have drifted on to new idols of worship.

Palin hasn’t lost her touch for the inflammatory comment. Following release of a tome of documents detailing how U.S. agents used “harsh interrogation techniques” such as water boarding on suspects, Palin quipped in a speech to the National Rifle Association, “That’s how we baptize terrorists.”

Apparently, Palin contents herself these days chumming around with Cruz and Lee and a few other back-bench GOP troublemakers in Congress, though she did send a pouch of caribou jerky to sustain Senator Rand Paul when he was filibustering.

Her draw as star of the show is in decline. At a fundraiser earlier this year for a Senate candidate she endorsed, Palin only draw a ballroom half full. There were plenty of signs, but tellingly only about 50 people lingered around afterward to shake Palin’s hand.

Her shrinking fame hasn’t reduced her antipathy for Barack Obama, Democrats, big government and all those liberal non-mavericks leading the nation down the primrose path. Her sniping is as barbed as ever. Her addiction to homely alliteration remains constant – one candidate she endorsed and who lost in a GOP primary was described by Palin as a “feisty fighter for freedom.”

It’s not exactly that I miss Palin’s modern version of political malapropisms, which were humorous and numerous. What I miss is Tina Fey impersonating Palin in hilarious sketches, often using her actual quotes. It’s hard to imagine anyone being funny impersonating Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell.

Who knows whether we will have Sarah Palin to kick around any more. Incredibly, she just may fade away because she is whacky, but not whacky enough to satisfy her former political base. Palin may be becoming just another pretty face.

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