As the immediate past vice presidential nominee, it's hardly surprising that most people outside Alaska view Sarah Palin as a card-carrying member of the GOP establishment. Despite her husband Todd's seven year dalliance with the secessionist Alaska Independence Party, and his quiet conversion to the GOP when his wife decided to run for office, Sarah has always been a party member -- technically. Many are perplexed that Palin "suddenly" has turned against the very establishment that brought her national fame, and is now throwing her support (albeit not a formal endorsement) behind Newt Gingrich and against the party's presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney.
What surprised onlookers don't realize is that going from toeing the line as the party's VP pick to her new role as bomb thrower is, to Palin, like slipping out of those shiny red high heels and into a nice comfy old pair of running shoes. She's back in her element. The truth is that the only political tactic that ever won Sarah Palin an election -- from mayor of Wasilla to governor of Alaska -- was proclaiming herself the outsider, and railing against the powers-that-be. As the expression goes, she's not the one inside the tent pissing out, she's the one outside the tent pissing in. And she likes it that way.
In 2006, Palin was facing an incumbent Republican in the Alaska gubernatorial primary. Corruption was widespread in the Alaska legislature, and oil companies were purchasing their very own lawmakers, sometimes for as little as a few thousand dollars a pop. After an FBI raid, microphoned informants, hidden cameras in hotel rooms, and cash changing hands, 10 percent of the legislature (Republicans all) ended up indicted for bribery related offenses. The governor at the time, Frank Murkowski, was trying to rush approval of a Petroleum Profits Tax -- negotiated behind closed doors and highly favorable to oil companies who were eager to take as much as they could get at the expense of Alaska citizens.
It was easy to find fault with the Republican party in 2006, and Palin did just that. She rose up from near obscurity, red-suited, fresh-faced, like Joan of Arc ready to take on an army of evil-doers who were running the show. "The machine," "the good ol' boys' network," "the establishment," "evil-doers" -- these phrases flowed from her lips like a mantra. In fact, literal comparisons to Joan of Arc, King David, and the biblical Queen Esther peppered the emails of support she got from fans. Palin welcomed the allusions. She quite literally believed that God had called her to take on the fight. He had a plan for her. However, the political pragmatist in her knew not to wear her religious zealotry on her sleeve, and those who inhabited that world with her saw the wisdom in it. Mainstream they are not.
Palin's is not a religion where a quick crossing of oneself in the end zone, a "God bless America," or a sticky fish on the bumper of the SUV is sufficient. She lives in a world of divine interventions, laying on of hands, secret prayer teams, Providence, Destiny, casting out witches, prayer warriors, intercession, visions and dreams from seers sent through email, or on slips of paper passed at rallies... It is a Dungeons and Dragons world of magic, treachery, and Good with a capital G vs. Evil with a capital E. The world is pregnant with secret meaning. Signs are everywhere. One can imagine a long-ago Sarah as one of those children who plays dress-up, puts on the tiara and doesn't just pretend she's a princess -- she becomes one.
This is why it is sometimes so difficult and frustrating for politicos to predict what Palin may do next. It all depends on what God wants, and how he delivers his message. The one constant is that if God opens a door, it's not just an invitation to plow through -- it's a mandate. Palin has thereby become a living example of some sort of divine, political Peter Principle -- she has risen to and exceeded her own level of incompetence.
She is not intellectually curious because she doesn't need to be. She doesn't know much because it's not necessary that she does. And she really doesn't have an overriding political philosophy, because she will be presented with people who will act as instruments of advancement and who'll tell her what she needs to say. "God brought us together," she told her inner circle as governor. Everything will work out as it was meant to be. She will arrive at whatever the destination is, whenever the time is right, with a small and tightly knit circle of confidants around her. She can only function through that inner circle.
As long as she is the devoted martyr, the populist Everyman, eyes gazing upward, standing strong against the forces of evil, suffering the injustices and untruths, little else matters.
And as much as Governor Palin hated the villains (the Alaska Republican Party), they hated her right back. She ousted Gov. Frank Murkowski with more than 50% of the vote in a three-way race for the Republican nomination. She clobbered popular former two-term Democratic governor Tony Knowles in the general election. And then once in office, she did the unforgivable. She worked with Democrats in the legislature to revamp Alaska's oil tax policy, stuck a stake in the heart of Murkowski's oil-friendly Petroleum Profits Tax, and replaced it with something called ACES (Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share). She wrote every Alaskan man, woman and child an energy rebate check for $1200 to help ease the cost of high energy bills. She went toe to toe with members of her own party in leadership positions, who'd built careers kowtowing to big oil. She praised Obama's energy plan.
Of course, her administration wasn't all smooth sailing. Despite the political talents she possessed, her own narcissism, obsessive tendencies, cronyism, middle school drama, truth twisting, and need to settle personal scores emphasized her incompetence as a leader. But using the GOP as target practice was a delicious indulgence for Palin -- and its time has come again on the national scene.
Even during the 2008 race, it was almost unbearable for Palin to play ball and do as she was told. At that time, the opportunity ahead didn't call for working with Dems and throwing darts at Republicans, nor did it call for compromise or praise where it was due. The door was open, and this time it called for brass knuckles. Nobody was going to tell her that Michigan was out of play. Nobody was going to tell her not to talk about Obama palling around with terrorists. Nobody was going to tell her to sit down and shut up on election night. Nobody puts Sarah in the corner.
Her latest quip for the 2012 election cycle is that the Republican party is "Stalinesque." Other than perhaps knowing that Stalin came from that country you can see from Alaska, it's doubtful that analogy sprang forth from her own grey matter. But Palin has surrounded herself with a fresh new "inner circle" that knows of such things, and has been delivered to her. They are the Cyrano to her Christian de Neuvillette. They whisper "Stalinesque" and other smart things from the rose bushes, and she stands in the moonlight, speaking the mavericky words of insurgency to the camera, eyes shining, and beams of righteous light emanating from her like a halo.
In a 2009 email, after being uninvited to speak at a Republican event, Palin had quite a bit to say about Newt Gingrich, the man she now defends.
...Yes, (Newt/GOP) are egotistical, narrow minded machine goons... but all the more reason God protected me from getting up on stage in front of 5000 political and media "elites" to praise him, then it be shown across the nation. At some point Newt would have shown his true colors anyway and we would have been devastated having known we'd earlier prostituted ourselves up in front of the country introducing him and acting like that good ol' rich white guy is the savior of the party.
Plus, I had nothing to wear, and God knew that too. Party machinery sucks. I can't tell you how much I hate it -- nothing ever changes -- we went through it before and after the VP campaign... I've gone through it all my career. We just don't fit into it, and maybe we should thank God for that. [From Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin - A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years]
The blatant hypocrisy of it will not occur to her. That was then and this is now. Then, he was the establishment, the machine, the good ol' boy, the goon -- everything she despised. But now, Mitt Romney is the golden boy of the party and Newt has become the outcast -- the misunderstood, the Rogue. It's a new day of dress-up. A new fairy tale. Regardless of her costume du jour -- newscaster, sex symbol, fisherman, hunter, hockey mom -- she'll be playing the same role. And there's a new good guy and a new bad guy. All she knows is that's the way it worked out, and if this is where she was meant to be, then so be it.
It's also interesting to note, that back in 2006, Palin's other Republican rival was Fairbanks businessman John Binkley. Palin referred to him as "the machine candidate", "Rich Man Binkley" with his "cheesy smile," and even hesitated about using a particular local pollster because he was Binkley's "Mormon bro'"* and it might affect his loyalty to her. Fair warning to Mitt Romney -- Palin is no stranger to snarking at rich, smiling machine Mormons.
Whether Palin will attempt to jump in the race this time, make her move at convention time, wait until 2016, or take a different path entirely will depend on factors as of yet unknown. A door will open, a cast of characters will present itself, and Palin will do whatever needs to be done. Whatever it is, rest assured it will not be with the blessing of the "machine."
*As one of the authors of Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, I have had access to over 60,000 of her emails from a Yahoo! account which has not been available to the public. That quote came from one of those emails which was sent on April 22, 2006 to aids Kris Perry, Frank Bailey (co-author of Blind Allegiance) and Kerm Ketchum.
I have the original email, and am the primary source.