the (almost inexplicable, infinitesimal) value of sarah palin


The hockey stick is a nice touch.

She’s almost gone.

*     *     *

But seriously, folks—there is value to the Governess of Alaska. (And yes, she is almost gone, despite the efforts of even respectable news organizations to pretend she’ll remain relevant. Sure, sure, she’ll make an appearance in 2012 playing the part of Pain In Everyone’s Ass, not least her own party’s. The GOP brass will be desperate to retake the White House and decidedly unenthusiastic about her brand of “populism.” [Anyone else remember when populism meant something besides “appealing to the dumbest people imaginable”?] But that’ll be it. Kaputski for Palin.)

This value lies in her status as a reminder, a nostalgic throwback, an avatar of an era when the blood hadn’t been drained from the political process. When every aspiring public servant hadn’t been vetted, ironed, and starched into the modern—and universally despised—career politician. When Palin’s name was initially brought up, John McCain must have thought, “Well, no way could a state governor be batshit insane. Not in this day and age.” Imagine his surprise!

These days, politicians drop like flies, but only after embroiling themselves in sex scandals. The truly kooky era of Huey Long-style politics seemed to have faded . . . until Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage to remind us that utter insanity still has its place in the public sphere.

And one can’t just chalk this up to “frontier politics” . . . a.k.a., Alaskans driven insane by sub-zero temperatures and three-hour days and voting their madness. Georgia, for instance, isn’t so far removed from a time when three men simultaneously claimed to be governor. A snippet:

Arnall returned to the Capitol late on the morning of 15 January to the governor’s office. When he tried to go into the governor’s office, he was told that he could wait to see Governor Talmadge just like any other citizen. Fuming at the turn of events, Arnall took control of the information booth at the front door of the Capitol building. From here, Arnall would continue to claim that he was still governor. When a pro-Talmadge legislator dropped a firecracker into the information booth, Arnall then moved to his nearby law office, although rumors circulated that Arnall had commandeered the men’s bathroom as his office.

The good old days, no? And this occurred in 1947. Living memory! . . . even if it does fall into the cranky-codger-telling-interminable-story time frame.

So we should take a moment to appreciate the near-brush with old-school political insanity. Just when we were getting used to boring old lies and deflections concerning our crumbling economy and ruinous foreign policy, here shot a comet of Python-style farce through our lives, however briefly.

And now she’s . . . gone. Really. In the modern world, this kind of politician is treated by her party the way you treat a pet alligator: it’s cute, it’s cute, it’s cute . . . and suddenly it’s too big, and gazing at you too menacingly for your comfort, so you just wind up flushing the damned thing down the toilet.


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