Booksellers like books that sell well, and I am prepared to like Sarah Palin's Going Rogue very much. Amazon and Wal-Mart have complicated things a bit because they are price warring and selling the book below cost. Regardless, I intend to stroke manfully on and remain hopeful that I will find enough Christmas gift buyers to make back my costs, and perhaps a bit more.
Is Going Rogue a good book? Who knows? Who cares? Generally speaking, books by politicians of any ideological persuasion have the shelf life of a grape. By the time Bill Maher and Glenn Beck conclude their respective Gong Shows, the book is over and the END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT predicted by these politicians and their Ghost Writers will have faded from memory. Then on to the next book and to the NEXT WORST THING. But if Going Rogue doesn't sell out before Thanksgiving it will never sell, not in Berryville, Arkansas and not anywhere.
Of course, I hope Palin's book has stronger legs than that. I'd certainly like to get my money back (plus a little bit more -- did I say that?). What I'm counting on is that readers will find Mrs. Palin's personal story compelling, and that she and her equally attractive family resonate as well with the general public as they do with the faithful of her party. Within the context of that family, within view of her children and her interesting husband, and with the backdrop of Alaska's beautiful mountains and wonderful glaciers, her story is a terrific story.
We also know that great personal stories and an effectively nuanced context can result in electoral victory. It worked for Barack Obama, and it may well work for Sarah Palin. Perhaps she'll be our next President. In the meantime though, the real question is whether or not she and I can forge a successful literary partnership and sell some books. I'm really counting on her.
If there is a problem with Going Rogue it is with the title. Better titles might be Going to Town or Going to the Bank. According to the conservative Tax Foundation, the State of Alaska receives $1.84 for every $1.00 it pays in Federal taxes. Per capita spending in Alaska is $10,214 vs. $5,434 in taxes paid (the US average is $6,000). Those rugged, Small Government Individualists in Alaska certainly know how to live it up -- and Mrs. Palin has effectively helped them party on. Please join me in hoping that Senators' Lincoln and Pryor will stop in and buy the book. After all, they might as well go to school on Mrs. Palin and cause us to get rich off some Yankee. (And I will have sold two more books!)
There are not many specific indications of how Mrs. Palin would govern if elected. Based on the tax record we might assume that she is in favor of a robust Federal government, and significant involvement of Federal government in State affairs. Still, while these facts vary from what she says about Federal government meddling, she is surely not the first politician to see only ponies, or only pony manure, without making the connection between the two. An indulgence is hereby granted.
Palin is even less specific on foreign policy. She, like every politician, refuses to admit that no military strategy or intervention in Afghanistan will succeed without long term, robust infusions of personnel and money. That means raising taxes that are restricted to and specifically allocated for waging the war -- as Lyndon Johnson did in the case of Vietnam -- and reinstating the draft. There is plenty of flag waving in Going Rogue, but no indication that "winning" means that every American needs to have a little skin in the game. No indulgence granted.
Yet, Mrs. Palin's excellence at milking Uncle Sugar may well be taken as evidence of her capacity for good managerial competence. On balance, it may be more compelling than her personal story which isn't, perhaps, all that unique. I know, after all, that at least half the women in my home church have equally interesting husbands and equally photogenic children. And, as residents of the Arkansas Ozarks they too can be placed against a backdrop of beautiful mountains. While we may lack wonderful glaciers, we do have wonderful chicken houses to round out the picture. And just think what these women could accomplish if they had all the Federal Jing that Mrs. Palin managed to wrestle up.
Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin. Available EVERYWHERE, below cost.