Why do I like Sarah Palin so much, despite being a big-government, leftist, pro-gay marriage, pro-reality, kind of guy? I watched her rambling speech about “stepping aside” from the Alaska governorship and was utterly charmed.
While watching it.
I my early twenties, surprised by my affection for Ronald Reagan (whom I always voted against, rest assured), I developed a hypothesis that it is certainty, a lack of self-doubt, that creates what we call “charisma.” I was, at the same time, becoming well aware of music teachers with a cult-lke following, and saw that they, too, share an aura of absolute certainty in their own views. There’s something hypnotic, something captivating, and that certainty, combined with passion, inspires devoted followers, many of whom abandon their own rational thought processes.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the charismatic person is consistent over time; the thing is whether he or she is full of certainty in every instant. In everything I’ve read about Pablo Casals’s teaching and conducting (and the little I’ve seen in video clips), he was adamant about about details in the moment, but could give drastically different advice in different sessions. His interpretations constantly evolved, and he didn’t do edited editions. He was open about the evolving nature of his views, yet extraordinarily decisive and committed in the moment, whether performing, conducting, or teaching.
Reagan was the “teflon president” to whom nothing seemed to stick. He was absolutely amazing. No matter how correct the press may have been when trying to play “gotcha” with him, he smiled and shrugged everything off. The “great communicator” told his audience how to feel about him by showing them he wasn’t concerned. No defensiveness.
When I think about Sarah Palin’s speech, it makes no sense. She’s not going to run for reelection, so she’s a lame duck, so therefore all she could do with the rest of her term is to waste taxpayer money traveling on foreign trade missions, etc., plus she’s being picked on and has legal bills, all of which is distracting, so she’s resigning.
No one, the implication is, can be an effective executive official if she or he isn’t going to run for another term and/or is controversial, is criticized unfairly in the media, and is charged with real or imagined ethical violations. Which would mean that just about every elected official should go out and resign.
It would also mean, of course, that if she was elected president (and I don’t doubt for a second that she wants to be president), in her second term she’d be a lame duck, so she would resign, which means that there’d be no point in her running for a second term because all America would know she wouldn’t finish it. Therefore, she’d be committed to being a one-term president, and would be a lame duck from the day she took office. So why be president in the first place?
While I watched the speech, though, it all made sense and I just liked her more. I felt she was sincere. I was inspired by the selflessness of the gubernatorial point guard passing the ball of executive authority to someone better positioned to score the point. She was so positive and upbeat about it all. Yes!
There’s no doubt that with this amazing, Reaganesque ability to create her own upbeat, heroic energy that Sarah Palin can remain a powerful force among conservatives, especially those who believe in the small-government, individualist values that she (says she) promotes. While resigning from the governorship seems to most political experts to be political suicide, it can be spun into public relations fairy dust, just wait and see. How wide a spell it will cast is another story, but it’s one yet to be told.
Palin has a Clinton and Reagan-level talent for being charismatic, and that can’t be underestimated. Her future? Who knows. Both Reagan and Clinton could point to many prior political accomplishments, especially successful governorships. That was then, this is now, and the future lies in the future. Anything is possible.